"A dictator occupies the White House," wrote South Florida's Sun-Sentinel editorial board on Tuesday. "That word should not be uttered lightly,” the piece continued, “but it defines with precision any head of state who, like Donald Trump, declares himself to be above the law.”
"Dictator" is a word Americans are increasingly employing and embracing to describe a man who, while holding the highest office in our land, is defiling everything it once aspired to stand for: truth, fairness, justice, wisdom, and yes, public service.
After Trump declared "the absolute right to PARDON myself" Monday, even the normally tepid Democratic Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, dropped the word in an NPR interview without hesitation.
"[Trump] said he had the absolute power to pardon himself, and then a few minutes later he said that the special counsel is unconstitutional," Schumer said. "He's 0 for 2 on the Constitution. We do not have a dictatorship; the Founding Fathers did not want a king."
Except that, so far, no law, no norm, no sense of duty or decency, and precisely no one has found a way to limit or curb Trump's contempt for our constitutional republic. Other than the GOP’s solid string of lost special elections, Trump has paid no political price thus far, and GOP lawmakers are apparently tickled enough by him to laugh off his pardon power grab.
Trump isn't just willing to self-define justice, claim unprecedented regulatory powers and sell out foreign policy to line his own pockets, he's also willing to deprive U.S. citizens of the lifeblood of American democracy: free speech.
While the White House hailed this week's Supreme Court decision elevating a Christian baker's religious expression over the human dignity of a gay couple as a victory for free speech, Trump’s press secretary said Tuesday that Trump doesn't view the right of NFL players to kneel during the National Anthem as protected speech.
“The president doesn’t think that this is an issue simply of free speech," Sanders responded.
In other words, freedom doesn't mean freedom for everyone anymore—it means freedom when Trump says so. We are no longer a nation of laws in Trump’s view, we are a nation of man. One man. Him. He will now decide what's protected and what isn't.
What we are witnessing is the insidious deterioration of a democracy under assault by its self-declared overlord. As Will Bunch wrote last week at Philly.com:
Hour by hour, lie by lie, dictate by dictate, Donald Trump is becoming an American dictator. And recent days have proved what many of us have long feared: That no one knows how to stop this.
What we are finding out is that since the birth of this nation, the American people have literally entrusted one person with the presidency. The system of checks and balances that would supposedly rein in an abusive president are useless in the face of willful and rampant corruption fueled by intra-party collusion and an inexplicably pliant public.
That revelation means the elections this fall will quite literally be an existential referendum on what type of country we want to live in—one governed by and for the benefit of We the People or one lorded over by a shameless tyrant.