Why Autocrats Love Emergencies

Crises — real and imaginary — loosen normal constitutional constraints.


Comments: 201

  1. This is a two-way street. The PEOPLE tend to be gullible, can't wait to fall for the "emergency" propaganda, and almost beg to be led by the nose. Old time authoritarians had an easy time of it. In the era of social media and digitalized fake news, the newer brand of authoritarians have an even easier time when it comes to the fear mongrring that goes hand in hand with power grabs.

  2. People do not think straight when they are afraid. Logic drops off when one perceives dangers. Leaders speak volumes about themselves when they choose to manipulate peoples' fears or to show us that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Those who seek to consolidate power by keeping citizens in a state of perpetual terror are more frightening than anything they claim to be protecting people from.

  3. "This raises a terrifying question: How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?" I can think of another far more terrifying question that needs to be asked: what will happen if Trump is impeached and convicted or if he loses in 2020, or when it's 2024 and he can't serve any longer. Will he vacate the office peacefully? Will there be a smooth transition of power to the next president? The next question is what will the GOP do if Trump is impeached, if he loses and refuses to leave, or once his time is truly up and he refuses? Trump does not play by the rules. Anyone who had followed his "career" before he started his run for the presidency would have known that. But the Groveling Obnoxious Popinjays have sold themselves out to a buffoon in order to accomplish their agenda: destroying the lives of working Americans in order to remain on good terms with their richest donors. McConnell and the rest of them are as guilty as Trump of creating this crisis. So far we've been lucky. The world has been content to watch us implode. We may not be so lucky if Trump and the GOP weaken us enough that some predatory leaders decide we're worth attacking. Then we can call Trump by another sobriquet: Trump the Treasonous or Trump the Trasher of America.

  4. How about "Trump the Traitor?" ;)

  5. @hen3ry - this very question was raised by Bill Maher on one of his shows a few months back. An apparently well-informed guest told Bill that the House Sergeant-at-Arms would forcibly remove him If Trump is unwilling to leave. Trump will think it's great TV, anyway.

  6. @willw, oh great! Just what we need, NOT. Thanks for the information.

  7. The "emergency" that Trump has been furiously mining for political gold has been in the making for the five decades of my adult life. In the small and mid sized towns in all 50 states of America where I have worked, I watched the lack of preparation for a changing economy. Much has been made of declining manufacturing jobs, from automation and globalization. But virtually every category of labor, from agriculture to local banking and professional services to local newspapers and health care to retailing, transportation and logistics, has been impacted and the change is far from over. Metro areas are only modestly better positioned for relentless economic change. And more than a few mid sized towns, like Bozeman, MT, have leveraged their low cost of living, less stressful lifestyle, recreational assets, local colleges and other assets to create booming New Economies. No President can stop the change. But a capable President, the kind we didn't elect in 2016, could foster policies that help prepare current and future generations for a changing world. So our choice is stark, preparation for a changing world, including the climate, or endless "national emergencies". Honestly, I think younger generations, on the average, understand the choices better. I hope they continue to increase their engagement and voting.

  8. @Look Ahead Thanks for the insightful analysis of the economic forces impelling what has become a political crisis. If the millennial generation could see what's coming they could step forward and use their votes and their voices to change America's disastrous detour toward dictatorship and oligarchy. Having enjoyed the delights of youthful oblivion myself, I have little confidence that a new generation will be our salvation.

  9. @Look Ahead Your analysis of how we have gotten to this place is completely accurate. I would go on to say that the same forces are also at play in Western Europe as so many former "good" jobs have gone away - globalized or automated. Unfortunately, the power of corporations and the 1% enacting these changes continues to be aided and abetted by both political parties. I agree that we need a capable leader, plus members of Congress, who are willing to buck the tide and it looks as if - in Congress - that is beginning to happen.

  10. @Look Ahead Germany has faced the same globalization we have and they don't have the same problems. They have good education for the working class. They have trade schools and university. They have better economic mobility. They are known for high-tech manufacturing. They have universal healthcare. We have parts of the US with infant mortality rates the same as a second world country. Afterr 35 years of trickle-down Reaganomics, we got an opioid crisis.

  11. While the current crisis scares me, I am much more scared that he will not leave office once he loses in 2020. At that point, the US will be done. The worst president in history seems to want to be the last American president.

  12. @Anthony He seems to be following Putin's guidance so I too fear he will not leave office.

  13. President Trump's is a symptom of a conservative GOP government that will allow the rich and influental to be granted privileges not given to the common citizen The top 1% control the American government through huge monetary donations driving policy that hurts the other 99% of Americans. Trump is part of the 1.% so the only way to bring change is to get involved by holding your elected officials accountable to do their job or be removed from office through the ballot box by voting them out.

  14. @John Rodgers Unfortunately, it's not just a symptom of a conservative GOP government that we're seeing. The corporate/1% campaign donations that drive policy are given to both parties, on both sides of the aisle.

  15. This president well recognizes the power boost that stems from a crisis. It is the natural order of our republic for people to support their leader in a time of distress. What the manufacured border "crisis" has made evident is that this is not an automatic patriotic response and that many people have enough judgement to see through a smoke screen con. However, what is really disturbing is the fact that the next crisis may be genuine, as in a massive natural disaster or a large scale terrorist attack or a foreign policy failure that leads to war. All of these would be valid reasons on their face for banding together in solidarity under a sitting president. If anything like that happens in the next eighteen months it will guarantee the reelection of this president, thus compounding a sorrowful history.

  16. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, this op-ed would have been appropriate before the midterms. Now, it seems, Trump has jumped the shark one too many times. Virtually no one other than his ardent supporters believe him unlike after 9/11 when some of our citizens were in a panic. We might become authoritarian but I am depending on enough citizens, the hard working officials of the justice department and the judiciary to put a stop to him. There is no emergency, except for Trump's occupancy of the White House.

  17. @Gary Valan. Unfortunately the administration has been busy appointing cronies to the Justice Department and "originalist" loons and mediocrities to the federal bench. There is little reason to assume that this bunch would be willing to restrain an Imperial President (especially a Republican one).

  18. @Gary Valan If it was only Trump it wouldn't be so bad. It's the Mitch McConnells, the Gorsuch/Kavanaugh/Thomas's, the foaming-at-the-mouth right wing media monsters, and all the rest of power-by-any-means fellow travelers that are dangerous. Trumpomania is just a freak show designed to numb and exhaust us into acceptance of a "new normal".

  19. This is without doubt the most salient and important article I’ve read regarding the presidency of Donald Trump. Though the damage he now conveys on the country is great, it will be so much worse if Democrats concede any victory to him. It is unclear how the power struggle will play out - but it is easy to imagine trump dragged kicking and screaming from the Oval Office.

  20. @Mark Smith - I was thinking that this piece should be required reading material for McConnell at al because it painted such an accurate and damning portrait of the man that they've decided to cast their lot with that I thought if they read the piece it might shock their patriotic or civic selves into finally breaking free of the Trump spell under which they seem to have hopelessly fallen. "How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?" A terrifying prospect, which raises another, even more terrifying question: What sort of moral break would stop a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse from fabricating a bigger national emergency (like starting a war) if that would enable him to escape a personal disgrace or jeopardy (like a scathing special counsel report)?

  21. The contrivance of Trump unilaterally shutting down the government in order to favor select contractors with a building project he is unlikely to default on is but a prelude. Trump is counting on the Mueller investigation to fold so that his treasonable collusion with Russia will remain unpunished. Putin is coaching Trump from the Kremlin in disruptive practices that will directly benefit Moscow.

  22. The answer is simple. In a real national security crisis or even in an imagined one, Trump would act like the autocrats he admires and do everything possible to subvert the delicate checks and balances in our democracy. Given his embattled position legally, he already plans if allowed to defy legislative oversight with an expansive notion of executive privilege and with a new Attorney General whom he thinks will stifle Mueller and correct his report. Like an autocrat he wishes to be above the law. He expects the Republican Party and their duplicitous leader McConnell to continue to support him slavishly in their cynical love of power. Will he succeed? I am not optimistic given the recent history of the Republican Party and I feel they will choose power over Democratic norms, truth, and justice.

  23. This evolution to an autocratic nadir in American governance has taken place right before our eyes and generally without any consequence to Trump especially not from his allies in Congress. The insult to the American Republic posed by Trump is aided and abetted by others such as Senate Majority Leader McConnell who has refused to let votes come to the floor. Another characteristic of autocrats is their removal of legitimate experienced advisors in favor of unqualified family members. The press tends to cover Trump as if his dismantling of American norms are individual events worthy of "balanced news" and legitimizing his actions by suggesting there are 2 sides to abnormality. For the sake of our children and grandchildren, I hope our fragile system will hold out long enough to see Trump and his allies face accountability for the malignancy of their time in office.

  24. @Rosemary Galette He enjoys their support b/c autocracy IS the Republican ideal. Putinism--autocratic rule playing on hatred of gays and people of "difference," hatred/constraint on the media, alignment with the church, paranoid fantasies and oligarchic money--isn't the adversary. It's the MODEL.

  25. Yes, I don't know why the alarm about his willingness to have a militarized 'emergency' hasn't been more public. That's what autocratic leaders like him do. Then the military never goes away and begins to threaten anyone or group who is opposed. He's prepping for when the full weight of the Mueller investigation lands. He'll just keep everyone either distracted or oppressed with this power, if the GOP allow him to continue.

