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 would think about the mess the country is in now. The founding fathers of the United States of America predicted the likelihood of a demagogue coming into power — such as we have now. 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 it, accompanied by the advice to be “ever vigilant.” Obviously, neither the U.S. Constitution nor the founding fathers were perfect.
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 on 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 45 is the worst internal threat to our Republic since the American Civil War.
There’s something about the Abraham Lincoln’s speech of 1858 that 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-Nazis, white nationalists, and anti-government libertarians driven by fear of Muslims, immigrants at our southern border, and a 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 is 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 that Mexico has its own ideas about sovereignty. They recently elected 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 the resistance to him is growing. He is successfully dividing our house with every speech, tweet, and executive order. 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 collaborators in his campaign.
Silence is not an option when a political opposition leadership fails. Bipartisanship stops in a time of one-party rule led by a tyrant. I applaud the people of conscience who have volunteered at the Texas border to represent the 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 forcibly 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.
A version of this story originally appeared in Random Lengths News, where James Preston Allen is the founding publisher and executive editor. The Weekly welcomes commentary from all political persuasions. If you’d like to contribute, please contact Weekly Editor Anthony Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.