On Tuesday, January 30, 2018, Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union address in front of both houses of Congress. Of course, like the last time he addressed Congress, the media lauded at how he seemed to act presidential by reciting words off a teleprompter which you wouldn’t see in his Twitter feed. But that doesn’t change the fact he’s the hollow showman who’d rather pick fights than offer any remotely plausible solutions to any real problems. And that he shows absolutely no interest in governing or uniting the country. Nor does it change the fact he’s a narcissistic sociopath who’d sell out America and undermine established democratic norms in order to enrich himself, his Republican allies, and his 1% friends. Or how he has no respect for America, democratic principles, or the rule of law.
But what scares me most about Donald Trump is his authoritarian impulses. He sees himself above scrutiny and criticism. He sees himself entitled to countless praises from everyone without doing anything to deserve them. And as president, he thinks that anyone working in the federal government should be personally loyal to him above all else. In his mind, anyone who thinks less of him as this wonderful president who’d make America great again is an Un-American conspirator out to get him who should be crushed. Trump has called reporters who write unflattering articles about him as, “enemies of the people” and the media outlets they work for as “fake news.” He has called athletes who kneel during the national anthem to peacefully protest police brutality and racism as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the American flag. He has questioned the authority of federal judges who ruled against his policies. He has declared war on law enforcement officials and agencies investigating him whom he’s alleged as agents in some Democratic deep state conspiracy to bring him down. Despite that the key decisionmakers in the Russian inquiry are all Republicans, including his own hand-picked deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein.
On Monday, February 5, Donald Trump addressed a crowd in Cincinnati in which he decried how congressional Democrats didn’t stand and applaud for him during last week’s State of the Union. “They were like death and un-American,” he said. “Un-American. Somebody said, ‘treasonous.’ I mean, Yeah, I guess why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.” Trump loyalist may dismiss this incendiary sentiment as nothing but a joke. After all, he didn’t say refusing to give him a standing ovation was treasonous. He just merely agreed with people who said it was. And like many things Trump says in his tweets, there’s a tendency to shrug it off.
But Donald Trump’s casual allegation of calling the Democrats’ behavior “treasonous” should be taken very seriously. Merriam Webster defines treason as “The offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.” In Article III Constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.” Of course, treason can be punished by life in prison or death. Joining an enemy army because you didn’t get the promotion you deserved is treason. Splitting off from your country so you can subjugate black people to forced labor is treason. Giving out secrets to the Russians after World War II is treason. Refusing to stand or applaud the State of the Union when a president thinks you should is neither treasonous nor Un-American. If it was, then you can easily say that congressional Republicans were treasonous whenever they sat on their hands while Barack Obama touted his accomplishments in office to the Democrats’ cheers. Same when it came to every president before him.
Nevertheless, when Donald Trump links a refusal for a standing ovation to a president during a State of the Union address as “treasonous,” he’s implying a far more unsettling message. What Trump really meant in Cincinnati is that dissent was traitorous and/or un-American. That if these non-clappers really loved their country, they’d be applauding when he touted how low black unemployment had dipped under his presidency. Despite that his touting of historically low black unemployment was a cherry-picked fact based off a single month’s economic report which totally lost relevance when the black unemployment numbers trickled up in January. Besides, even if he did reduce black unemployment to historic lows, that wouldn’t make any difference to the Democrats. Because Trump has pissed plenty of Democrats off through his divisive and incendiary rhetoric. Not to mention, his pandering to white supremacists as well as his assaults on healthcare, education, the environment, civil rights, workers, and the poor. Then there’s his disregard for democratic norms and the rule of law as well as his attacks on American institutions like law enforcement and the press.
Still, even the mere suggestion of criminalizing dissent should trouble any fan of democracy. The right to dissent without fear of retribution is at the heart of what differentiates the United States from authoritarian countries around the world. In fact, it’s even protected by the First Amendment of our constitution. As US Senator Tammy Duckworth tweeted, “We don’t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath—in the military and in the Senate—to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of Cadet Bone Spurs and clap when he demands I clap.” When a president floats the notion of no applause when it was appropriate, it sends a very powerful message to the nation about how we do (and should) deal with those disagreeing with us. Doesn’t matter if Donald Trump was joking or not. And whether you agree with President Pussygrabber or not, it sends a very terrible message. What the Democrats did during Trump’s State of the Union wasn’t unprecedented and was well within their rights. To say otherwise, is un-American and destructive.
