It’s been a while since I’ve written anything political here in this blog. The fact is, I figured that after the Democrats took control of both houses of Congress last November, that we would start to see a gradual change for the better. I figured we’d start to draw down our troops in Iraq slowly but steadily, and that the phony “war on terror” would fade away to become just a bad memory, a one-time overreaction to the murderous actions of a few thousand religious nutjobs.
Instead, since then we’ve increased our forces in Iraq, made threats against Iran, revoked the concept of habeas corpus from our legal system, had our Attorney General revealed as a habitual liar, received Supreme Court decisions striking down a number of long-standing freedoms, and just last week had Congress give the President the power to eavesdrop on anyone, anywhere, anytime, without a search warrant or even a court overview of any kind.
I know we’re all waiting out the Bush presidency – as of this writing, it’s got roughly a year and a half left – but I wanted to put some thoughts down here for later perusal. It’s my belief that in the years to come, we’re going to look back on the first decade of the 21st century as being the closest the United States has ever come to almost turning into a fascist dictatorship. Just as we now look back on the early 1950’s as the McCarthy era, and speak of witch hunts based on spurious or nonexistent evidence, so too shall we look back on this period right now and say “What the hell were they thinking?”
President Bush and the current faction ruling the Republican party believe that “democracy” means one election for one office held once every four years. They believe that the President’s power is unitary and all-consuming: the President does not have to answer to anyone, ever. They believe not only that the President can decide which laws he will honor and which laws he will ignore, but that the President has the power to make laws himself.
President Bush has ordered everyone in the Executive Branch to refuse to answer Congress’s subpoenas, and says that he cannot by definition be held in contempt. Vice President Cheney has stated he is not a member of the Executive or the Legislative branch, but that he is an independent authority on his own.
Our Founders believed that the Constitution’s built-in system of checks and balances would prevent a situation like this from ever occurring. But what they did not envision – and what I never expected to see either – was that Congress would actually voluntarily give up all its power directly to the Executive, without argument. And that even now, when the opposition party has a tiny majority, Congress still bows to the will of the president.
This, in essence, is exactly the definition of fascism: the subordination of all arms of government to the will and power of one man. And that is what we have today. President Bush, by stretching the meaning of the Commander in Chief clause of our Constitution, believes himself to be “The Decider”. He has stated on numerous occasions that he will do anything, break any law, override any act of Congress, in order to “protect” the people.
In the past six months, I have re-read the entire Federalist Papers, and read the Constitution very carefully, including a detailed legal analysis of it. As our government is set up, the President is supposed to have control of almost nothing. His job is merely to “faithfully execute” any laws that Congress passes. He is never supposed to question or interpret anything – interpretation is to be left to the courts. And only when ordered to do so by Congress is he ever supposed to take any military action: thus the “Commander in Chief” clause, which quite clearly states only that the President is supposed to be the top field commander when our troops go into battle, and nothing more.
I guess Orwell should have titled his novel “2004” instead of “1984”. Now we have a President who has the supreme power to spy on anyone he wants to… who can put anyone in jail for anything without trial or charges… who creates his own laws and makes his own interpretation of laws that Congress makes… who openly states that he will not abide by the decisions of Congress… who makes his own decisions about who we will go to war with and when we will leave… and whose minions state that anyone who opposes him is “with the enemy”.
Our country is strong, our Constitution is sound, and as a nation, we will survive this nightmare. Despite all that Bush and Cheney have done, they will not extend their power past the end of their second term. And so I’m writing this, to remind myself years from now, once all the inevitable investigations and recriminations and charges and God only knows what else will come to light in the coming years… that I did see at the time what was happening, and at the very least that I wrote it down.
And the next time, in the next election and for all elections to come… let us all remember that whenever some snake oil salesman runs for office promising to “protect us”… we should run him out of town on a rail and never look back.