  26. @VH Not only will the GOP allow it, they will cheer when he seizes full, permanent, autocratic power. McConnell has been tacitly signalling him - by blocking legislation to protect Mueller, and by allowing the gov't shutdown to continue indefinitely - that he wants DJT to A) stop the investigation B) declare national emergency (which will turn out to be permanent - regardless of the courts - and which will also include the squashing of the 1st Amendment, etc.)

  27. @VH - two words: martial law.

  28. Excelllent article. I would add that one reason autocrats behave this way is they're usually pathological narcissists, which means (a) they don't like sharing power with anyone, and (b) they think they know everything, so they don't need anyone else's opinion. They really don't see other people (political opponents, members of other branches of government, the citizenry) as people, but only as pawns in their strategy to consolidate power. They don't really respect other people, so when they are opposed, they treat their opponents simply as obstacles to be eliminated or neutralized.

  29. My take on Trump and the American situation with respect to this article is this: If someone such as Trump has managed to take office in the U.S., and we will take the article here at word and describe Trump as someone all too willing to fabricate national emergencies for power, and furthermore we will take the article at word that an analogy can be made between Trump and other authoritarian leaders such as Fujimori, Marcos, Putin, et. al., then we can safely say a national emergency has already occurred, namely conditions exist in which a political leader can not only potentially take absolute power but that conditions exist in which national emergencies can be fabricated, and furthermore that the simple solution of "preserving the Constitution and/or voting for the other political party (in our case Democrats)" is far from the solution to problem but that the problem is our entire political ground of being, like the conditions in all the places mentioned by the authors (Peru; Philippines; Russia), and that we have to entirely reconsider and remake anew who we are because we are essentially living in a state in which national emergencies can be fabricated and all sides are willing to take more power than allowed by Constitution. Essentially the problem is no one person (such as Trump) or this or that political party, but the entire political ground of being, that is if we are being honest and it is accurate to make an analogy between the U.S. and Peru, Russia, Philippines.

  30. @Daniel12 - Excellent work, Daniel. That is the longest run-on sentence I've ever seen in a comment. James Joyce would be proud of you.

  31. Agree. Long sentence okay. The crisis is that this happened, not the immediate situation.

  32. This is a very measured, calm and brilliant analysis of the most existential institutional crisis in the history of the United States of America. We have an incompetent, compromised and criminal president with an authoritarian personality and serious character flaws. He now is cornered by the democratic majority in the House, by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and by the investigation of special council Robert Mueller. He has freed himself from most of the “adult” members of his government. The country has sustained two years of a dysfunctional executive branch, due to resilience and sheer luck. Resilience has worn thin and the streak of luck can end anytime. There is a good chance he will be removed from office in the next six month, but there is also a possibility that he will afford himself authoritarian powers. The people can’t be bystanders or spectators. It’s the government of, by and for the people. We, the people, need to act, to restore our democratic norms and institutions.

  33. @Oliver Herfort Indeed we cannot, but who will confront this bully emperor, sans clothes ?

  34. I have said this several times recently, but if Trump declares a national emergency to build his wall, and the courts allow it to stand, our system of democracy is over. It is indisputable at this point that this "crisis" is wholly imaginary. And, as usual, Trump is too dim to hide his motivations; he has explicitly said that the impetus is what he perceives as Congress' failure to approve his wall. Any impartial judge would reject the claim of an emergency out of hand. It is a transparent move that follows the blueprint of autocrats throughout history. If such a declaration is allowed to stand, a president could declare almost anything an emergency, granting him or her a wide range of powers. Drug addiction, climate change, peaceful protests -- if the border situation is an emergency, almost anything can be. I recently read a book by Rick Wilson (a conservative) titled "Everything Trump Touches Dies." I am terrified that American democracy might add to the list of things Trump has destroyed.

  35. This is rich, coming from the same people who, in advocating Obamacare, famously declared “never let a good crisis go to waste”. The crisis? The 2008 economic crisis, brought on not by the high cost of healthcare, but by overheated real estate values. Decrying autocracy is rich, coming from the same people that applauded Barack Obama’s flurry of executive orders, in a attempted power grab due to Congress’ unwillingness to act on his pet initiatives.

  36. You miss the point. In a democracy leaders need to react to a crisis. They need to mitigate and end it within the means of democratic and constitutional norms. That is what George W Bush and Obama did in 2008 and 2009. They never threatened to use emergency powers. They used executive orders or went through Congress.

  37. @Richard Rudy It appears that you agree that 2008 was a genuine crisis. "Never let a good crisis go to waste" is an appropriate response to a dysfunctional financial system that nearly brought the U.S. to ruin. Some financial reforms were initiated and some efforts including the saving of the U.S. auto industry were successful. Unlike the financial crisis of 2008 the crisis facing the U.S. now is Trump, not the absence of a border wall. Trump's attempt to create a crisis appears to be driven by his lack of support by the majority of Americans despite an economy that continues to perform well, in spite of Trump's crazy behavior, his tariffs and other destabilizing actions. Trump lost the popular vote by a large margin and his inaugural crowd was smaller than Obama's. Clearly that continues to gnaw at Trump. What else explains his ongoing attacks on Clinton and Obama? Bush appears to have shared the queasiness of Trump regarding the legitimacy of his election. Bush also lost the popular vote in 2000. Bush's need for a crisis to assure a victory, to have a "mission accomplished" in the 2004 election, led to his approval of the plan to attack Iraq in 2003 because victory was guaranteed. Trump, however, may have a deeper need for his Wall. Growing concerned about holding on to the presidency, Trump wants to leave a concrete, visible legacy. Perhaps the ultimate response to Trump needs to be that Congress will support Trump's wall if Trump commits to resign.

  38. @Richard Rudy When Obama was President, Republicans, Fox News, and right-wing pundits talked about "executive orders" ad nauseam. It was a simple, easy-to-remember marketing angle that Obama was, as you say, engaging in a "power grab," acting like a king and bypassing Congress. Here are the facts: President Obama signed 276 executive orders in eight years, fewer than any two-term President since the 19th century (including his immediate Republican predecessors, George W. Bush, who signed 291 and Reagan who signed 384). President Trump has already signed 91; should he be re-elected and stay on track, he'll sign close to 400. As @Oliver Herfort says, you utterly miss the point of this essay, which is deeply ironic, because your comment actually demonstrates what the authors fear.

  39. Interesting how George W. Bush becomes an example of self-restraint in the Trump era. Led on by Rumsfeld and Cheney, Bush used the cooked-up intelligence on "weapons of mass destructive" to invade Iraq, not because Saddam Hussein was behind 911, but to remove the dictator once cozy with the US, now a Bush-family archenemy. Failing the discovery of WMD, the invasion's purpose became to bring "democracy" to Iraq. Reading between the lines of the NYT back then, it was possible to ascertain before the invasion that there were no WsMD. The Times, however, fell in line and downplayed the massive antiwar protests in NYC. Those protesters were responding correctly to the situation. Forgotten even now are the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths (will we ever know the figure?) that occurred in Iraq as a result of our invasion. A self-restrained leader will not only not use a crisis as an excuse to grab power, that self-restrained leader will also be wise enough to understand the underlying truths behind any potential national emergency and respond with sagacity. How we end up with less-than-sagacious leaders represents a disfunction of our democracy.

  40. @Charles Kaufman - Excellent, thank you. The Bushies cooked the intelligence books on Saddam's WMD in order to invade Iraq in their hopes of expanding US hegemony over the ME, as outlined by the Neocon manifesto, misleadingly titled "Rebuilding America's 'Defenses'". At this point, Dunning-Kruger Don has done less overt damage to our republic than did The Chickenhawk. Time will tell…

  41. @Miss Anne Thrope - PNAC, or Project for the New American Century outlined exactly what the Iraq invasion was about (the same document you're referring to?). It stated there needed to be an event on the scale of Pearl Harbor to "sell it to the American people". So very many times, I torment myself by thinking how different a place we would be in right now had Jeb Bush, Katherine Harris and Antonin Scalia not stolen the election for W. It's all been a part of the plan, and looks to be coming to fruition despite a bump in the road named Obama.

  42. "For would-be authoritarians, the checks and balances inherent in presidential democracy feel like a straitjacket. The media criticism, legislative oversight and adverse court rulings leave them feeling besieged." Donald Trump has felt besieged since Jan 20, 2017. But it's far worse now that Democrats won half the legislative branch. The president is a slow learner: he just assumed he'd steamroll Chuck and Nancy. I only disagree with one point here. The authors imply Donald Trump is only behaving autocratically now, but that's not true--he'd been pushing the envelope on autocracy since he won. Just today we read he's been hiding the contents of numerous records, transcripts and readout of calls and meetings with Vladimir Putin. This is dangerous and unprecedented autocratic behavior. As for national emergencies, I believe he'll take full advantage. This is, after all, a man who coddles dictators and spurns leaders of countries with strong Democratic governments. I've long thought he'd start a war or declare martial law or halt elections to get his way. And the sad part is, Republicans seem to be A-okay with all this. Ponder that for a moment, and perhaps you too will be as frightened as I am. I

  43. What this national emergency discussion does bring to light though, is there is one. It not only affects the national security of the United States, but the entire world. Climate Change! "I Climate change poses “immediate risks” to national security and will have broad and costly impacts on the way the US military carries out its missions" -Pentagon 2014 Which brings up an interesting possibility, the next President, if a Democrat, could in fact declare a national emergency under the guise of a threat to the lives and security of our citizens. Then impose strict reductions in CO2 polluters, more solar and wind, more electric cars, etc. Maybe through Trumps folly on his delirious idea that a wall is a national emergency we can finally address climate change.

