It might be comforting to believe that Trump accidentally stumbled into a constitutional crisis his first week in office, but it's far more likely that this is a test. And if we as a country fail it, our system of checks and balances takes one enormous step closer to collapsing.
Trump is a buffoon. We know this. He's incapable of leading the country in any capacity whatsoever. But he's not in charge. White nationalist Steve Bannon is and like most white nationalists, Bannon has no use for the Constitution or the rule of law. To this end, Bannon almost certainly engineered the Muslim ban knowing the courts would immediately move to strike it down. CNN's interpretation is that Trump's administration is comprised of political amateurs who didn't necessarily understand the confusion the illegal executive order would generate but that it a very generous take on what happened last week. A piece by Yonatan Zunger has a much dimmer view of this potential coup but it lists a cabal of bad actors that include Trump and Reince Preibus being active players, which seems unlikely. As I wrote about last week, Donald Trump is Steve Bannon's puppet so that's who we have to look to for answers.
The fact that so many Homeland Security and border patrol officials are ignoring the various court orders blocking the ban is troubling. But the fact that Trump's (Bannon's) administration is not telling them to stand down is dangerous and incredibly telling. This means that Trump (Bannon) is deliberately testing the waters to see how much of the law enforcement apparatus under his control will obey illegal executive decrees. By muddying the waters and sowing the maximum amount of confusion by not making the parameters of the executive order clear, Trump (Bannon) will find out how law enforcement will act under duress. If they're willing to "just follow orders," then we enter the death spiral of our constitutional republic with the end result being the very dictatorship the Constitution explicitly exists to prevent.
Another fact that points to Trump (Bannon) looking to do away with the power of the judiciary is this (Since this writing, the link has been restored but it's still unclear why it was missing in the first place):
It might seem like a minor detail but it speaks volumes about Trump's (Bannon's) contempt for the checks and balances that are supposed to keep him from being a king. By design, judges are not subject to the whims of the Executive Branch and cannot be removed from the bench easily. That leaves Trump (Bannon) no choice but to ignore them. If law enforcement follows his lead, the courts will be rendered powerless.
The Republicans controlling Congress can put a stop to this power grab but aside from Lindsay Graham, John McCain and a scant few others, congressional Republicans are either supporting Trump or oddly indifferent. The basic calculus seems to be that it's better to see if Trump wins so they can curry favor from their new overlord. A lot of people have been comparing the GOP's cowardice to the failure of Germany's Parliament to rein in Hitler because they're following the same pattern for the same reason: They think they can either control or get rid of Trump (Bannon) any time they want.
But if Trump (Bannon) is able to command blind obedience from law enforcement, who will stop him when he disregards the court's orders? Who will stop him when he ignores Congress? Who will stop him at all?
It's been just ten days since Trump (Bannon) took power and we're already on the brink of disaster. Even if this ploy doesn't work out, Trump (Bannon) will continue to set up confrontations with the judiciary, making it easier each time for law enforcement to ignore court orders and normalizing the power grab in the public's mind.
The question now become: How much erosion of our democracy and civil rights will the so-called "patriots" of the right accept in the name of "safety" and white supremacy? Unfortunately, history's already given us that answer.
- This article kills fascists
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