Then-candidate Trump was the GOP nominee for President of the United States and was largely seen as the underdog, a position he would continue to hold through the November 8th elections. The public narrative on candidate Trump was that he would drag the United States down into a dictatorship and ruin it forever. That same narrative rings true today in some media outlets, as well as in many opposition groups like Antifa and others. But is this idea really a possibility?
Let’s first take a look at Antifa and what they believe that President Trump is on a path to do to America. Antifa is a very far-left leaning group that uses military action and tactics along with violence to push their anti-fascist (hence the name Antifa) agenda. Antifa is fighting hard in the streets against President Trump and many Right-Wing policies that they oppose. This group claims that President Trump is a fascist and will do whatever it takes to prevent him from implementing his fascist policies. (I’ll pass on discussing the irony of using violence to fight their perceived violence.)
First and foremost, let us address what a fascist is. Merriam-Webster defines fascism as “a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” While it is no secret that President Trump promotes a form of Nationalism with his “America First” policy, he is far cry from fitting the rest of the profile of a fascist.
But for the sake of arguing, let’s say that President Trump is a fascist and wants to implement his fascist policies to make America into his own authoritarian dictatorship. Is it possible for him to do this? The short answer is no and it is due to the checks and balances in the U.S. Constitution.
The Office of the President wields a vast amount of power, which has expanded greatly over the last half-century, but that power isn’t unlimited or unchecked. The president’s powers reach from enforcing the laws to being Commander-in-Chief of the military, to Executive Order powers, and many places in between. [See previous post “Constitutional Powers of Government (Part 3)”] While these powers are broad and have become more far-reaching, they are still put in check by other members of the U.S. Government.
If President Trump gives an order to the military, but that order doesn’t correspond to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, then the members of the military have the ability to not follow the orders if they are illegal and against the Code. There is precedence here where members of the military were punished for following orders that violated the Uniform Code, so it’s not a far-fetched idea that the military can disobey direct orders from the president.
If the president signs an executive order that is illegal, it is not binding law. The court system is one set of checks and balances to the presidential powers. An executive order can easily be overruled by almost any federal court in the land if it is found to violate the ultimate law of the country. This has been seen during President Trump’s tenure, where the courts deemed the travel ban to be unconstitutional until the Supreme Court ruled that it was, in fact, a power that the president was able to use.
The houses of Congress hold another card in the deck of checks and balances. They have the ability to pass laws and if the president vetoes the bill, they can overrule him with a 2/3 majority vote. They also carry the power to impeach the president if he violates his oath of office. Take Nixon as an example of this check and balance… He overreached his authority and fired a Special Prosecutor, which caused Congress to speed up the impeachment process, effectively ending Nixon’s presidency.
These examples, as well as many others, show how one person would not be able to set up his own aristocracy or dictatorship. There are thousands and thousands of high-ranking officials that would have to all waive their power to allow any US President to gain full authoritarian power and frankly, that’s not going to happen. So, groups like Antifa who are stirring up violence and controversy over their fear of full-blown fascism are way off base on their thinking, and only doing harm to the country that they claim they love so much. The media’s narratives of a “King Trump” are also wrong and show their implicit biases in their reporting.
With that being said, there has not been one single empire that has ruled forever. Every empire has fallen at one point or another and history shows that the United States of America will not last forever either. Some empires have ruled for thousands of years, others shorter. In the end, it appears that there are only 2 constants in this world: Death and Taxes.