  44. This is Trump, untempered and unleashed. He is manifestly incompetent in intellect, temperament, knowledge and character. Trump is exactly the opposite of the type of person who should sit in the Oval Office. He is a brute, a bully, and a cad. Calling him an autocrat is far too kind. But his people love him. They say "Trump is gettin it done!" He sure is. He is destroying the truth, respect for the rule of law, the environment, the dignity of his office and our nation's credibility in the world. They justify all of it by pointing to the low unemployment and pretending that 3% GDP growth is a booming economy. Profits are booming, yes. But the left behind are still left behind. The Trump train they hoped would come through never pulled into the train station. Still waiting. Trump supporters behave like religious fanatics who are waiting for the end times. The end times never come but that has never stopped them from believing that they are just around the corner. They have been waiting for centuries. Trump is their Messiah who is also an autocrat. They want him to behave like an autocrat. That's the true meaning of "gettin it done." As the farmers go bankrupt, the deficit blows up, the trade war erodes domestic production, and the government that they both hate and need remains closed, I hope they are satisfied with the results. Run for the hills! The next caravan is coming!

  45. @Bruce Rozenblit Very well stated. The religious analogy is a good one. Think about how many people in Germany still supported Hitler in 1944 when it was clear they were going to lose and total disaster was coming? Sad that once people get this emotionally committed, no amount of facts can change their opinion. But fortunately Trump’s base has a minority of the votes. It was the electoral college that made his Presidency possible.

  46. This is an extremely important essay, and I would add only two points. First, President Trump has also created crises in slow motion through gross mismanagement, by either not appointing capable professionals into critical positions (the State Department, Department of Energy, etc.), or appointing political hacks who are bent on destroying the mission of the agencies they run (Department of Education, E.P.A., etc.). This creates conditions where an agency might fall apart (especially under pressure), and then conservatives will use that disfunction as justification to dismantle the agency further. Second, I fear what kind of "crisis" President Trump might create during the 2020 election year. Given that he has no qualms about using the military to solve political problems, it is no stretch to assume he might create a real military threat to bolster his election polling. As the authors note, we are living on borrowed time. What would President Trump do if presented with a real crisis? A military confrontation; a terrorist attack like 9/11; an economic meltdown? Such scenarios are awful in normal circumstances, terrifying with Mr. Trump as President.

  47. Thank you for writing this timely essay. I especially hope that Republicans in Congress read this and apply pressure on Trump to compromise. They may also want to get him to think about ways a Democratic President could invoke a “national emergency” over an issue the left cares deeply about like common sense gun laws that go no where in Congress. Trump, because of his lack of respect for democratic norms, is ready to open a Pandora’s box that could be badly abused by both parties and set terrible new precedents.

  48. It's old news that autocrats love emergencies, because in danger "the people" are clamoring for rescue. The real question is, how do so many voters fall for this trite, well-known, time-worn tactic of inventing fake emergencies? And there is no such thing as "the people". Voters are greatly divided, want different things, and live in different worlds. It is politicians' job to find areas of agreement and engage people to work together. Trump will never do that; he's not smart enough.

  49. This president refuses to understand that Congress is not Nancy Pelosi. Congress consists of representatives of all Americans. Nancy Pelosi is their leader. In his ignorance, Trump perceives the fight as a battle between himself and "Nancy." The fact that she is a powerful and brilliant woman who will most likely defeat him in this battle and others surely enrages Trump even more than usual. In his petulance he can not conceive that more than half the population in the country are Democrats, that the Democratic majority in Congress is a manifestation of that fact. There are no hordes of brown people storming our borders, killing and raping our people, and pillaging and plundering our country. Trump's willingness to "do the crisis thing" is not based on any desire to do something positive for the country, but on his need to win at all cost to keep a campaign promise that was based on ignorance and racism. He clearly can not win in the context of democratic checks and balances, so he is creating any pretext he can to eliminate them. He ran his company in an autocratic manner - giving orders, demanding personal loyalty and circumventing the rules, but that at least was a private matter. The stakes are so much higher now. Congressional Republicans, wake up - do your job. Stop this wannabe autocrat before it's too late.

  50. @La Jefa...it's not hordes of brown people crossing our borders that threaten us. The real threat is the unlimited flow of corporate big money flooding our politics. That's what we need to build a wall against. This green horde of big money influence on our politics threatens the borders we need between elite special interests and that of the citizen majority. And it's all legalized by Citizens United in 2010. Majorities of voters and many politicians want to reverse CU, but our media hardly discusses it. Representing the citizen majority is the whole reason voting was invented. Now the effect of our voting is threatened by a dangerous system working in collusion--big money donors to elections shutting out the voice of the people. Works with voter suppression, gerrymandering and a rw media monopoly, FOX News, that functions as the state media of the GOP and Trump.

  51. @Meredith You're right about the media not discussing the disastrous effects of Citizens United. Would that they would, but the media are part of the problem - corporations that they are. This act was the dagger but we've already been in trouble since the late 1970s' tax cuts. And then came Reaganomics. The Wall follies make us appear a banana republic, while statistics on our actual physical health tell the tale as well with shortening life expectancy due to infant mortality, the opioids, and on and on.

  52. It is clear that Trump is drunk on power and always reacts with a tremendous sense of hubris. Everything he does is to satisfy his super inflated ego. His current threat of a fabricated emergency crisis veiled in fear mongering however may not be as ominous a precedent for Trump to grow his executive power without legislative support in the future. His motivation may simply be that it is the least humiliating way for him to reopen the federal government without bending on his signature campaign promise. One can only hope that our system of checks and balances will override his worst impulses to further abuse his power during the next two years. One can only hope as well that a national security crisis does not occur on his watch.

  53. autocrats love emergencies - yes - GWBush's invasion of Iraq as a payback for 911 despite Saddam Hussein being ANTI-Taliban - was seen by some as a fabrication of an emergency - ahem - perhaps facilitated by Dick Cheney to increase profits for his ex-company Haliburton ... ? and the invasion of all US folks privacy with surveillance of all phone and internet communications - in the name of 'we need to find the terrorists' - has served as a great example for China - who now can pluck dissidents from football stadiums thanks to ubiquitous surveillance of its population. Remember privacy ? Yes a funny old thing. Some people liked it.

  54. At this point, “When that didn’t get him his wall, he moved to circumvent Congress altogether by inventing — if not yet declaring — a national emergency. “ it is time for Congress to step in and move to save our democracy. Trump is a dangerous, reckless, narcissist who is acting like an autocrat. Congress has a job to do and that is to replace this man before he does more damage to our country. At some point they will all have to answer for their action or inaction. My hope and guess is that a few of them will end up in prison right along with the Trump and his family.

  55. Autocrats love actual emergencies. Not this Trumped ups farce.

  56. "You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before." Rahm Emanuel Still applies regardless of which side of any challenging issue one falls on. Reigning in the financial services industry in was one such issue as is illegal immigration.

  57. I'm half expecting Trump to get caught on record saying, "Where's my 9/11?" That thought basically summarizes the US predicament. Autocratic or otherwise, Trump is incapable of exercising executive power responsibly. Roger Cohen recently outlined the subject in a column here. Although, Quinta Jurecic is still the authority on the topic of executive responsibility as applied to Trump. Both authors relied on Harry Frankfurt for inspiration and explanation. You can find their works here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/11/opinion/donald-trump-illegal-immigration-border-wall.html I warn you there is more than a little profanity involved. However, to quote Jurecic, "If you want to learn something about Donald Trump without ever reading the man’s name, [Frankfurt's essay] is a good place to start." If you inform the question proposed by Levitsky and Ziblatt with the logic provided above, you'll quickly realize the greater threat in national emergency is Trump, the man, more than his autocratic inclinations. He is incapable of operating in a world where truth matters. Even national catastrophe is subjective to his personal objectives. If you need an example, Puerto Rico is our best blue print for Trump will handle a real crisis. That is a truly terrifying thought.

  58. There are excellent daily opinion pieces and analytic articles regarding our unbalanced president and dystopia legislative branch. Some light is shining at the end of the tunnel with a newly elected Democrat majority in the House. However, the fact remains that no one is actively, and publicly remove the president and censure his Senatorial enablers. Will we continue whipping this same horse day in and day our until we are destroyed as a democracy? Who is brave enough to stand up to our political bullies? I have hopes that Robert Muller will persevere and bring down this disgusting kabuki theatre of a presidency. God blessed America. Let us pray he will save us.

  59. There is no emergency. There is a wannabe dictator throwing a temper tantrum...and getting exactly what he wants. While you are focused on the wall-shutdown game, he just got rid of the entire federal government, unions and pensions to follow. Privatize the VA, social security and medicare to follow. Terminate all HUD money, project dwellers are lazy and need to live on the streets to incentivize them... No money to keep the immigration courts open so he has effectively ended all immigration too. We are left with his “gut.” He should have been impeached.

  60. I am waiting for the paid event that will give this autocrat in training (schooled from Russia, and everywhere, including North Korea) reason to the use of an emergency declaration. I personally believe he may have paid the migrant caravans for timing it for midterms, but subsequent corrupt payments may not have worked. One can just be thankful for small mercies, ie . the dumbness / haywire planning that is holding back an autocracy in full force even as we watch aghast as everything is stomped on into disarray and is gradually and systematically destroyed

  61. Trump to Pena-Nieto: > The only thing I will ask you though is on the wall, you and I both have a political problem.... the fact is we are both in a little bit of a political bind because I have to have Mexico pay for the wall – I have to. I have been talking about it for a two year period... Hannah Arendt on how authoritarians fail: > Charisma, to retain its spell over heart and mind, must continually display its powers. Should triumphs succumb to disaster and the promised well-being for all believers fail to materialize, the leader will find himself deserted, ridiculed and, worst of all, ordinary. In the final analysis, therefore, the charismatic figure is the captive of others’ devotion. When that devotion turns to indifference or hostility, the gift of grace vaporizes... Trump understands this instinctively. That's why The Wall is make-or-break for him even though it makes no practical sense whatsoever.

