Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Trump's Attack On The Pillars Of Democracy

Out founders rejected monarchy as form of government when it struggled to create a democracy.  The US Constitution was a critical part of their effort to create a democracy in the "new world".  They understood that it would not be easy since the old world did not provide many good examples of successful democracies.  The Constitution established a system of checks and balances which was designed to prevent the government from devolving into a monarchy.  They learned a lot from the experience in France which had transformed itself from a monarchy into a democracy.

The US system has had many challenges in its history but the threat to democracy that we face today is probably the most serious challenge that we have faced.  The pillars of our democracy begin with a well educated population of citizens who are well informed. Trump has dominated a candidate, who is supported by Republicans in the Senate, who is an opponent of the public school system.  If she had her way the school system would be run by private entities. Government would provide the funding but not regulate or monitor the private entities.  We would probably get more crooks, like Donald Trump who started a for-profit university that was convicted of fraud.  Trump's university was funded by student loans guaranteed by the federal government.  Trump, and too many in Congress, believe that a well educated citizenry places a restraint on their behavior.  Much of their concern about the education system fits under the label of "political correctness".  That usually refers to citizens who not share their belief system.

The responsibility for creating our laws and making decisions about funding government programs was granted to a democratically elected Congress.  The executive branch was designed to be a partner with Congress.  Over time, Congress has demonstrated that it places party loyalty and personal gain above the welfare of its citizens.  It has become one of the least respected of our institutions.  It certainly has failed to provide a check on the behavior of Donald Trump.

The judicial branch is responsible for interpreting the laws passed by Congress and the legality of actions taken by government.  Donald Trump has demonstrated a lack of respect for the judges who disagree with his actions or his opinions.  He has no legal training but he believes that the courts should not attempt to restrain or limit his power.  We can expect more battles between Trump and the judicial system as we go forward.  The judicial system will probably turn out to be a better check against the abuse of presidential power than Congress.  Our judges have more job protection than many in Congress that have to run for reelection, and raise the necessary funds for their election campaigns every few years.  The judges also have more respect for the basic idea that our nation should be governed by the rule of law.  Unlike many in Congress who are paid to shape our laws to better serve the interests of those who fund their campaigns.

The remaining pillar of our democracy is a free press.  Trump has done whatever he can to delegitimize our most respected sources of journalism and the TV news shows that have not decided to be part of his administration.  Many of his supporters will not expose themselves to information that does not come from sources that are not among his cheerleaders.  The free press is always attacked by politicians who wish to control the information available to the public.  Trump is not likely to rid himself of media sources that choose not to provide propaganda and acclaim his greatness. However, he and his propaganda team have been successful in taking advantage of flaws in the ways that social media distribute information without the fact checking constraints faced by respectable journalists.  Trump will not succeed in putting the New York Times or the Washington Post out of business.  On the other hand, their economic model may not survive the proliferation of digital media sources of information which have a much lower cost structure.

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