We’ve decided to build an overview of Trump’s threat to US American democracy.
We thought it would be helpful if you could see it all in one place.
On Sunday 9/27/2020, we’re more than three-fourths done with the project.
We used ProtectDemocracy.org’s list of current threats to US democracy for the basic structure.
From their site:
“Over the past decade, one in six democracies has failed.”
“Recent years have been marked by deeply concerning presidential abuses of power, deliberate efforts by political leaders to stoke hatred, racism, and misogyny, and failures of our system of checks and balances that have sounded a powerful alarm that—if we are not careful—our democracy could suffer a similar fate.”
Project Democracy states that Trump represents an immediate and acute threat to our democracy, but the trends he is exploiting have been building for sometime.
Their two primary concerns: “an autocratic approach to government continues to dominate the White House and fully dismantles our system of checks and balances.” Or that Trump loses, but the vulnerabilities to our democracy that Trump has exposed are exploited by a savvier autocrat.
They’ve broken these threats down into six broad categories:
- The corruption of elections
- the executive stealing power from competing institutions
- the delegitimization of vulnerable communities
- the politicization of independent institutions
- government disinformation campaigns
- government’s ability to silence dissent
We’ll also look at lobbying influence’s corrupting effect on Trump’s administration.
We need to do all we can to restore and reinvigorate democracy in the USA. Without the ability of the citizens to serve as a final check on madness and corruption in the government, governments quickly devolve into corrupt states whose leadership seeks and first and foremost to entrench their own power. Such governments are dangerous to their citizens, the world, and themselves. And it is difficult to live well within corrupt states: you have to be corrupt to do very well in them. [for more on the spiritual benefits of a healthy democracy (!be decent without being miserable!), see Representative democracy is a spiritual good.]
The world faces at least two obvious existential threats right now: Climate change and a nuclear holocaust. A degeneration of world governments into anti-democratic regimes would decrease geopolitical stability and the ability of nations to work together to avoid mutual destruction. The USA is a big and powerful country, and historically a protector of international democracy. Therefore, the struggle for good government in the USA is related to the struggle against the physical self-destruction of humanity. We won’t address antibiotic resistant drugs or super plagues in this overview, but successfully meeting these challenges clearly also requires good government.
We believe Trump’s actions vis-a-vis nuclear war and climate change are dangerous and further heighten the stakes of this already world historic election. We therefore conclude this page with a section on climate change and nuclear war.
Six Threats to Democracy from ProjectDemocracy.org
Below we list quotes from each page’s summary blurb. Click on the ProjetDemocracy.org link to see what specific work they are doing in each category.
Underneath each of these blurbs, we link to a few articles, or — in most cases — a separate page detailing each of the statements in the blurb. Click on our page(s) for details about each topic.
1. Corrupting Elections – Project Democracy:
“In recent years, we’ve seen a disturbing trend in which elected officials have abused their powers to tilt that playing field for their own advantage. In 2018, for instance, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp used his authority over elections to restrict voter registration and participation in order to improve his own chances in a bid for governor. President Trump has also shown a willingness to undermine our elections for his own advantage, using U.S. aid to Ukraine to pressure that country’s leaders to pursue a politically advantageous investigation; attempting to undermine the legitimacy of elections by repeatedly calling into question the results; and exaggerating the prevalence of voter fraud in what appears to be a prelude to restricting the franchise.”
See our Corrupting Elections page for details about each of the above concerns, as well as discussion of some of the ways Trump is endangering the integrity of the 2020 election.
2. Executive Power Grabs – Project Democracy:
“A strong democracy depends upon the separation of powers within government. When the system works properly, the legislature and courts prevent the executive branch from amassing too much power. This balance has shifted in recent years, with Congress abdicating its role, and President Trump is now undermining checks and balances by attacking the judiciary, withholding information from Congress, and punishing states that have opposed his policies. We are working to maintain a strong separation of powers, and fight executive power grabs.”
See our Executive Power Grabs page for details about each of the above concerns.
3. Delegitimizing Communities – Project Democracy:
“The United States has an ugly, tragic, and far from perfect history of living up to its founding principles in protecting the rights of all Americans. And yet, most modern American leaders have expressed an inclusive vision of the United States, acknowledging our imperfect past while holding out hope for a better future.”
On Trump – Racism & Misogyny we’ve gathered excerpts from articles on (1) Trump’s racist and misogynist dog whistles; (2) a subcategory of (1): (2) birtherism; (3) Racism fueled by Trump & the racist appeal of his candidacy; (4) Trump’s history of racism.
4. Politicizing Independent Institutions – Project Democracy:
“Healthy democracies have strong independent institutions, such as law enforcement and the civil service, that are expected to operate based on facts and law and not the personal or political preferences of a power-hungry ruler.”
