Award-winning Irish columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote this about our current times, that we are “slipping towards savagery as leaders are test marketing just how far they can go.”
Recent history seems to be repeating itself: more reports of autocrats attempting to take absolute control of their nation and people. Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China; Vladimir Putin, president of Russia; Rodrigo Roa Duterte, president of the Phillipines; Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, president of Turkey; Adolph Hitler, et al., blamed religion, minorities and other countries. The playbook called for eliminating free speech and a free press, taking over control of the courts and law enforcement. They eliminated transparency and substituted autocracy.
They test marketed, slowly moving step by step toward greater control. As I watch the Trump administration, it is this history that comes to mind. How far can he go? That depends on his party’s support. At this point, he appears to have taken over the Justice Department and dismissed our intelligence community. Republicans in Congress are not behaving as members of a third branch of government that preserves a democracy. Religious preference and beliefs of a Christian minority are dictating policy. And the nation is evolving into a country of oligarchs.
Tax laws that favored the rich have created a national debt that cannot possibly be rebalanced before 2050. We are now running an annual federal deficit of a trillion dollars. Economists refer to the U.S. as the next Greece. Having been a political fiscal conservative my entire life, I have tried to balance my views with the social needs of the population.
As you know, that requires a variety of pushes and shoves in federal programs, defense spending, entitlements, income disparity, tax loop holes and a Social Security program being negatively impacted by life expectancy. Americans know that these challenges have existed for most of the last 100 years and party politics gets in the way of solutions. Climate change is another serious example of ignoring what the next generations will have to solve because the White House dismisses science.
I am disturbed by the intrusion of religion in politics. Republican support overturning Roe v. Wade attempts to determine who controls a woman’s body. The administration’s efforts to ban Muslims because of their religious beliefs struck me as another event of allowing government interventions based on religion, even though it was being masked as government security. Hate crimes and mass shootings have increased. Ku Klux Klan membership is on the rise. The White House is making no efforts to counter these movements.
President Andrew Johnson survived impeachment by northerners siding with Southern senators who were invested in wealth created by slavery. President Richard Nixon fought and told lies every step of the way until his faithful support collapsed after the tapes were revealed. The Bill Clinton impeachment did not receive the two-thirds vote in the Senate because of the Democratic Party. All three of these former presidents lied to try and protect their offices.
Last year, when Trump stories were in the headlines about misconduct, many of those in his party were dismissive of such events. A number of prominent Republicans such as President George W. Bush, former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Sen. John McCain did not vote for him. More recently, Tom Bossert, former Homeland Security adviser, and a number of Republican strategists have spoken about President Donald Trump’s policies and lack of transparency. However, almost every Republican member of the House and Senate continues to support and lie for Trump for fear of losing their congressional seats. This fear is keeping them from holding Trump accountable for his behavior and lack of transparency. It prevents Congress from addressing serious challenges.
Impeachment is a further distraction. The people’s business is not being addressed. Unfortunately, the recent discovery of Trump’s behavior, if true, requires that he face the consequences. Efforts to unveil his lack of transparency have forced Congress to investigate the possibility of high crimes and misdemeanors. For the American people and the Constitution, Congress has no choice. Republicans in Congress have no choice.
I hope common sense is used in this process. I hope for an honest, deliberative process in a sense of partnership. I hope for common sense — where absolute idealism coexists with realism — as described by Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier.
Dudley Hafner is a retired chief executive officer of the American Heart Association and resident of Santa Fe.