Where Centralized Rule Leads
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The Trump Administration is exercising an unprecedented centralization of power in the White House. It is truly remarkable that all the high powered executives, business people, and politicians–whom Trump has convinced to serve in his Cabinet–are willing to tolerate being used, apparently, strictly as trophies. Many are operating or truly not functioning without any high level staff and with a permanent bureaucracy which is receiving little or no direction. Decisions on all major subjects are being issued from the small inner circle in the White House with a group of Trump sycophants scurrying about to parrot and defend the decisions. This is true in the domestic policy realm as much as it is in the national security field.
Where there are directives they emerge strictly from the top. In addition, there is little or no serious effort being made to respond to the public through the media. Explanations, justifications just like the accusations and attacks are all emanating ex cathedra. The messengers are attacking the questioners and not responding to the substance.
It is time to admit that the Trump Administration is receding farther away from democracy and closer to authoritarian rule. Truth comes from the leader. Lies and falsehoods are not to be questioned for the public will accept them if you do not vacillate. Opposition and a free press should be restricted from access and information. The legal system is attacked as fast it is being reshaped. What can be achieved through the legal system is accepted, but otherwise rule will be controlled by strong assertion of executive power and right. For the present the only major institutional obstacle to this form of rule is an independent judiciary, but there is no sense as to how long this will last.
The Constitution and a Government of laws is clearly being challenged by a Chief Executive for whom the only way to conduct business is from his dictates. If you accept this modus operandi you will continue to function if you do not accept it “you will be fired.” Republicans are so enamored with their broad powers that they are following along like a bunch of ducklings.
It is not the policy differences which are frightening it is the unwillingness to accept or to tolerate debate, dissention, or disagreement. Within the President’s party there continue to be only supporters who are so enthused with their power and only a handful of Republicans who are even wincing at what is happening to the Republic.
Meanwhile, there are few serious Democratic leaders who are both articulate and respected. The country is bereft of strong voices who are able to communicate the seriousness of the national leadership direction so that the masses in the country—especially among the Trump supporters—will comprehend how dangerous the situation is rapidly becoming. At the end of the day the nation and the world waits for a serious crisis to emerge which could send the country and the system reeling into a dangerous unknown abyss.