Our Politicizing independent institutions excerpts a along article about how — through intimidation and removals — Trump is corrupting the civil Service, and links to articles about Trump’s corruption of the Justice Department, security institutions, and national health information.
5. Spreading Disinformation – Project Democracy:
“Changes in our media landscape have undermined our shared reality, and President Trump has all but declared war on truth and basic facts.”
We have a piece on Trump’s dishonesty and his digital disinformation campaign, and a break-down of a Trump campaign push-poll. And a page about Trump vs the free Press.
[To read later: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-trump-administrations-misinformation-machine/]
6. Silencing Dissent – Project Democracy:
“The United States has a long tradition of vibrant dissent. But like authoritarian leaders the world over, President Trump has demonstrated little tolerance for those who disagree with him.”
Does this article Trump vs the free Press include Trump’s list of journalists to intimidate?
A couple articles to read:
7. Lobbyists & Corruption in the Trump Administration
From the beginning of that page:
To make information about Trump’s use of public office for private gain more accessible, The American Prospect has created an interactive map:
“Mapping Corruption: Donald Trump’s Executive Branch”
The executive summary begins with a few examples of eyebrow-raising brazenness, such as spending one-third of his presidency at his own hotels and “Ivanka Trump snags a valuable set of Chinese trademarks on the same day she dines with Xi Jinping. Kellyanne Conway hawks Ivanka’s products in TV interviews.” The Trumps have openly profiteered from Trump’s presidency. However, the authors maintain, these surface cash-ins distract public attention from worse crimes.
The Trump Administration takes the corrupting influence of money in politics to its logical conclusions, and much of the executive summary of the interactive map (we’re only discussing the executive summary in this overview) involves uberexamples of the kind of technically-not-bribery bribery that will to some degree undermine US American democracy until we enact adequate campaign finance and lobbying reforms.
Campaign/lobbying reform is needed to push our democracy in a more healthy and sustainable direction. But first we have to keep Trump from completely destroying our democracy. The complete corporate hand-over of we US citizen’s largest public good (our shared government and its resources) is just one prong of how Trump’s actions undermine democracy.
Climate Change & Nuclear Armageddon
Pressing existential concerns that the Trump Administration is seriously mishandling.
“1. Disregarded Scientific Data About the Risks of Climate Change”
“The Trump Administration has consistently sought to weaken the role of scientific evidence in environmental rulemaking. In a series of moves, the EPA ordered the dissolution of advisory boards that offer external, apolitical science-based guidance and barred scientists who receive EPA grant funding from serving on the boards, thus opening the door for greater influence by business interests. The effects of this scientific sidelining were acutely felt in 2019 when an EPA panel to review soot standards did not include an epidemiologist to evaluate public health impacts.
“The administration’s efforts to diminish scientific data and input from scientists are unprecedented and too numerous to list. Some additional moves include blocking a State Department scientist’s Congressional testimony on the threats climate change poses to national security, and inserting climate denial language into scientific reports.”
#2: “Dismantled the clean power plan”
#3: “Blocked rules to phase out inefficient lightbulbs”
#4: “Refuses to support bipartisan legislation to curb super pollutants from air conditioners and refrigerators
“5. Rolled Back Rules Limiting Methane Pollution from Oil and Gas Infrastructure”
“In 2019, the Trump EPA proposed to eliminate existing standards requiring oil and gas companies to monitor and repair leaks of methane — another super pollutant — from both new and existing equipment. The Environmental Defense Fund estimates this rollback will lead to an additional 5 million metric tons of methane emissions per year, as well as significantly increase emissions of hazardous volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing benzene. … ”
“Oil and gas behemoths BP, Exxon and Shell joined scientists and environmental groups in opposing the rule change, with BP America’s president citing the “clear business case” for avoiding costly leaks. Studies show that the natural gas industry could save more than $1 billion per year by capturing wasted gas.”
“6. Loosened Emissions Standards for Cars and Trucks”
“In March 2020, the Trump Administration significantly weakened the 2012 rule requiring automakers to produce more fuel-efficient and less polluting vehicles. As a result, families and businesses across the country are expected to pay an extra $231 billion at the pump between 2021 and 2035. The rollback will also eliminate 13,500 jobs, according to the administration. Meanwhile, cumulative greenhouse gas emissions over this timeframe would increase by 654 million metric tons, equivalent to adding another 140 million cars to the road for one year. … ”
“The Trump Administration has also taken steps to prevent states from filling the growing regulatory void created by these rollbacks, revoking the waiver that enabled California and other states to voluntarily set higher efficiency standards for passenger vehicles. Altogether the revocation impacts 14 states, which comprise more than one-third of the U.S. auto market.”
