I find myself at this moment pondering Benjamin Franklin and his printing press, and Thomas Paine, the radical patriot pamphleteer of the American Revolution. I am wondering just what they’d be thinking about with regard to the mess the country is in now. The founding fathers of the United States of America predicted the likelihood of a demagogue—such as the one we have now—coming into power. In fact, they were so fearful of having a tyrant become president by populist revolt or election that they built into our Constitution many defenses against such, accompanied by the advice to be “ever vigilant.” Obviously, neither the U.S. Constitution nor the founding fathers
What they couldn’t have predicted is that our most prized liberty, freedom of speech, would be turned upside-down against us by a president using the bully pulpit in a rampage of tweets. The founding fathers never imagined in 1776 that technology would be used to disrupt the elections in 2016. I emphasize the “bully” part, as it is perfectly clear to everyone, including all of the Republicans who ran against Trump, the entire Democratic party and most of the free world, that No. 45 is the worst internal threat to our republic since the American Civil War.
A quote from a speech Abraham Lincoln made in 1858 comes to mind: “A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half-slave and half-free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”
This may still be our challenge today. I find it infinitely curious that the current Republican Party, founded upon the radical ideas of emancipation and equal rights that brought Lincoln into power and ended with the historic fratricide of our national divide, is now so far removed from its own roots as to be unrecognizable. Clearly, we have a house divided, a president supported by neo-Nazi white nationalists and anti-government libertarians driven by fear of Muslims, immigrants at our southern border and distrust of journalists. This doesn’t end well.
The humanitarian crisis at the border is clearly manufactured by Trump’s own impulses to play to the xenophobia of his supporters and his corrupt cabinet. Then there’s the Republican-led Congress, still trying to rip people’s healthcare away and stalling on any bipartisan immigration reform. And the Bully-in-Chief tweets that we should just do away with immigration courts and judges. Didn’t he promise that Mexico was going to pay for the wall?
It appears Mexico has its own ideas about sovereignty. On July 1, Mexicans elected as president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a center-left populist candidate who sounds a lot like Bernie Sanders. It will be very interesting to see how Trump’s “Make America Great Again” plays out with both leaders of Canada and Mexico being left-leaning populists who actually know global warming is fact, that human rights are universal and that diplomacy is a two-way street guided by mutual respect, not demagoguery.
As Trump continues his endless campaign rallies and Twitter attacks on his enemies and members of Congress like Maxine Waters and Nancy Pelosi, he is only fanning the flames of division. It seems to be working in his favor, even while resistance to him is growing. He is successfully dividing our house with every speech, tweet and executive order, legitimate or not. Not to mention his fawning relationship with Vladimir Putin, his growing number of attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller and the investigation of Russiagate, the 2016 elections and the corruptions of his campaign collaborators.
Silence is not an option when a political opposition leadership fails. Bipartisanship stops in a time of one-party rule led by a tyrant. Ipplaud the people of conscience who have volunteered at the Texas border to represent immigrants seeking asylum and stand up for the innocent children who have no voices on the floor of Congress other than their recorded cries at being separated from their parents. I condone the resistance of workers at restaurants who have publicly shamed members of Trump’s cabinet who have colluded in the inhumane treatment of minors and who are now setting up internment camps run by the Pentagon.
Now is not the time for silence, but for conscientious objection of a regime that is hell-bent on turning back the clock on fundamental rights, civil liberties and economic rights that have been earned by my generation and my parents’ generation. We will not let this stand. Silence is not vigilance and subservience to illegality and tyranny is not patriotism.
Allen is the founding publisher and executive editor of RLnews in the Los Angeles area.