The First American Dictator
Kenneth R. Mackie
The people of the United States of America, the first democratic republic the modern world has ever known, have ceded rule to a dictator for the first time in its 200+ year history.
A dictator is “one holding complete autocratic control: a person with unlimited governmental power” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary); “a person exercising absolute power, especially a ruler who has absolute, unrestricted control in a government without hereditary succession” (Dictionary.com).
A dictatorship is, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, a
form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations. The term dictatorship comes from the Latin title dictator, which in the Roman Republic designated a temporary magistrate who was granted extraordinary powers in order to deal with state crises. Modern dictators, however, resemble ancient tyrants rather than ancient dictators. … Dictators usually resort to force or fraud to gain despotic political power, which they maintain through the use of intimidation, terror, and the suppression of basic civil liberties. They may also employ techniques of mass propaganda in order to sustain their public support.
No one becomes a dictator without help. A cadre of loyalists is essential to grab and keep power. And support amongst a sizeable portion of the populace, even a sizable minority, can propel a would-be demagogue into power.
THE POWER OF THE PEOPLE
Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President, is attributed with saying, “You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” This has been taken to heart by Republicans since the days of the “Christian Coalition”, who found that they only needed to fool enough of the people at the proper times (elections). And faith-based voters belong to the ‘some of the people all of the time’ group. The conservative “Evangelical Christian” block can be counted on to vote Republican for the foreseeable future. Throughout 2109, Republicans approval of the First American Dictator ranges in the upper 80s to low 90s percent[i]. The approval rating among highly religious, white and Protestant Republicans is 92% over the past two years[ii]. This translates into millions of faith-based voters who support the First American Dictator.
Among these is a growing cadre of white nationalists, encouraged to take up arms against all enemies of the current Administration. When “God’s Chosen[iii]” encourages violence, it is a statistical certainty that some will take up arms. Hence the mass murders of Hispanics, Jews, Muslims, etc.
The First American Dictator enjoyed sufficient support among a mobilized and armed minority to be propelled into power.
THE POWER OF LOYALISTS IN GOVERNMENT
In the unique structure of the United States government, all one party needs is 51 Senators to control the Senate (or just 50 Senators, plus the Vice President as a tie-breaker), hence the entire legislative branch, and give carte blanche to a dictator to ignore the Constitution. A bare majority of Senators allows a party to block all legislation, or ram-rod bills through regardless of any opposition. Even a minority of only 41 Senators is all it takes to prevent an override of a presidential veto.
While the Constitution was designed to establish a legislative branch with the power to check a renegade President, it was not drafted to prevent a political party from obtaining enough power to allow the Constitution to be ignored.
The First American Dictator enjoys the support of a majority in the Senate. As a result, the legislative branch is incapable of forcing him to act within the powers granted to him by the Constitution.
THE POWER OF LOYALTY OATHS
It has been widely reported that Trump demands a “loyalty oath”[iv] from subordinates[v].
The 25th Amendment provides that the Vice President and a majority of the Cabinet can declare the President unfit for office, at which time the Vice President becomes the Acting President. A “loyalty oath” to Trump, and not to uphold the Constitution, ensures that Trump is protected by loyalists to him. Trump has surrounded himself with loyalists that put loyalty to a dictator above loyalty to the Constitution, or to the country. The First American Dictator enjoys the support of an inner circle of loyalists.
THE PROPAGANDA MACHINE
Fox News and the network’s opinion shows are widely seen as the propaganda arm of the Trump administration[vi]. One Fox newscaster in particular, Sean Hannity, is seen as an unofficial advisor to Trump[vii]. While Trump lambasts CNN as “fake news”[viii] it is Fox which has the worst track record for making false or misleading statements, whereas CNN ranks the best[ix].
A majority of Republicans for whom Fox News is their primary news source solidly support the First American Dictator and there is nothing he could do that would make them lose their approval[x].
When it comes to faith-based voters, nearly all who identify as white evangelical Protestants for whom Fox News is their primary news source oppose Trump being impeached and removed from office[xi].
The First American Dictator has a propaganda machine spouting falsehoods to help keep him in power.
THE POWER TO PROFIT FROM HIS OFFICE
Trump has the unchecked power to profit from his office, in disregard of the Constitution.
THE POWER TO PROFIT AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE
“The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased (sic) nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.[xii]”
Any profit arising from the possession of a public office is an emolument.[xiii] Trump profits off his office in many ways. He still owns numerous hotels and resort properties. He has taken numerous trips to his resorts, billing taxpayers millions of dollars[xiv]. He has directed members of the armed forces to stay at his property in Scotland, at taxpayers’ expense[xv]. His Vice President and members of his administration stay at his properties[xvi], again lining Trump’s pockets.
In using taxpayer funds to pay for golfing trips and hotel lodging at his properties, Trump is causing the United States to pay him over and above his compensation as set for his office by Congress.
