Playing King 

Image Source: CounterPunch Magazine

For someone who knows little about anything but how to cater to himself, Donald Trump has an eye out for the divine right of kings and how to pursue dictatorship. But there may be limits to his creep toward autocracy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky – a power behind the Republican throne in Trump’s white castle – may have had enough of the president’s dictatorial denigration of democracy in his threat not to cede the Oval Office if he should lose the election while playing absolute monarch.

The latest Trump attempt to screw the country’s democratic principles surfaced Wednesday when he whined to reporters again, and again without evidence, that mail-in voting is corrupt and would mean a “rigged” election. With that fairy tale as a background excuse, he refused to abide by election results and won’t transfer power if he loses.

“Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very – we’ll have a very peaceful, there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There’ll be a continuation,” he said. “The ballots are out of control. You know it.  . . . The Democrats know it better than anybody else.  . . . There won’t be a transfer, actually. There will be a continuation.”

What he’s afraid of is more Democrats than Republicans will vote by mail to avoid contracting the coronavirus, giving his opponent, Joe Biden, an edge in the election. He has claimed the Democrats favor voting by mail in order to use it to commit fraud. The narcissist will say anything that he hopes will keep him from losing.

For a change, McConnell seemed to have enough of Trump’s repeated attempts to smother democracy and stood up to him the following morning by tweeting: “The winner of the November 3rd election will be inaugurated on January 20th. There will be an orderly transition just as there has been every four years since 1792.”

But with all of the confusion Trump is creating, the outcome of the election could wind up in the courts or the House.

Democrats are more than fed up with Trump.

To that end, House Democrats have drawn up omnibus legislation known as “post-Trump reforms” that seeks to close loopholes to prevent presidential abuse of powers that this president has smirkingly violated for nearly four years.

They include enforcing congressional subpoenas in court, restoring checks and balances between the legislative and congressional branches of government, strengthening “accountability and transparency” and protecting elections. It also would prohibit self-pardons, give Congress 30 days’ notice related to a pardon and impose fines up to $50,000 for violating the Hatch Act. The latter is to prevent administration officials from campaigning, which occurred during the Republican convention.

House Democrats didn’t hedge in telling it like it is: that the impeached Trump has been endangering American democracy.

“It is time for Congress to strengthen the bedrock of our democracy and ensure our laws are strong enough to withstand a lawless president,” seven committee chairs said in a statement. “These reforms are necessary not only because of the abuses of this president, but because the foundation of our democracy is the rule of law and that foundation is deeply at risk.”

The legislation assuredly will be held until the next term of Congress in January if Democrats win the White House and the Senate because the current Republican-led Senate never would let this come to a vote.

If further proof is needed that Trump keeps sliding toward autocracy as part of his culture war, there’s always his proposal to establish a 1776 Commission “to support patriotic education.” It’s a counter to the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project of The New York Times that sought to embrace Black contributions, including the consequences of slavery, as part of American history. It’s taught in numerous schools, the Times reported.

But Trump, a known racist, doesn’t like that.

The National Endowment for the Humanities “has awarded a grant to support the development of a pro-American curriculum that celebrates the truth about our great history,” he said in a Sept. 17 speech. That could mean glossing over slavery, highlighting White achievements, propaganda as history to, as The Guardian put it, Make America White Again.

The decline of democracy in America under Trump has become part of a project of political scientists studying the health of representative governments worldwide. It’s called Varieties of Democracy, The Washington Post said, and it views the United States as going through “substantial autocratization.”

“Executive respect for the Constitution is now at the lowest level since 1865,” the end of the four-year Civil War, said Michael Coppedge, a political scientist at Notre Dame. “Corruption in the executive branch is basically the worst since Harding.”

Warren G. Harding, a Republican, served from 1921 to 1923 in what was widely regarded as maybe the most corrupt administration in U.S. history.

“Democracy depends on both sides accepting the results of free and fair elections and willingly turning over power to the other side if they lose,” Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan told the Post. “We’ve never had a president attack our electoral system in this way.”

Trump’s niece, Mary L. Trump, had this to say in her book, “Too Much and Never Enough,” about her uncle: “If he is afforded a second term, it would be the end of American democracy.”

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.