“7. Withdrew from Paris Agreement on Climate Change”
“In November 2019, Trump initiated a formal request to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the landmark international treaty to address the climate crisis. The withdrawal is an abdication of U.S. leadership on climate as the world’s largest historical greenhouse gas emitter. The United States is now a climate loner, absent from the global stage. … ”
“Research shows that bold climate action could deliver at least $26 trillion in net global economic benefits between now and 2030. China, the European Union and other nations will now shape the terms of climate diplomacy and be better positioned to take advantage of financial opportunities as the world transitions to cleaner forms of energy.”
More On Climate Change:
From the Summary Page:
“In May 2020, the American Nuclear Policy Initiative (ANPI), a task force of former government and non-governmental experts, released an objective analysis of U.S. nuclear policy under Donald Trump. “Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos: The Trump Administration after Three Years” finds that all of the nuclear challenges facing the United States – some inherited by the president and others of his own creation – have worsened over the last three years, putting national and global security at greater risk of nuclear use.”
From the “The Trump Administration After Three Years: Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos” section of the report:
“Today’s global nuclear risks come in many shapes and sizes. Some challenges are decades old, including the challenges of managing the deterrent relationships with Russia and China and preventing nuclear terrorism. Other dangers are of this administration’s own making.” [Trump’s own making: escalating nuclear arms race with Russia, risk of nuclear confrontation with North Korea in 2017-2018; “spiraling escalation with Iran since US withdrawal of Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JPCPA) in 2018”; US allies and other states reconsidering their nuclear capabilities.]
The report goes on to say that even when Trump’s goals are reasonable, his administration has botched the execution of them. And that they’ve deliberately ignored or undermined the tools we have to deal with the threat of nuclear war (those tools: “well-coordinated diplomacy, alliance management, integrated policy implementation throughout the US government, cooperation from other countries, a dedicated and empowered workforce of civil servants, foreign service officers, and non-partisan experts inside the US government, and just plain consistency”).
From Defense One: Trump’s Nuclear Defense Policy has Failed by Jon Wolfstal (Director, American Nuclear Policy Initiative):
After a discussion of what he considers Trump’s disastrous handling of North Korea:
“The record is equally devoid of progress in managing the nuclear risks with Russia. The administration has laid out what seems like a reasonable goal of bringing China into the arms control, transparency, and reduction process. But in a move no experienced practitioner believes will work, Trump refuses to extend the last remaining nuclear reduction pact with Russia – the New START Treaty – unless China climbs on board. Russia and the U.S. are fully complying with the agreement which caps strategic numbers of both countries under effective verification. Yet instead of accepting Russia’s unconditional extension of the pact for five years, a step that would decidedly benefit American security and stability, Trump has linked the extension to his China gambit. At the same time, Trump has seemingly welcomed a new arms race with Russia, and is seeking to accelerate the already expensive modernization of U.S. nuclear forces and has deployed a new, lower yield, more usable nuclear weapon that lowers the threshold to nuclear use. With no negotiating team or strategy, the prospects for nuclear stability are fading by the day.
“In these and other areas, the trends are overwhelmingly negative. Sadly, these trends cannot be quickly reversed. Policy choices and behavior of the administration has undermined America’s longstanding credibility and partnerships. And worse, the capabilities needed to achieve nuclear success, from an effective intelligence community to a confident civil and foreign service who do the hard work of nuclear security have all been undermined and neglected. The muscle memory of nuclear security is eroding, and will take years to repair.”
Trump’s Nuclear Test would Risk Everything and Gain Nothing by Justin Key Canfil on July 28, 2020:
“Nuclear testing, even at very low yields, would jeopardize the hard-fought Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which prohibits its signatories from testing nuclear weapons in any environment. The treaty was arguably one of the most difficult packages the United States has ever negotiated, and though it has floundered in the Senate since the 1990s, it remains a cornerstone of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.”
“The Trump administration’s main justification for nuclear testing is ostensibly based on concerns that China and Russia may be conducting low-yield tests of their own — which both countries have, of course, denied. Those opposed to such testing contend that the United States stands to gain very little from it unless the nation plans to embark on a new and expensive weapons design program; computer simulations are sufficient to ensure that U.S. nuclear capabilities are safeguarded; and U.S. nuclear tests would lead other nuclear powers to do the same.”
A long discussion of Trump’s policies:
You don’t win a nuclear war. Maybe some of you, richest of you, luckiest of you survive it to live in lonely hell. Our only hope is continuous nuclear disarmament, combined with systems that capture and diffuse nuclear weapons. But even if the US’s anti-missile system is secure and can be effectively guarded against cyber attacks, the destruction done by nuclear explosions outside of the US would wreck the global environment and destroy so many lives.
“The 30-year effort to build a defense system against incoming nuclear missiles is complete. Yet the shield is basically still a prototype.”
Help us find time to put this together in a helpful way, we pray.