THE POWER TO PROFIT FROM FOREIGN STATES
No person “holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.[xvii]” Foreign governments that make use of Trump’s properties are putting their money into Trump’s pockets. In addition, China has granted Trump or his companies about 40 trademarks since he became President. Congress has not given its consent to foreign money flowing to Trump either directly or through his corporations’ profits. Members of Congress filed a lawsuit in June of 2017 seeking an injunction to bar Trump from further accepting emoluments from foreign governments without first seeking Congress’ approval[xviii]. Trump is currently appealing the finding that members of Congress have standing to seek a court order compelling Trump to comply with the Constitution. Meanwhile Trump does not have to produce any documents showing which foreign governments have paid to stay at which of Trump’s properties, nor how much they paid, nor how much of that has gone into Trump’s pockets while he is in office.
Trump has the unchecked power to profit from his office, billing taxpayers for his vacations at his resort and collecting payments from foreign governments for their rents of his properties.
THE POWER TO DIVERT FEDERAL FUNDING AT WILL
Congress has the “power of the purse”, that is, to pass legislation to raise revenues, and to appropriate funding[xix]. Trump wanted money for a wall between the United States and Mexico. Congress considered, but did not fund Trump’s request. So the First American Dictator declared an “emergency” that didn’t exist, and diverted funds from congressionally approved projects to his border wall[xx]. Congress responded by passing a bill rejecting Trump’s emergency declaration, which Trump vetoed[xxi]. Thirty-six Republican Senators supported Trump and his veto was not overridden. Trump has the power to divert federal funds at will.
THE POWER TO IGNORE INTERNATIONAL LAW
The First American Dictator inherited the power to ignore international law prohibiting torture, “secret rendition” aka kidnapping, holding prisoners in undisclosed prisons indefinitely without charges, and invading a country for the purpose of regime change.
This power has been expanded to include separating children from their parents[xxii], and ignoring international law regarding refugees seeking asylum[xxiii].
THE POWER TO OBSTRUCT JUSTICE
The First American Dictator used the power of his office to obstruct investigations into allegations of misuse of power, first in the Mueller probe looking into potential collusion between his campaign for the office of President[xxiv], then by refusing to let former and present members of his administration testify before Congress as the House investigated possible acts giving rise to an impeachment proceeding[xxv].
Acting under the First American Dictator’s orders, and without a claim of privilege, Trump’s present and former subordinates have refused to comply with a subpoena to testify before Congress[xxvi]. The First American Dictator has been seen to dangle a potential pardon to influence testimony[xxvii].
Trump’s messages on social media are seen as attempts to intimidate witnesses[xxviii]. He is so bold as to disparage a witness even as the witness testifies before Congress[xxix]. Likewise his administration uses an official social media account to disparage a witness while testifying[xxx].
Ordering percipient witness to refuse to comply with a Congressional subpoena without a claim of privilege, dangling the possibility of a pardon for witnesses accused of providing false testimony, and disparaging witnesses while they are testifying all point to obstruction of justice.
THE POWER TO BRIBE JURORS
Republican Senators will make up the majority of the jurors in an impeachment trial of the First American Dictator. “President Donald Trump—who is facing a formal impeachment inquiry in the House—has leveraged his fundraising network to boost the campaigns of struggling Republican senators who have signed a resolution condemning impeachment proceedings.” [xxxi]
Thus members of the jury who have already come out in support of the First American Dictator are being rewarded with campaign cash to help them keep their jobs. The First American Dictator will not be facing an impartial jury in his impending impeachment trial.
THE POWER TO USE CONGRESSIONALLY APPROPRIATED FUNDS FOR PERSONAL POLITICAL GAIN
The First American Dictator leveraged hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to coerce a foreign government to announce an investigation against a political rival[xxxii]. The ramifications of this unchecked power cannot be understated. With foreign aid tied to political favors, foreign governments will be highly motivated to comply. Indeed, it does not take too much of an imagination to see federal dollars allocated to the various States withheld unless the State agrees to investigate political opponents. This power, the power to generate countless investigations into political opponents, combined with the power of the propaganda machine and the power of loyalists, is the power to destroy all opposition.
THE FIRST AMERICAN DICTATOR
President Donald Trump is the First American Dictator. By all indications, he won’t be the last. If, and it appears likely, the Republicans in the Senate refuse to remove him from office, his successors will enjoy the same powers – as long as they have enough loyalists in the Senate[xxxiii]. The courts won’t be able to constrain these powers, as the courts have no power to enforce their rulings[xxxiv]. If Trump is allowed to remain in office because the Republican Senate acquits him of “high crimes and misdemeanors” the above enumerated powers will be ceded to the office of President. The crowning achievement of the Republican Party will be to turn a constitutional republic into a dictatorship, with them in control.
Trump will be known as the first of a long line of American Dictators.
Kenneth R. Mackie is a former educator turned attorney. He studied Constitutional Law under Professor John Cary Sims at University of Pacific, McGeorge School of Law and “Fundamental Rights in Europe and the United States” under Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy and Sionaidh Douglas-Scott at the Salzburg Institute in Salzburg, Austria.
[xii] United States Constitution, Article 2, section 1.)
[xvii] United States Constitution, Article 1, Section 9.