  62. Seriously? If you have to ask that question...what was your first clue?

  63. This thought was developed beautifully, intelligently, and convincingly by Naomi Klein in "Shock Doctrine". I'm surprised the author doesn't even mention her.

  64. Everyone should read these authors’ book How Democracies Die, they would learn a great deal about how and why the American experiment in democracy may well fail. It is both a scary and an illuminating analysis!!

  65. Here's an idea. Since the Chinese are doing so much infrastructure lending around the world, maybe Trump can persuade them to fund his wall. That would also end the trade war and let him playact as president-for-life in the oval office.

  66. @Christy - it seems the Chinese do it differently. We first try to conquer the place and then we rebuild before we leave. Recall Cam Ranh Bay. It creates a lot of difficult problems and the natives end up hating us.

  67. There's not much question how Trump would behave during a real security crisis. He would immediately declare an emergency and grab every bit of power he can---as the authors point out in the editorial and their excellent, non-alarmist book, How Democracies Die. The much more important question is how will Americans behave. Far too many of us have shown a willingness to shut our mouths, click our heels and fall in line. Far too many of us will join the mob calling to muzzle the media and jail protesters and political opponents---Trump has already called for these things since the beginnings of his campaign for president and the response has been applause, not horrified condemnation. Sure, there will be a majority who are silently appalled, as there were in '30s Germany, but will there be enough of us to stop the mob?

  68. @Rob Porter - your cogent remarks deserve plenty of thought. My fear is he will declare martial law and then the local police will be at your door confiscating any firearms and ammunition.

  69. Do not forget the Republican's are enabling trump's autocratic ambitions.

  70. Interestingly, I had this very same conversation at dinner last night. A registered Republican disagreed with the notion that Trump couldn’t handle a national security crisis, stating that “there are people around him who can guide him.” A 22-year-old registered Democrat promptly schooled him, stating that Trump has either fired or alienated them to the point that there is no such guidance currently in this administration. She went on to further state that she wouldn’t put it past Trump at all, given the recent news that his conversations and ties to Putin were the subject of a recent FBI investigation, to manufacture future crises in order to stay in power. And that is what I gleaned from this article; that Trump will go to any lengths to maintain the office, not just for him, but for members of his equally uninformed, ignorant and scheming family members. It’s my sincerest hope he does not cause a crisis that would result in the deaths of innocent Americans, one that rises to the level of “blank check status.” Would that every single American be aware and concerned for the same.

  71. How would he behave? I am afraid by creating another crisis, by pushing "the button". He is out of control and his Republican goonies are complicit.

  72. Most worrisome would be if Trump causes the ultimate crisis (and distraction): a war

  73. Let Trump declare Martial Law. The military will take over and push him to court to stand trial for all his bad deeds including collusion with Russia. Let his cabinet members put in the jail for all their corruption and anti people activities. Let there be some discipline. Our Democracy is already in Intensive Care Unit, we should do something to save it. Let us have real democracy which is one man one vote. Gore got more votes the W Bush but could not be president. Trump became president by getting 3 million vote less than Hillary. It is not fair and it can not be democracy. Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, both Dakota should not have same 2 senators as California, Texas, New York Finally let Mueller complete his job and present to public. Then the law of the country take its course. Then Trump will be right place.

  74. let's be honest:the fear of many people is that DJT will declare a state of emergency and assume dictatorial powers. he will say in a speech to the nation that he must shut down the special counsel's office and send the congress and courts home for thirty or ninety days in order to straighten things out and that, my friends, will be that.who in this Republican party will stand up to him?as for the Democrats, they will be rendered irrelevant. he will ignore any court orders and our nation will never be the same again.perhaps this is a paranoid fantasy but when I lie awake in the early hours of the morning, I wonder whether it is.

  75. It's nice to have political scientists who study autocracy put what Trump is doing into historical perspective. Every day I wonder what undemocratic action will he take next.

  76. Early Warning Signs of FASCISM from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC 1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism 2. Disdain for Human Rights 3. Identification of Enemies as a Unifying Cause 4. Supremacy of the Military 5. Rampant Sexism 6. Controlled Mass Media 7. Obsession with National Security 8. Religion and Government Intertwined 9. Corporate Power Protected 10. Labor Power Suppressed 11. Disdain for Intellectuals & the Arts 12. Obsession with Crime & Punishment 13. Rampant Cronyism & Corruption 14. Fraudulent Elections

  77. @David J. Krupp The list says it all. It nails Donald Trump to the wall. Wake up republicans, those of you that still care for this country. Time is running out.

  78. @David J. Krupp Yep

  79. @David J. Krupp I was angry before I read your post, now I am frightened.

  80. veto proof vote from elected officials is the check and balance being ignored here GOP senators aid and abet the destruction of our democracy #thenvote #senate67 #doyourjob

  81. What would Trump do in a real crisis? I don't know, how would your dog do if you let him drive your car? How woulds Oprah do as point guard for the Knicks? We have no President, which might be temporarily sustainable of it were openly acknowledged. Unfortunately, those who supported Trump because he might prove to be a useful idiot are stuck promoting a fraudulent Presidency, fraudulently obtained. "Useful" is done, and it didn't last long or amount to much. "Idiot" is on display in full bloom.

  82. Why wouldn't Putin manufacture a crisis to help his buddy?

  83. So now it's the Autocraticpublican party?

  84. ...the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country. -- Hermann Goering

  85. I sure hope there are ways to control him if he manufactures a crisis (looking at you, GOP) & that there are checks on his power if he blunders in reaction to a real one.

  86. The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche summed up the relationship between an autocratic leader and his supporters as follows: Say the sheep: “Leader, lead us, so we won’t be afraid to follow you.” Says the leader: “Sheep, follow me, so I won’t be afraid to lead you.” Imagine the sheep suddenly waking up and saying to their leader: “We have had enough of you leading us up the garden path!” How many more scandals and revelations will it take before Trump’s loyal republican supporters start seeing the light, stop being sheep and tell this fraud of a president: “You are fired!”

  87. Hermann Goering summed it up, "..The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

  88. My deep fear is that the invented crises the authors describe, from the Reichstag fire to the Moscow apartment bombings, are likely being examined and discussed by McConnell, McCarthy & Co. now to see if they could get away with something like this too. I guess they want Trump to be dictator perpetuo. What a shameful state of affairs for our country.

  89. Trump is an obnoxious bully. If he wants to declare a national emergency, I say bring it on. There will be court challenges and it is clear that there is not nor has there ever been a national emergency at our southern border. Trump will lose in the courts and that will be an important turning point. The only problem is what will Trump do then? He is not rational.

  90. Nancy Pelosi - vilified by the Right - disrespected by the Left - is this old man's true heroine. She has earned the accolade. And I am not some starry eyed bleeding heart liberal. While the Right's rants against Nancy are mostly laughable or boil down to "she's super bad because she's super effective and has power and she is NOT on our side" the Left's displeasure in part can resonate with me. I've wished Nancy would act faster, more aggressively, be more in your face against our regressive foes. I've fretted that she - like me - is too old school. I worried her mere persona - her giggle, her voice, her being a woman - shaves off some voters we need and could have. But while there are complaints I might substantiate mostly intellectually I know I'm just being naive, silly, impatient, unfair. No Nancy is and has been a hero for America! A true role model. And I proudly share her heritage and her era. We took the best of our Italian Catholic Immigrant upbringing to heart. I'll bottom line: that we are all in this together, get over yourself, greed (selfishness) is a sin, and you'll be judged on how you treat/help the least among us. And right now she is a warrior for ALL real Americans - Conservative/Progressive/In-Between. Get woke America! It is not about "the wall". It is existential. It is about the nature of our democracy and our character as people. Trump would be King - GOP would love Dukedoms - Nancy fights a Holy War against that for us.

  91. See Naomi Klein's formulations of "disaster capitalism" and her book, "Shock Doctrine".

  92. Don't give him any ideas! Please.

  93. The crisis is that Trump is President.

  94. Although everything written here is absolutely true, you fail to even mention Trump's partner in assisting and promoting an autocracy, the Republicans in Congress, and especially Mitch McConnell. The combination of Trump and McConnell is deadly to America's democratic norms. Everyone knows that if the Democratic House's legislation to resolve this manufactured travesty were brought up to a vote in the Republican led Senate, it would pass, putting more pressure on the weak Trump. In fact, the whole immigration issue would have been largely resolved some time ago when the Senate passed bi-partisan reform, but John Boehner, beleaguered by pressure from a handful of radical right wingers refused to bring up the bill in the House. This was a testament to Boehner's weakness and the impossibility of dealing with radical right wingers in our government. Trump most certainly is a manifestation of all that is offensive and anti-democratic but he's nothing new in today's Republican politics, highjacked by radical right wing blowhards on talk radio and Fox News. All are backed by a hard core and very small minority of voters who's hate for Democrats, liberals, blacks, Latinos, gays...the list goes on forever...is the tail that wags the dog, all to the detriment of what is good for our country. This is a travesty and opposite of American ideals

  95. @David Excellent comment. I would like to see the media, the New York Times, in particular, put more emphasis on Mitch McConnell. McConnell has too much power but we rarely read anything about him. He likes to deal in the dark. Perhaps more investigative reporting, more opinion pieces, and more hard questioning of his procedures is needed to bring this character the light of day. Every headline seems to be about Trump. Let's have some headlines about McConnell.

