In 1935, Sinclair Lewis called it.
Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values. After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a plutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS. The novel’s plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion.
Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post today:
We have a national emergency, all right. Its name is Donald Trump, and it is a force of mindless, pointless disruption.
The president’s decision to officially declare an emergency — to pretend to build an unbuildable border wall — is not only an act of constitutional vandalism. It is also an act of cowardice, a way to avoid the wrath of Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the far-right commentariat.
It is an end run around Congress and, as such, constitutes a violation of his oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” — which gives Congress, not the president, the authority to decide how public money is spent. It does not give Trump the right to fund projects that Congress will not approve. Authoritarian leaders do that sort of thing. The puffed-up wannabe strongman now living in the White House is giving it a try.
If you think I’m being alarmist — what’s next, the Reichstag? — then remember that if Trump gets away with declaring a national emergency for a mythical wall, what’s to stop him from doing the same for banning Muslims? Yeah, he tried that, and the courts basically let him get away with it.
The only thing that seems to be holding the Republicans from getting totally on board with this is the realization that the next Democratic president could declare an emergency on guns or climate change, which seems to be a particularly weak argument on their part: the other guys will come up with shit that’s crazier than our own guy.
The fact that former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe, who filled in for the fired James Comey, considered the idea of invoking the 25th Amendment should awake you and us. He’s not some left-wing socialist, but a career man who clearly believes in the rule of law. And if he’s worried about who’s running the country, we all should be.