National Emergency

On Friday, Donald Trump declared a state of national emergency. He did this in order to reallocate billions of dollars in emergency funds to be used to build a wall on the border between the United States and Mexico. This wall is desperately needed in order to protect America from the hordes of dozens, nay, hundreds of poor and unarmed women and children flooding over the border in order to bring drugs and crime which otherwise don’t exist in our country.

Trump said that this wall is necessary in order to stop all drug and human trafficking and will bring crime as we know it to a standstill.  Thus why it was so urgent to declare this state of emergency.

After the announcement, Trumps retreated to the White House where he spent the entire weekend in the War Room with his top advisers in marathon sessions of planning and strategizing, trying to nail down the best path forward. With the fate of the country in the balance, Trump decided that there would be no rest until the job is done.

Just kidding.

Trump didn’t do any of that. Right after the announcement, Lord Dampnut boarded Air Force One and flew down to Mar-A-Largo in Florida where he spent the weekend golfing, watching Saturday Night Live, and tweeting about his dissatisfaction with S&L for making fun of him for declaring a national emergency and immediately going to his resort.

Happy Presidents’ Day #MarALardass

And here we go…

A clearly incompetent and highly unpopular American president has declared a national emergency on grounds that everyone knows to be spurious. And yet, it is likely that he will experience only the mildest blowback from his political allies. There’s good reason to believe that such a move is only meant to waste taxpayer money and bamboozle his followers however. The declaration will likely be tied up in court until Trump is out of office and a new president acknowledges there was never any emergency at all.

It is hard to recall a juncture in American history in which the president’s congressional supporters have been so willing to do his bidding. Mitch McConnell is an especially striking study in the dereliction of duty. Over the past weeks, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ racist uncle has made it clear that declaring a state of national emergency over the southern border would constitute an abuse of power. When, on Thursday, Trump announced his intention to declare a national emergency over…wait for it…the southern border, McConnell immediately got in line and vowed his support.

A powerful trick in the authoritarian’s toolkit is the ability to engage in “salami tactics.” When they set out to expand their power, authoritarians typically do it one small slice at a time, issuing false pretexts for executive action and fake reasons for the “reform” of independent institutions. As a result, no single action by the executive seems like an existential threat to the rule of law. Without any clear moment of juncture, the system of checks and balances slowly decays.

What is striking about Trump’s declaration of a state of emergency for such transparently fraudulent reasons is that he isn’t even bothering to engage in salami tactics. This is about as clear of an abuse of presidential power as political scientists could have dreamed up for some in-class exercise on the rise of dictatorship.

If Republican senators like Mitt Romney, Marco Rubio, and Ben Sasse are not willing to stand up to Trump’s cheap power grab now, they never will. And if the president’s many opponents cannot take to the streets to oppose his autocratic tendencies at this juncture, it is clear that they won’t do so until it’s far too late.