  96. @David Yes, the Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell are complicit in the continuing Government shutdown. Senate Leader McConnell, refuses to schedule a vote on any of the bills to re-open the Government, coming from the Democrat controlled House. He knows his fellow Republicans will be voted out in their home districts, if they are seen to vote down any bill to reopen the Federal Government. So the GOP in the Senate, sit on their hands. Enabling Trump to hold the Government, and the American people hostage.

  97. @Iris Flag Agreed. I think I understand Trump, or at least I have a working analysis, but I find McConnell inexplicably malevolent. Why????

  98. Autocrats are obsessed with money and material things. They reward those around them with opportunities to acquire it or increase established wealth of their cronies. Exploitation is viewed as a virtue, those with an opposing mindset are ridiculed as fools. It is with great shame we are represented throughout the world by a person who possesses the worst tendencies of an autocrat. Domestically the damage he has done is criminal all the while playing the victim of the press or people who have moral integrity. Viewing him or the faces of his administration causes torment and nausea. As to his claims of a witch hunt, may a good witch appear, wave a wand and make him and those who serve him disappear into the history books as the most corrupt, destructive force this nation has experienced.

  99. Someone should write a book about this. Oh, wait - "The Shock Doctrine," by Naomi Klein.

  100. My concern is that when Trump is unsuccessful in convincing voters that a crisis exists he will go further and actually arrange for a destructive act to take place (e.g. a bombing) which he then will use as an excuse to exercise dictatorial power.

  101. @Jay Orchard - Yes. And the people who are propping him up, the people who are undermining the FBI, Justice, etc., would have no problem arranging such an act or its cover up. Look at the low lifes he's surrounded himself with, and the good people who are now gone. With judicial benches populated by 3rd rate extremists willing to do his bidding, nothing would surprise.

  102. What these authors are saying is the main point. As important as all the other factors in play are, they should all fall away in our thinking when we consider this danger. While the Constitution might withstand this assault for now, even the slightest edging toward autocracy, so dear to the devil-president's hard, must be fought like a berserker. As the old saying goes, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Every day I see more how true that is.

  103. Finally, an article that anyone with good sense can (or should) agree with. To note that one missing element is GOP's implicit complicity, which can be read as a desire for one-party absolutism, a topic worth elaborating on for readers. In this regard, a Trump-like character is just a figurehead - a trial-and-error experiment, so to speak - in the grander scheme of things.

  104. Autocrats rule on the basis of fear. They fear monger some subject until they get their people to agree to give up their liberty and freedom for security from the "fake news" spread by the autocrats. "Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security." Benjamin Franklin Remember Bob Woodward's book, "Fear." It tells us all we need to know about Trump's approach to government.

  105. It should be noted that the current partial government shutdown started while the Republicans controlled ALL branches of government: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Republicans had nearly two years to deal with this "crisis", and did nothing but make it worse. The "crisis" is actually loss of control of the House, but evidently even Republicans don't think they can get away with declaring a national emergency based on loss of the House. So they make up a border security crisis. The fact that the border is more secure now than ever in our history is apparently of no consequence.

  106. @Andy Beckenbach. So the caravans of thousands heading for the border are non-existent?

  107. @Jackson Actually, in total terms, yes. The number of illegal immigrants has dropped from 1.6 million under Bush to about 400,000 under Obama to even a bit less today. So, yes, the 'boarder crisis' is mostly a made up crisis for political gains. What's different is that families are banding and traveling together for safety and that makes for a more impressive photo.

  108. @Jackson So families fleeing death and destruction that need food and shelter are a threat? Maybe we should chop peoples hands off if they steal food to feed their starving families. That'll teach em.

  109. You'll probably get zinged on this by the right, but Mr. Lincoln did suspend the writ of habeas corpus. Of course, it was during a rebellion of states, which most people would consider a true emergency (except, maybe, those in the Confederacy). Some may also consider the Emancipation Proclamation as a suspension of the "due process" clause of the 5th Amendment, but only if you consider humans to be property. Also, FDR also suspended the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans. And do we really want to carve Mr. GWH Bush as an exception, given all the suspensions of constitutional and civil rights which occurred after 9/11? Some may argue that they were justified *at the time* due to the perceived threat. But isn't that what we're talking about - perceived versus actual threat? These examples only serve to emphasize the author's point even more. Emergencies serve to provide even non-despotic types to exceed their authority - the despotic types just create a bigger umbrella under which the suspensions are "justified" to address "emergencies" which are less able to be justified as such.

  110. Unsure if this is farfetched, but the commentary about Americans rallying around "W" in 2001 with a 90% approval rating brings this to mind. What if the Russians attacked US territory in some manner sparking a conflict. The conflict is low level but achieves a goal of boosting his ratings. The war ends with a reasonable position for both Putin and Trump. Trump gains further power, the Republicans suppoort the effort. I have always speculated that these two conmen-authoritarians were working together for a global oligarchic authoritarian government as they are of the same ilk. A Russo-American scam for power and wealth.

  111. @Marc Lindemann If the Russians do any sort of attack on our soil right now Trump can be tried for High Treason.

  112. You should have mentioned Naomi Klein's excellent book: "The Shock Doctrine." Here is the Amazon summary: In this groundbreaking alternative history of the most dominant ideology of our time, Milton Friedman's free-market economic revolution, Naomi Klein challenges the popular myth of this movement's peaceful global victory. From Chile in 1973 to Iraq today, Klein shows how Friedman and his followers have repeatedly harnessed terrible shocks and violence to implement their radical policies. As John Gray wrote in The Guardian, "There are very few books that really help us understand the present. The Shock Doctrine is one of those books." Naomi Kline paints a picture of how the corporate world, neoliberal economists, and politicians worked to take advantage of communities and countries in shock because of some calamity—political, economic, and natural. They move in and enact free-trade, drastic cuts in government, reduced taxes (for the rich), dump price controls, and deregulation. These changes benefit no one except the rich, the political leaders, and foreign corporations, who are often one and the same. The poor in these places go from worse to horrid.

  113. It's for many of these same reasons that business executives can't tolerate unions. They don't have the patience or temperament for give and take with others. They are autocratic by nature and naturally know more than anyone else. Unions have been decimated by these kind of people and it's one reason our middle class has been hollowed out.

  114. And the only way to protect against these autocrats-in-waiting is to hope that those who can hold them accountable (ultimately, in the US, the voters) will think with something other than their amygdala. Good luck with that.

  115. Steps should be taken now to insulate the congress and judiciary in advance of any trump power grab. It should be spelled out how these two branches of government will wall off the executive in the event he attempts to subvert the constitution.

  116. @Bailey It basically is already spelled out in the constitution- the other branches just have to be willing to use their existing powers. The courts can block or enjoin illegal actions. Congress can pass bills and override any vetoes thereof, and, if need be, impeach, convict and remove the president. We just have to reach the stage where those entities have had enough of Trump and use their given authority!

  117. @George S Yes, thank you. I certainly hope that the checks established in the constitution prevail. Maybe the assumption (made by the framers) that the legislative branch would always rein in a rogue president was false. What if you have a congress that wants the rogue to succeed?

  118. Well put. And we must not forget that the autocrat who now sits in the Oval Office has proven himself to be utterly without scruple or moral bound. What if Trump finds himself in such circumstances that he determines that only a distraction involving a nuclear device will suffice? It absolutely could happen. No American will be safe until he is legally removed from office.

  119. @Richard: Yes, Trump is without scruple. Also brains. He is a ventriloquist’s dummy regurgitating baloney from Fox & Friends, Hannity, Coulter, Limbaugh — all toadies of a handful of bilious billionaires running a hugely successful brainwashing machine.

  120. While this article documents well the tendency of autocrats to like national emergencies and seems to apply to Trump the additional more difficult point s probably the most important. What should the public do in such a situation with a leader with autocratic tendencies when such an emergency situation arises? Whats terrifying is that Trump may create a serious downturn by shutting the government which he will use to augment his power. Then what happens? What do we do about it now and later?

  121. @Michael Cohen All solutions are long term that I see. There is no save easy save. The closet way out of what we have is that the Senate majority leader bass the bill send it to Trump for veto and then I guess have it come back and override the veto in the legislature. Long term elect people that will bring back the power to congress and remove executive power. Stop electing people in a popularity contest. Anyone who owns any sort of global business should be unable to run for president. Heck anyone with large amounts of money shouldn't be able to. Pay our congress and president way more and eliminate all lobbying. Anything such dinners, etc are bribes and ethical breaches. I would tie our congress to the median wage and make it like 15 times the median wage for a house rep, 25 times for the senate, 50 times for the president. The point being if they are paid well and have strict ethical guidelines there is low incentive to take bribes. They should also be barred from working for and sitting on any corporate board, multinational company etc for 15 years after exiting office. Industry concerns would not bypass the representative process and would instead be handled with an open forum like an E3 or some sort of expo where the public comes together to discuss concerns about topics. No sit down and handshakes in a back room. I'm sick of it. They need to sell their ideas and what they want to all of us not bypass the representative process through lobbying.

  122. Is there some law on high that requires the media to describe gutting or privatizing social programs as "reform", as these two academics also do? It's true that Bush and his supporters used that word, for their unrealized Social Security privatization plans. But are we really obliged to repeat their advertising campaigns, even 15 or 20 years later?

  123. We don’t negotiate with Terrorists, right ??? Thanks, GOP.

  124. He IS the Emergency. As for his cowardly Collaborators, you’re nearly DONE. Start lining up those fat Lobbyist “ Jobs “, Now. Seriously.

