There is no need for all the indicators to line up at once.
Looking back at the past four years, it doesn’t take much to think of an example for each.
But in just the past days, Donald Trump has taken some more alarming steps in the “rampant cronyism and corruption” column.
Trump is preparing to fire administration officials he deems insufficiently loyal.
As Axios reported, high on that list are FBI Director Christopher Wray, CIA Director Gina Haspel, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
According to journalists Jonathan Swan and Alayna Treene:
“The list of planned replacements is much longer, but these are Trump’s priorities, starting with Wray.
“Wray and Haspel are despised and distrusted almost universally in Trump’s inner circle. He would have fired both already, one official said, if not for the political headaches of acting before Nov. 3.
” A win, no matter the margin, will embolden Trump to ax anyone he sees as constraining him from enacting desired policies or going after perceived enemies.”
This comes days after Trump issued an executive order to revoke civil service protections if it is decided career civil servants occupy “confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions.”
By creating a “preliminary, Schedule F” list of positions that do not roll over to the next administration, Trump appears to be eliminating jobs for scientists, doctors, lawyers, and economists that would naturally go on to serve former Vice President Joe Biden, should he defeat Trump next week.
As reported in The Independent:
“Trump has repeatedly clashed with such career workers on a variety of settings, ranging from his desire to present the Covid-19 pandemic as largely over, to his attempts to enable his allies to escape punishment for federal crimes, to his quixotic insistence that National Weather Service scientists back up his erroneous claim that the state of Alabama was threatened by a hurricane which was not heading in its direction.”
This means administration National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci, for example, after serving six presidents, could be fired and replaced with a Trump toadie, as Attorney General William Barr has become after Trump fired Barr’s predecessor, former Senator Jeff Sessions, for refusing to insinuate himself in Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in 2016.
Walter Shaub ran the Office of Government Ethics during Barack Obama’s final term and the first six months of Trump’s.
About Trump’s executive order, he explained:
“It’s a two-pronged attack—a Hail Mary pass to enable them to do some burrowing in if they lose the election. But if they win the election, then anything goes for the destruction of the civil service…[This could] take us back to the spoils system and all the corruption that comes with it.”
A non-partisan civil service is one of the most fundamental anti-corruption steps government can implement, according to Shaub, “because they free federal employees to disobey illegal orders, be ethical, and resist fraud, waste, and abuse.”
“Taking those away creates a cadre of people who are either too intimidated by or loyal to a politician instead of the rule of law and the Constitution. That’s the goal here.”
American Federation of Government Employees National President, Everett Kelley, said:
“Through this order, President Trump has declared war on the professional civil service by giving himself the authority to fill the government with his political cronies who will pledge their unwavering loyalty to him, not to America. By targeting federal workers whose jobs involve government policies, the real-world implications of this order will be disastrous for public health, the environment, the defense of our nation, and virtually every facet of our lives.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweeted:
With the stroke of his pen, the President tries to undermine the value of public service. His action is an outrage and Democrats will fight it. Once again, he proves himself unworthy of the office he holds. https://t.co/Hqmrfq9WDL
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) October 22, 2020
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Virginia), Civil Service Oversight Subcommittee Chair, slammed the executive order, calling it “yet another attack on federal employees that addresses absolutely none of the issues that can hinder effective federal recruitment and hiring, a cheap ploy to let the Trump administration replace talent and acumen with fealty and self-dealing.”
Part of the responsibility of Trump’s deputy chief of staff for policy coordination, Chris Liddell, is to work with White House counsel Pat Cipollone and the Office of Presidential Personnel’s Johnny McEntee to implement “loyalty tests” to weed out “Never Trumpers” from the administration.
According to a study out of the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, the Republican party has become like ruling factions in autocratic governments like Hungary, India, Poland, and Turkey.
The study finds:
“The data shows that the Republican party in 2018 was far more illiberal than almost all other governing parties in democracies. Only very few governing parties in democracies in this millennium (15%) were considered more illiberal than the Republican party in the US.”
V-Dem’s deputy director, Anna Lührmann, said the Republican transformation has been “certainly the most dramatic shift in an established democracy.”
“We’ve seen similar shifts in parties in other countries where the quality of democracy has declined in recent years, where democracy has been eroding. It fits very well into the pattern of parties that erode democracy once they’re in power.
“The demonization of opponents–that’s clearly a factor that has shifted a lot when it comes to the Republican party, as well as the encouragement of political violence.
“We have several quotes from Trump, that show how he has encouraged supporters to use violence against either journalists or political opponents.”
Although Joe Biden has a neo-liberal past to reckon with, he will have no choice but to respond to the times, which means he can–and must–become “the most progressive president since FDR,” as Bernie Sanders insisted he has the potential to be.
In 1932, the United States had a choice:
Go the way of Germany and embrace fascism, or elect a leader with enough vision, empathy, and humility to lift America out of the Republican Great Depression and revitalize the economy and the foundations upon which it was built.
We chose the latter.
And in so doing, we created and cultivated a middle class until the “Reagan revolution” of 1980.
Donald Trump is just the failing libertarian experiment’s authoritarian climax that has continued to march us steadily toward fascism.
If he wins, it is the end of the Republic.
That’s not hyperbole.
Image credit: fabiusmaximus.com