OpEd: An Imperial Presidency Asserts Itself

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“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gai a little security will deserve neither and lose both"

- Benjamin Franklin

 

Let me just be a little bit of lawyer here.  

Let me be not polemic, but realistic.

Here are some facts you don’t want to hear, and would like not to read.

I will start by telling you that if Donald Trump orders federal troops into the south side of Chicago to impose law and order because he deems the public safety warrants it he can.

I will tell you that he can use the military to order drone strikes in far off places to take out enemies of the United States.

I will tell you that he can initiate military engagements without congressional authorization, and there are even laws in place that will enable him to escape judicial oversight.

The power of our presidency permits electronic surveillance and summary detention, even the power to declare Marshall Law and shut down freedoms very dear and fundamental to all of us.

We have to trust the president will use these powers cautiously and constitutionally, guarding our civil liberties and protecting our individual rights. 

When the person in the Oval Office is a man or woman you can trust, you feel safe. We are not feeling that way right about now, are we?

The chaos that Donald Trump has brought to the White House in his first few weeks is intentional and purposeful. From issuing executive orders that trample on individual rights, to broad assertions that his Mexican wall must immediately be built, he is stirring passions. 

That is what he wanted to do, and will continue to do. He will double down on it, and if you don’t follow his lead, you will get run over.

The spontaneous protests indicate that none of us are taking this lying down. We will stand up and be counted. Our voices will be heard. Already, staffers are coming up to me and asking if they can go to Washington, D.C., for a national gay pride march on June 11.

But there is a greater problem our community and our society needs to address as a people. It is simply that we can’t surrender our rights too quickly to anyone anywhere anytime. It is that we can only remain a free people if we assert our rights forcefully, not yield them too willingly. If it can happen to immigrants, it can happen to us. 

Since 2001, Americans have surrendered to the power of the presidency. The Patriot Act has led to warrantless domestic surveillance and Guantanamo; from prisoners detained without legal counsel, to accused persons being jailed without bond hearings. These things have happened under Democrats and Republicans. But they should not have happened anywhere in America. 

I understand I can’t save the world. We are a local gay paper, and I am worried about Craig Jungwirth getting out of jail and resuscitating the Beach Bear Weekend, trying to fool people again into sending him money.

But I would rather not hear that our government is promoting torture and employing despicable tactics here and around the globe. I want our constitution protected, not corrupted.

The LGBT community has an obligation to be heard, because we have too often been the victim of rights abuses and wrongful discrimination.  Our nation broke free from a king 240 years ago not to be ruled by one today. Trump will turn against anyone who does not deify him. My point is different though. The powers Trump has, America never should have given any president. Our target can’t just be a wild-eyed hyena in the White House.  Our target should have been keeping the White House, our house.

We should have been saying no to domestic spying; gotten upset with the elimination of Miranda for suspects; maybe more outraged by what Edward Snowden was telling us than the way he revealed it. We should have demanded democracy before we opened our doors to a would-be dictator. 

As Glenn Greenwald wrote incisively in the Intercept a few months ago,  “many people are perfectly content to have such authority vested in leaders they trust, and fear them only when a politician from the opposing party wields them.”

On February 1, 2017, we are paying the price for that carelessness. The road ahead won’t be smooth. The king is not kind, and his bastions will not be benevolent. The only good thing about the bad thing is that he will unite all of us in all things. But the power is with him. The passion and protests, well, that is what we have going for us. See you in D.C. in June.


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