  125. Trump is a ventriloquist’s dummy repeating soundbites fed to him by the billionaire backed brainwashing machine of Fox & Friends, Limbaugh, Coulter, fundamentalist pulpits and radio, and Social Media onslaughts in Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram etc. Along with the invention of catastrophe, as Goebbels demonstrated, dictatorship makes good use of propaganda, and today it defines “reality” for 85% of Republicans, and repeatedly re-elects bought-and-paid-for patsies to Congress.

  126. Indeed, autocrats love to invent a crisis, to bypass the healthy constraints of a Legislative branch...if it is doing it's job (as McConnell is not!). Trump's case is rather bazaar, as he is a stunningly ignorant, and insecure egomaniac, a proto-fascist intent in misruling 'my way of the highway'. Trump's arrogance is superlative as well, thinking (if a thoughtless thug can do that) that his presence is indispensable and unique. Can you remember anybody holding public office with such a display of recklessness and lying prowess...than this vulgar bully named DJT? I find it hard to believe that, if there were the will, and instinct of survival, that Congress could not stop this nasty con-man from destroying this democracy. Trump, knowing he is in legal trouble for his 'criminal' graft, may want to keep this governmental shutdown 'for ever', shield himself from a well deserved 'whipping'. In Bolivia, we have a proto-dictator named Evo, trying to perpetuate himself by manufacturing 'people's will'...and trampling on a democratic constitution, in the coming elections. Just one more example of autocratic rule, and the corruption it entails, in this upside-down world we live in. Who said we humans can be trusted, if given the power with no regulation, and not abuse it?

  127. "Crises present such great opportunities for concentrating power that would-be autocrats often manufacture them." Such is the case with Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. Never mind Ukraine, Crimea, or Syria, just focus on the 1999 bombings in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. Yes, the tyrant blamed Chechens, the bane of Putin at the time. But it has long been suspected that Vladimir and henchmen lit the fuse of those bombs, killing fellow and innocent Russians for the sake of access to raw unmitigated power. Adding weight to argument is that so many who investigated this crime ended up dead. Murdered in the Russian way. The way of Putin and FSB. The way of the thug. To silence and intimidate and make their world safe for the dictator, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. https://www.hudson.org/research/12750-vladimir-putin-1999-russian-apartment-house-bombings-was-putin-responsible

  128. During the 1840s when President Polk wanted to 'steal' 1/2 million square miles of land from Mexico, he needed an excuse. He lied and invented an attack on General (later President) Zachary Taylor as an excuse to invade Mexico as far south as Mexico City. It worked. In 1964 when President LBJ wanted to escalate in Viet Nam, he lied and invented the Gulf of Tonkin incident. In each case, Congress bought the lie and acquiesced to increasing war spending. Imagine what the current lunatic in the White House will do to assure his reelection. An emergency in Honduras? A crisis in Syria. Don't change horses in mid-stream.

  129. Trump might as well be a terrorist. His cowardly bully tactics are holding us all hostage, and he wants us to blame the victims. He is also encouraging violence and hatred, which has grown perceptibly as people seem to feel it's OK to embrace white supremacy, encourage their kids to be nasty, indulge in road road, spray paint swastikas and insults, and generally blame innocent people for our difficulties.

  130. And don't forget, his followers are arming themselves at speed with powerful killing machines in order to form "militias" to take back their country. There are many clips of him nodding and winking to suggest this violence should he be overcome by legal means and the majority. Meanwhile, Republicans cheat cheat cheat in tactics to silence and criminalize Democrats and the less fortunate, and steal elections from the majority by "legal" means as they capture the courts and local authorities. Consider Bush v. Gore 2000! Oh what a better world this would have been. Bin Laden must be celebrating in his grave!

  131. Donald J. Trump, for all his childishness, addiction to fantasy and dreams of tyrannical powers, is, so far, an insignificant pipsqueak compared to George W. Bush when it comes to inventing a national crisis in order to subvert democracy and further his aims and those of his business partners. W. and his team created a bucket of lies to justify war on a country that hadn't attacked us to avert the attention of a traumatized nation from a country, Saudi Arabia, whose citizens HAD attacked us. That team then, with the enthusiastic complicity of the American news media, relentlessly shoved those lies down the throats of the American people and the world until they were given the power they wanted. Trillions have been spent on their now-metastasized war of choice, thousands of our soldiers died and hundreds of thousands were killed by us, yet George W. Bush is now written of as a model of self-restraint, compared to Trump? Trump is a pathetic child, compared to Bush, who took away from Congress the right to declare war by eliminating the obligation for honesty on the part of the Commander in Chief. If the news media which helped Bush sell his lies is willing to re-write history about that outrage how can we trust them to truly stand up to Trump, a would-be tin-pot dictator, when his situation becomes more desperate?

  132. @Joe Interesting point of view, comparing this "crisis" to the "War on Terror" created by George W. Bush. That time, we went on an all- out war against the wrong country (Iraq), with full support of the media, a war which continues to this day. As for trusting the media, it's pretty important to consider many sources before making up one's mind!

  133. One narcissist in a classroom takes much of the teacher's attention.

  134. Trump's last ditch hail marry to save his own skin (current office and facing his past crimes) will be to start a war. But his mechanism will be to either goas or conspire another country or terrorist organization to launch their own attack. Not necessarily here in the US but somewhere in the world. The populace will be united to fight back at the attack and put aside domestic disagreements to do so. It is a good thing Mr T knows more than the generals. At least he will know what to do. I would not be surprised to see him in army camo with lots of brass dripping everywhere reassuring us by TV or facebook.

  135. @Brian Will he still be wearing his extra long red tie?

  136. @Andrew Zuckerman No, read the WaPo column on his camo outfits. He has two wardrobes, one to look like he fits in businessmen (yes, men) and one to fit in with battlefront soldiers (which he wore to South Texas...a safe city on a sunny day that was 77 degrees).

  137. Actually, trump lacks the self-restraint of a small child or drunk. Maybe he had some back in the 1980's when he was still building things, but that was a long time ago.

  138. Mercurial Trump is not a huge threat. He can’t control his impulses and is not smart enough to pull it off. However, the American government has failed miserably at its first “stress” test. It is childishly easy to assume executive power where there is none in the US while law professors debate and differ on the legality of unprecedented moves. What happens if in 2024, 2028, ... an intelligent and deceitful autocrat wins the election?

  139. @Liz What happens if right now, somebody in Trump's administration is a fox in the henhouse? Adam McKay posits in his movie VICE that while Bush was relatively sincere-ish/asleep at the wheel, Dick Cheney was setting up a parallel governmental structure allowing him to make executive level decisions that were outside of his authority. For all we know, Pence, Pompeo, Wilbur Ross, Mnuchin, any of these crafty losers could be setting up their own mini-fiefdoms and jumping at the chance this opportunity.

  140. Most Americans, myself included, were shocked that an attack like 9/11 happened on our soil. We assumed massive terrorist attacks happened elsewhere, but not here. It was a huge wake-up call for our naive country. President Trump and his actions are now another wake-up call for our nation. Many Americans blithely look at Russia, North Korea, Hungary, Turkey, Venezuela, and other autocratic countries, and in ignorance and hubris, find no connection to President Trump's dismantling of democratic norms. I fear what kind of "crisis" President Trump would create if he was impeached, or felt he wouldn't be re-elected in 2020. We are facing the prospect of another 9/11, except President Trump and his Republican enablers pose an existential threat to our very democracy.

  141. All of this Trump insanity squarely rests at the feet of Mitch McConnell.

  142. @Kristina Yes, the Senate Republicans, led by Mitch McConnell are complicit in the continuing Government shutdown. Senate Leader McConnell, refuses to schedule a vote on any of the bills to re-open the Government, coming from the Democrat controlled House. He knows his fellow Republicans will be voted out in their home districts, if they are seen to vote down any bill to reopen the Federal Government. So the GOP in the Senate, sit on their hands. For the GOP to say, the "Democrats have to compromise" is ludicrous.

  143. Like the frog that boils slowly on the stovetop, Americans have become desensitized to the almost daily assaults on our democracy. News reports imply outrage over Steve King’s racist comments and cover illegal immigrant crime in spectacular fashion, unwittingly bolstering the racist argument of exclusion. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is like a ghost town, with unprecedented vacancies in positions that support national security and foreign policy. Trump proclaims a government shutdown using the pretense of funding a border wall as his reason. The media takes the bait, as always, missing the more sinister implications. The FBI and the federal justice system have run out of funding. Air traffic controllers, who have worked without pay for 22 days are quitting their jobs because their talent is in high demand. A populace that is immobile is vulnerable to attack. Vladimir Putin recently announced a super-sonic delivery system for nuclear missiles. Russia has been found to have hacked our utility grids and can theoretically shut down our power and water systems at will. Mitch McConnell will only call a vote on bills that Trump approves of. Does anyone else see a pattern here? Our situation is dire, and immediate action to curtail the power of the president is our best chance for survival.

  144. @Yakker Americans have become desensitized since the late 1970s, when tax cuts were enacted on the wealthy,and then we got Reagan. Both parties have been complicit with the takeover of our government by corporations and the rich, due to campaign contributions buying our politicians. Trump is the symptom, not the cause.

  145. @Yakker - Yes, to the pattern. I've long wondered what the end point would look like, the end that those who've controlled the means has been methodically engineering. It's clear now. They've won many battles. But will they win the war? Maybe it's not over yet. I believe the American people will rise to the occasion when they see what's coming for them. At least I hope so. If not, makes me pity the young, and glad I'm not one of them.