Then there’s a recent report from the Washington Post, in which an anonymous military official claimed that Donald Trump requested that the Pentagon begin planning a military parade this year along the inaugural route between the US Capitol to the White House. According to the paper, Trump was inspired by a 2017 to France for Bastille Day which traditionally features one. “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” the official said. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.” Excuse me, but doesn’t there seem to be something a bit despotic about this? Because save for winning wars, holding military parades is what armed forces in dictatorships to show they’re not to be messed with like in Russia, China, and North Korea. Still, this isn’t a new interest of Trump’s since he wanted military equipment and a flyover for his 2017 inaugural parade. Of course, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed the event in the works, “President Trump is incredibly supportive of America’s great service members who risk their lives every day to keep our country safe. He has asked the Department of Defense to explore a celebration at which all Americans can show their appreciation.” Oh, what a load of shit. Trump is a man who dodged the draft thanks to his rich daddy, called POWs cowards, had disabled veterans chased off of Trump Tower, promised to donate $6 million to vets but didn’t, set up a fake veterans hotline, attacked a Gold Star family for being Muslim, and told a grieving serviceman’s widow that her husband, “knew what he signed up for.” They say that Trump wants a military parade to show honor America’s service members is ludicrous. He doesn’t give a shit about the brave men and women who’ve served this country other than as props in his displays of patriotic pageantry. But Trump is a president who’s openly praised a number of totalitarian leaders like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He’s openly questioned his own Justice Department and FBI, suggesting there was a conspiracy at the highest levels wanting to weaken him. He’s worked tirelessly to disqualify the idea of an objective news media. He constantly says things that aren’t true and has an administration coining the term, “alternative facts.” Not to mention, he has a tremendous ego and perhaps to top the kind of military parade he saw in France. Because to him, might makes right and he with the biggest toys wins.
However, when the toys are tanks and missiles, no one’s really sure what “winning” looks like as the stakes go up. Donald Trump is either unaware or dismisses this concept. He also doesn’t seem to care about the kind of message a parade of tanks, guns, and other military playthings through the Washington D.C. streets sends to the rest of the world which will watch. Meaning we’ll probably get a military parade in Washington because Tiny Hands gets what he wants whether or not it’s good for the country. Our soldiers and weapons aren’t toys for Trump to parade around to compensate his fragile ego. Still, if there’s anything un-American it’s an unpopular president holding a military parade because other countries get to do it.
Nonetheless, if there’s anyone who’s betraying the nation, consider the guy who’d deliberately and systematically wreck the institutions guaranteeing the separation of powers and accountability of the Executive and Legislative branches. Think of the guy who’d subvert the rule of law to protect himself, his family, and his cronies from justice. If you’re looking for a man who’d betray the Founders’ glorious vision and our Constitution, look no further than the clown who heads this White House circus. I mean the very man who swore to uphold the Constitution and obey the laws of the land, but ignores them and attacks those who’d carry them out. Sure, there have been presidents who’ve failed, strayed, and fell to weakness. And we can remember presidents from both parties who no one could even imagine betraying the nation to a hostile foreign power. Not this man. And we don’t have to imagine it either. We can see it. Trump’s unashamed schmoozing with Vladimir Putin speaks for itself as he allows Russia attack our democracy, our Republic, and our institutions. Only Trump and his sycophants question Putin’s implacable hostility, aggression, and desire to divide and disrupt this country. That Putin wants to weaken our standing, diminish our power, and harm our interest in the world is stated Russian policy. When Congress sent Trump veto-proof legislation demanding he impose sanctions on Russia, he waited until the last second to impose, well, nothing. When Putin arrested campaign opponent Alexey Navalny on fake charges, His Hind-Ass remained silent. For some reason, Trump is determined to show he’d do anything, at any time, to please this Russian authoritarian. He’ll even tear down the United States government around him to hide from accountability, wreak alliances, compromise intelligence sources, and endanger our troops to please Putin. Let us strip away all the excuses and rationalizations and just call Trump’s actions on Russia, what they are: treason.