The Problem with Demagogues

No one in America cares about this sort of thing anymore, but Americans used to emphasize, with pride, that America was a republic, not a democracy, which is to say that theirs was a “government of laws, and not of men,” i.e., that no individual could simply function as a tyrant after garnering enough votes to achieve power. 

Donald Trump, like a child who finds out where the cookies are hidden, has recently discovered how easy it is to circumvent the rule of law and the separation of powers merely by declaring a national emergency. He used this method to secure congressionally unauthorized funds for his mythical border wall. Now he is using another emergency declaration to avoid congressional disapproval of his wish to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

Confused about that second one? That is because you are still reeling from the shock of seeing how quickly the last remnants of a once-great constitutional republic may be swept from the path of “progress” by the ego of a vain, unprincipled demagogue who is almost as susceptible to flattery as he is stupid, and hence who is easily swayed this way and that by Svengali-like “advisors.”

From Reuters:

U.S. President Donald Trump, declaring a national emergency because of tensions with Iran, swept aside objections from Congress on Friday to complete the sale of over $8 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Jordan.

Some supposed new “tensions with Iran,” which Trump and his neoconservative apparatchiks have yet to explain with any specificity, apparently justify overriding the constitutional balance of powers to complete an immediate sale of arms to Saudi Arabia for use against Yemen. 

Let me hazard a speculation here: There is no national emergency with Iran, let alone one that would warrant arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

My evidence for this conclusion? Simply the fact that the first time Trump played this national emergency game, regarding the border, he stood on the White House lawn the very next day and told reporters that there was no emergency. He explained, very directly, that he had merely used the declaration as a way to expedite his priorities over the heads of Congress.

His millions of cult followers, of course, cheered him on — “The Wall!” — which is to say they cheered on the open flouting of America’s republican system of government in favor of pure, unmasked tyranny. 

They will do it again here. All those so-called “grassroots conservatives,” since evolved into “nationalist populists,” who cheered Trump’s attacks against the Bush family’s Middle East entanglements, and craved a president who would say “America first!” and disengage from “other people’s problems,” are now pragmatic (i.e., ego-salvaging) converts to a position so arbitrary and so overtly lawless that it makes the neoconservatives’ “Arab Spring” fantasies look like the foreign policy reserve of George Washington. 

Selling weapons to a theocratic tyranny is a priority of “national emergency” proportions. Sure, whatever. Just, you know, MAGA or something.

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