  146. Time for McConnell and his enablers and benefactors to be lined up against a wall and held accountable. Through proper legal channels, of course. Trump couldn't get away with this without them.

  147. @Bassman Very naive. McConnell has loaded the courts with autocrat loving Federalists (read anti-democracy advocates).

  148. Democrats justify refusing any compromise by putting forth the most extreme result imaginable if they do, and then saying that will be the outcome of compromise. Ex.: If they compromise on the border wall, admittedly a minor federal expenditure, they will only encourage a dictator and our democracy will fall--as staunch defenders of the constitution they cannot compromise. Ex.: Climate change--If they compromise any of their environmental goals the planet must become uninhabitable so no compromise is possible. Who are the extremists here, Democrats or Republicans?

  149. The extremists would be the party that welcomes and seeks the votes of neo-Nazis and the Klan and routinely uses outright racist and anti-Semitic propaganda in its campaigns, because they know they can’t win without them. That would be the Republicans.

  150. @Ronald B. Duke Your argument is badly flawed, and shows a misunderstanding of the meaning of compromise, defined by Merriam-Webster.com as Compromise, v.i. 1) to come to agreement by mutual concession. The government shutdown: Neither side is arguing that government should be closed, so Trump is not offering any concession. The situation involves hostage taking, not compromise. Climate change: You completely mischaracterize the disagreement. Scientists try their best to predict the consequences of particular human activity (depositing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere). The Democrats take the predictions seriously and try to formulate policies to mitigate the damage. There is large uncertainty in the predictions and legitimate disagreement about what the most desirable outcome is and what policies can give us a good chance of attaining those outcomes. A vigorous policy debate would be welcome. There is no reasoned debate because the Republicans refuse to accept the scientific results, instead choosing to try to discredit the research findings. They are not arguing in good faith; their behavior is similar to that of the tobacco companies, which for years tried to discredit studies that showed the deleterious effects of tobacco.

  151. @Ronald B. Duke The premise of your argument is mistaken. Democrats have been willing to compromise and negotiate three times on border security. Trump has walked away each time, and this time shut down government. The bigger point of your argument isn't really going to work out like anyone would want. We all think that if we can prove which side is the "extremist" and "to blame" we will know ethically which side "should" back down. Once that is determined, the good side can somehow be declared "winners" and - what? The bad side will see the error of their ways and back down? The good side will realize they should not compromise, and through their reinforced righteousness, will beat the bad side like a movie? None of these fantasies will happen. We have a problem regarding immigration. Both sides have valid points. It must be resolved through compromise. The job of the government is to resolve these problems, not to shut itself down while it holds its breath until the other side gives in. By accepting a shutdown, both sides are failing at doing their jobs of governance. Your argument just assists one side in defending its failure.

  152. "This raises a terrifying question: How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?" More frightening is the question of whether a President who could fabricate a real crisis in order to consolidate his power.

  153. @Cyclopsina It's possible if a real crisis arose, no one would tell him. Look at the sirens going off in Hawaii, For 12 minutes there was an unconfirmed threat of missiles from NK. The president was golfing. Now, I might have missed it but I don't recall hearing how the president handled those 12 minutes. I hope he was kept in the dark and his only decision was whether to hit a 6 or 7 iron to the green.

  154. Very cogent article on the issue of compromise. I recommend a visit to the Google site and seek George Washington’s letter to the President of Congress accompanying the draft of our Constitution then ready for submission to the States for ratification. I will say no more than that the contents of the letter are instructions to President Trump, Senate Leader MCConnell, and Speaker Pelosi at a minimum.

  155. What is clear to me is that for Trump, words have no meaning. When he says, "what we're not looking to do right now is national emergency", it's obvious that a real emergency does not exist. Instead, Trump sees the words "national emergency" as magic words, sort of like "Open sesame", that will get him what he wants. I am more frightened of the Republican Senate than I am of Trump. During the Watergate crisis, it was Congressional Republican leaders who made Nixon face facts and resign. I never agreed with the policies of Sen. Barry Goldwater, House Minority Leader John Rhodes, or Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott, Republicans all, but I know they had the good of the country in mind. I don't believe that about Mitch McConnell.

  156. @Vesuviano - Your instincts re/McConnell are 100% correct.

  157. "His response to Democratic control of the House of Representatives has been a refusal to compromise and, more dangerously, a refusal to lose. This is a critical corrective to mainstream reporting in the Times, the Post, and elsewhere, that represents "both sides" as refusing to compromise. The Constitution sets a framework for negotiations over government funding, and it gives first place in such negotiations to the House of Representatives. In short, within the constitutional framework, the House has the power to say no. In cases like the current one, the Constitution mandates that the President be willing to compromise. The current impasse represents the effort of the Republican Party under Trump to break that framework. As the authors put it, Trump is "refusing to lose." In effect, he's telling the House Ds, "We can settle this just as soon as you're willing to lose, and let me win." That is not a negotiating stance, unless you're talking about negotiations with a hostage-taker. As the authors point out correctly, it is the signature stance of an autocrat. It's not like the Rs are trying to hide this. They, with Trump, keep saying "elections have consequences," in reference to the 2016 election. Implicit is the notion that the 2018 elections, where Trump's border policy lost big, doesn't have consequences. They are acting, in short, as if Trump was elected dictator in 2016. For the media to say that "both sides" refuse to compromise is to accept that frame.

  158. While narcissism and autocratic leadership might work in a family-owned company, this style spawns too much resistance in a public setting - hence the need to revert to crises where the autocrat can override rules. The true crisis lies in the Senate’s abdication of co-rule. The tragedy of it all: so much authoritarianism runs in the fabric of the US population and its leadership - who would have thought...

  159. @Eric One current result of the Senate not ending the shutdown: The National Transportation Safety Board has been unable to investigate a dozen transportation accidents, including several plane crashes with some fatalities. How stupid of McConnell not to allow votes that could override the veto.

  160. Trump has been following the time tested autocrat "hand book" all along with his attempts to weaken the judiciary, label the press as the enemy, use immigrants, et al as scapegoats and stimulate divisiveness and fear. Creating an "emergency" to allow him to use "emergency powers" is standard operating procedure from that hand book. The judiciary and the press have, for the most part, shown their resilience. It has been the Congress, and now, specifically the Senate Republicans turn to see if they have any real understanding of what is at stake. So far, with rare and inconsistent exceptions, they have been cynically complicit with Trump. The real danger our nation faces is from within. It is from a President who really cares only about his own power and from a party who has very little to offer regarding not just solutions to our very real problems but even identifying them. I wonder if Mitch McConnell et al will every wake up? C'mon - get real.

  161. @Bob M McConnell is evil through and through. He is awake.

  162. @Bob M Mitch McConnell is 100% aware and ok with the risk of autocracy, don't you think? He is loathsome, but not stupid. He must see which way the wind is blowing and would rather go with it and let the wind blow, as long as it sows the seeds of Republican control across the country. Don't ask me why McConnell thinks Republican ideas are so great. I have no idea why he cares about any of the things he cares about; it seems to be only a power game to him. I know nothing of his religious convictions or personal beliefs. He has the lowest approval rating both nationally and statewide of all senators according to Wikipedia. He stole a Supreme Court appointment and is proud of it, so he's not an institutionalist. He served in the military for only five weeks. Who is he and why is he?

  163. @Bob M As some of the above comments state, Mitch McConnell is as much the problem as Trump. He started the overthrow of democracy with the Merrick Garland nomination. He's smart enough to know that the people he is loading the courts with will allow the overthrow of the constitution. Too much attention to the moron in the White House is almost a diversion from the real, original source of the problem.

  164. I'm relieved to see this concern articulated in the NYT. Kristallnacht has been on my mind since Trump began floating the notion of declaring the border wall a "national emergency." While I acknowledge our serious problems at the border, to call it a national emergency is a manufactured crisis. We are not facing a guerrilla army at the border; we have starving refugees. If Trump is able to get legal coverage to build the wall under war powers, it's the beginning of the end for our country. It gives him legal pretext to declare a state of emergency that "temporarily" closes down Congress, so the executive can "respond to the crisis." He could shut down banks, the press, arrest perceived political enemies. There are enough legal conservatives out there who are secret monarchists to back Trump up. Some of them even sit on the Supreme Court. And if Trump never takes his wall emergency to the full apocalypse I'm describing, he still sets the table for the next authoritarian. It is very hard to see what is really happening right in front of our eyes right now. Most taxpaying Americans don't recognize our tacit acceptance that our democratic government is unreliable and can shut down instead of finding solutions. Why should any other nation choose democracy if the trains don't run? It is profoundly humiliating. If our politicians can't handle immigration policy, hire pros. Get a mediator, family therapist, or McKinsey consultant in there and get this solved!

  165. This dictator needs to be gone. Now. But the Republican Senate will continue to toady to him. And we will now have an Attorney General covering up his crimes. Of course Trump isn't above manufacturing a "crisis" out of whole cloth. He has everything to gain, and nothing to do, by doing so. In fact, he avoids a certain prison sentence by remaining in power beyond his term of office. So the question we all must answer is, what are we (the majority) willing to do to remove him from office. We can't assume that we may simply sit back and wait until the election in 2020, and vote him out. There are no guarantees that Trump will not try to cancel it. We've already seen his willingness to declare a "national emergency" that exists only in his mind. Does anyone honestly believe that, as his crimes continue to see the light of day, he would not impose martial law to hold power? For those who believe that somehow our Constitution will save us, think again. Trump has five votes on the Supreme Court, from judges already granting him expansive executive power. As in other nations where citizens had to overthrow tyrants in the past, I believe our only recourse now is the streets. If polling numbers are to be believed, there are nearly two hundred million of us who want our country back. We want our democracy back. We want the rule of law. We want to depose this dictator. And it looks like we are going to have to fight to get all of these things.

