Carter: Blind factionalism must go, and discourse must return

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(Alex Edelman/AFP)

Devin Carter, Staff Columnist


There is a tyrant in the White House. His name is Donald Trump, and we have to stop him.

I do not use the word, “tyrant”, lightly. Tyranny, after all, has led to the deaths of millions, and it was a response to what was perceived as tyranny that resulted in the American Revolution of 1776 and the formation of the United States.

I want to make something very clear: I do not care that Donald Trump identifies as a Republican, and I would be calling him a tyrant regardless of which party he claims to belong to. In fact, I won’t even criticize any of his particular policies, but will instead focus on his actions and mannerisms that I fear are putting us on the road to tyranny.

To begin, I want to give Trump some credit. His populist campaign, as theatrical and hateful as it often was, earned him a tremendous following of diehard supporters. He has done for far-right Republicans what many Democrats hoped Barack Obama could do for liberals. And, unlike Obama, Trump has stayed consistent with his political messages and actions throughout his presidency, which has allowed for the core of his voter base to continue to support him passionately.

But that is what makes him so dangerous. As he continues to throw America’s future into uncertainty, he continues to have passionate supporters.  As I promised, I am staying away from the specific policies, in an effort to show that this is far more important than party disagreements. We all, as Americans, need to open our eyes and see the disastrous reality that blind allegiance has left us with.

Donald Trump has broken our checks and balances system. Or, rather, he has helped us to see that the system is broken, and may have been for a long while. A natural stabilizer, checks and balances has acted as a safeguard against tyrannical action for the entirety of our nation’s history, and is one of the most underrated aspects of our government. It has paved the way for things we now see as vital parts governmental functions, such as judicial review, presidential veto power, senatorial review of presidential appointments, impeachment powers, among other things.

Out of all of Trump’s characteristics, perhaps the most dangerous thing about him is his unpredictability. From his twitter rants, to his obscene remarks, to his seemingly random hostilities towards Canada and his friendliness towards authoritarian leaders, Donald Trump holds a tremendous amount of power in his hands and uses it in unprecedented ways. There is no obvious way to deal with Trump’s twitter activity, or his impulsivity, but when it comes time to stand up and stop his irrational usage of power, our elected officials should do so. They have failed, time and time again.

I think this is the larger issue than just Trump himself. Our elected officials are not doing their jobs- they are not holding Trump accountable. And we, in turn, are not holding themaccountable. The reason for this is clear. There is a sharp divide between Republicans and Democrats, and two parties that used to be in many ways solid compliments of one another have morphed into what are seen as polar opposites, and due to this political discourse has died. To many liberals, Trump supporters are racists, bigots, and hateful white supremacists. Meanwhile, for many conservatives, liberals are socialists who are looking to strip them of their inalienable rights and hand unprecedented control over to the government. Both sides’ hatred of the other has reached an extreme, and it is only getting worse. Politics is no longer a discussion of ideas, but is more like supporting a sports team. And, like with sports, political parties have the blind support of their followers, and there is no middle ground to be found.

The most recent government shutdown is perhaps the most poignant example of factionalism crippling our country. President Trump refused to agree on a Congressional budget without adequate appropriations for his proposed border wall, and the Congressional Democrats would not approve for the wall’s $8 billion funding. As a result, the government was shut down for 35 days, the longest in history. The wall is not a Republican policy area, nor is it a part of the party’s platform. It is something that Donald Trump ran his campaign on, and it is because of him that it is relevant policy. Despite this, Republican congressmen did not rise with Democrats to oppose the shutdown. If 2/3 of each chamber of Congress had voted to end the shutdown, then they could have overridden a Trump veto and reopened the government. However, the Republicans stood firmly (or, at least, silently) with Trump and allowed for nearly one million people to be unemployed. They stood idly by while a single man essentially held the government of the United States hostage. For Congressional Republicans, standing behind their “R” was more important to them than stopping a tyrant. They allowed for our checks and balances system to fail.

I do not mean to pick on Republicans. Based on much of the rhetoric and factionalism I see among Democratic officials and supporters, I think they would have done the same thing had they been given the chance. In addition to this, their support of liberal policies seems to be more about beating Trump than about helping the country. This is an alarming sign of a lack of political discourse. Factionalism has always existed in this country, and always will. But the amount of hatred each side is showing one another is not sustainable. Eventually, something will burst. It burst in 1861, when eleven Southern states seceded from the Union in an act that led to the Civil War, and it will burst again unless we come together to stop it.

We live a Democratic Republic. In order for our system to work effectively, the general public has to be informed and educated, and our elected officials must exercise prudence when making decisions for the country. I am afraid that our increased factionalism has caused us to largely abandon our rationality, and our biases have often blinded us to reality. We live in a time where the least qualified person to ever be President can hold the government hostage and commit questionable actions while going largely unchallenged by his base. We as Americans, on all sides of the political spectrum, need to come together to challenge this threat. We have to look past our differences and instead see our similarities, bring to our political institutions a new, higher standard. For the sake of our country, we must. This is not a liberal vs. conservative outlook. Tyranny and abuses of power do not have a party affiliation. It can be found on all sides of the political spectrum. I will end with this.

After successfully constructing our Constitution in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was leaving Independence Hall when a lady approached him and asked what sort of government the United States was to have. His answer was, “A republic, if you can keep it.” I am afraid that we are losing it, and we must fight every day to preserve it, no matter the cost.

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