  166. @Charles Dodgson "[W]hat country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. .... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." --Thomas Jefferson

  167. @Charles Dodgson I agree but the entire Administration has to go. Republicans need to stand down in shame.

  168. What is getting lost in all of the discussions of Trump's made up crisis is that Mitch McConnell could avoid all of this if he had allowed the House to have their budget approved by the Senate and then sent to Trump to veto. Then Mitch McConnell could have had the Senate override Trump's veto. The real Autocrat in this mess is Mitch McConnell, followed closely by Trump. Trump at least has an excuse. He doesn't know how to govern. Mitch McConnell does not have that excuse. The press should be keeping the pressure on McConnell as well These two so called men are holding Government Employees and the country hostage just because they can. The Senate Republicans need to use their votes to get rid of McConnell and his obstructionist ways. None of them are living up to their oaths. It is not just Trump.

  169. @Jean Couldn't agree more. I believe the news media needs to provide ethical framings for this situation - not just analysis of the historical precedents or political gamesmanship we a re seeing. By the way - Try calling Mitch McConnell's office to express this opinion. You'll find you can't get through at his DC or five Kentucky offices. You'll find an answering machine telling you that your call is very important, that then hangs up on you.

  170. By now, we know this is Trump. The question becomes, how long will Mitch McConnell and the other Republican senators fail to do their jobs.

  171. @Independent The question I ask myself is whether the Republicans see this shutdown as a serious concern, since they are ultimately anti-government. To them, trimming 25% of the workforce inherently sounds like a good thing, regardless of what that workforce is doing. I can see a silent rationalization drifting cloudlike over all these Senators' heads "Well, it's not that bad - we needed to trim government anyways." And as for the hardship faced not only by our government's workers, but our citizens like farmers, SNAP recipients, and veterans put in tough positions due to the loss of the government services: "Them's the breaks. It's capitalism, Schweetheart."

  172. The Press worries about The Constitution -- who else? But that makes Trump's need for diversions easy.

  173. Yes, and if an erratic, impulsive president with authoritarian tendencies finds, in his unstable mind, a pretext -- say, impending impeachment -- for declaring martial law, how and when would that ever be undone? And by whom? When the last grown-up in the Trump administration, Jim Mattis, was running the Pentagon, we had somewhat of an insurance policy against blatant misuse of the military for political purposes, although even he couldn't push back enough to prevent the assignment of soldiers to the southern border in response to a fake crisis posed by "the caravan." Mr. Mattis is gone now, however, having resigned in disgust and out of a principled sense of patriotic duty, and he has been replaced by an unqualified Trump sycophant. So the question remains: Who's going to prevent Donald Trump, who believes that he's above the law and even the Constitution itself, from acting on his darkest impulses when he feels threatened? Mitch McConnell or other spineless denizens of Capitol Hill? Matthew Whitaker or William Barr at Justice? Patrick Shanahan at Defense? Of course not. America, we have a problem. And the longer we deny it, the worse the Trumpocalypse if going to be when it comes crashing down on our fragile democracy.

  174. @Dotconnector In the last paragraph: "is going to be" (rather than "if ..."). Apologies.

  175. never fear, Mitch McConnell and our brave and upstanding Congress will put the kibosh on Trump when he tries to become dictator. just watch them in action and you know you can trust them to do the right thing, placing our collective safety and the fate of the nation above party interests.

  176. @Dotconnector You can always hope that the military, unlike Trump and the Republicans, remember that their oath is to the country and not the “president”.

  177. The US Constitution is a remarkable document which established durable institutions of government but it still requires the good will and honour of the people holding critical positions in government to make the Constitution work in practice. The Senate's Constitutional role is as the sober deliberative body that can cool passions and seek pragmatic solutions. Its long terms of office effectively insulate Senators from immediate political pressures, allowing them to act in the nation's interest, even when it might not be politically popular in the short term. The Senate should be solving the current shutdown. That is its Constitutional job. Instead Mitch McConnell blocks any attempt to find solutions and has abdicated his responsibility in favour of the President. Individual Republican Senators, most of whom won't need to worry about re-election for 4 to 6 years, are standing by doing nothing. Where is their oath to the Constitution of the United States?

  178. Tell a lie or lies....tell them again...and again...and again...Soon the masses think "I have heard this from multiple sources, there must be some truth to it" So fascists/autocrats drive their perverted goals. Look at history: Tito, Mussolini, Hitler, and a dozen more dictators and others to destroy democracies. That is is what Trump is doing. Put him out of view. Put him away. Act you spineless Congress and Senate.

  179. @David Beddoe I would change ‘Congress and Senate’ to ‘Republicans’. They are and have always been the obstructionist party.

  180. Great article,

  181. Not only an autocrat but a treasenous on at that is DJT.

  182. Why the heck does Rupert Murdoch get to keep his citizenship???

  183. why not? he bought it fair and square in order to get around the laws concerning foreign ownership of tv stations.

  184. Donald Trump is an ignorant immature immoral intemperate insecure diva narcissist by nature and nurture who needs to be the corpse and widow at every funeral, the bride and groom at every wedding and the leading lady and man in every production. The real question is what has Donald Trump, Sr. ever done that has him ever faithfully executing the duties of his office while preserving, protecting and defending the Constitution of the United States of America. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin's smiling and smirking face tells all. MRGA aka Make Russia Great Again.

  185. Ha! Quote Rahm Emmanuel (remember him...?): "You should never let a serious crisis go to waste".

  186. What's truly sad and pathetic is that millions of Americans think this is "winning."

  187. We are one 9/11 catastrophe away from becoming a dictatorship.

  188. I’ve been wondering lately when a shutdown becomes a coup.

  189. Great article! But you forgot to mention the use of the army in each of these historic and contemporary situations. The use of the US Army at the border before last year’s midterm elections on this invented caravan “crisis” is right out of the dictators playbook! (Page 106 if memory serves...)

  190. I tire of repeating it, but my grandparents left Germany between the two world wars. They’d lived near Weimar during an era of great social dynamism and were themselves thinkers and artists. Later, my grandfather would weep at what his country had done and what had become of his culture and hometown. The thing that I remember the most was his regret that they did not stem the tide of authoritarianism earlier. “It seemed OK, at first,” he would say. “We thought it could never go that far.” Listening to my grandparents’ experiences and heartbreak, one thing has always stood out to me: autocrats are rarely evil geniuses who grab power all at once. Instead, they chip away at truth, controls and norms in ways that often look random and incoherent. It goes without saying that the United States of 2019 is a different place than the Europe of a century ago. It goes without saying, too, that the particulars 1930s and ‘40s authoritarianism are unlikely to be repeated. But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we are different or exceptional. We are no different than countless others who have been fooled into thinking that “it can’t happen here.”

  191. @Fintan One particular that bothers me greatly is the apparent lack of education among the electorate. I am inclined to believe that this is due to Republican machinations, but I do not see the LOVE of learning among so much of our populous. In many places, I see the love of ignorance. I do not see, for the most part, education as a harnessing of a child's natural curiosity. I am not sure this is only a Republican fault. I haven't seen it contested by the Democrats. I am not an educator, but I am a well educated parent with six children. I grieve. And the lack of challenging, affordable higher education is the tip of the iceberg.

  192. @Fintan Thank you for posting.

  193. @Fintan Hitler was not a popular man in 1930's Germany. He was generally thought of as a dolt. But he offered easy solutions to complex problems and for many living through the chaotic Weimar Republic, that was just enough. Oh, and of course the left was hopelessly divided squabbling over matters large and small (sound familiar?). But once he got his foot in the door...well the rest is history.

  194. “This raises a terrifying question: How would a president who is willing to fabricate a national emergency over a simple legislative impasse behave during a real security crisis?” Crumble or exploit it to the hilt. Either way America will lose big time. As for exercising power irresponsibly from the Oval Office, even in the bone crushing time of Trump, there is no more glaring and costly transgression than the Bush-Chaney debacle in invading Iraq under patently false pretenses. Both walked away entirely without negative consequence. Trump may yet slip through the huge Washington cracks that make for a lavish free-for-all when it comes to serious political accountability. Meanwhile the cleanup and recovery will almost certainly take decades.

  195. Where is Mitch McConnell? His intentional disengagement becomes more glaring each day, especially in the wake of new information that DJT may truly have a treason problem. Perhaps the real emergency in our country is the GOP members of Congress failure to govern. They have the power to stop Trump's fabricated shutdown, but for unknown reasons will not. I am curious as to who is/are Trump's real adviser(s) on the shut down? Putin, Miller, Bannon, Hannity, Murdoch and other members of the Billionaire's Club whom he speaks to daily? What is the end game? I don't think it is the border wall, otherwise he would have built some of it by now with the money already approved.

  196. @KB your list must include the Koch brothers and their long game politically.

  197. @KB While remaining silent Mitch McConnell and his wife continue to feed at the taxpayer's trough and enjoy their spoils. He isn't going to rock the boat.

  198. @KB Agreed. And remember that the “ wall “ was just a mnemonic device thought up for Trump on the South West state campaign trail. Some red meat for the xenophobic crowds. Where is Mitch should be the mantra.

  199. We will overcome. This is a test we'll all be better and stronger in the end. The benefits of term limits magnified.

  200. @José Franco As Nietzsche said, "Whatever does not kill us makes us stronger." That's comforting … unless it DOES kill you. Then it's just sad.