US President’s Ultimate ‘Democratic’ Weapon
When you consider the Constitutionally mandated American ‘government shutdown’ it’s hard to critique other governments for being authoritarian.
Illustrating the key role played by money in the notion of ‘freedom’, as opposed to ‘democracy’ in the creation of a federal form of government outlined in the US Constitution, which the eminent historian Charles Beard described in the nineteen-fifties as the real basis for a federal form of government, the Congress has the sole ‘power of the purse’, and is respon-sible for appropriating government funds.
Like other bills, appropriations must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate. after which they go to the President for his signature. If the President vetoes them, they go back to Congress, either to be modified or reaffirmed by a two-thirds vote of both houses. Government shutdowns tend to occur when this process fails before an existing budget cycle ends: non -essential personnel are told to remain at home, while those deemed essential, such as Veterans Hospital workers, are required to work without pay until the government reopens, eventually receiving back pay.
Shutdowns of the type experienced by the United States are nearly impossible under the parliamentary systems in which the executive must maintain the approval of the legislature to remain in power! In other presidential systems, the executive branch typically has the authority to keep the government functioning even without an approved budget.
Currently, an American president already famous for being infantile and mercurial has followed the procedures for shutting down the entire government until the Congress gives him 5.7 billion dollars to build a wall on the southern border, depriving hundreds of thousands of government workers of their paychecks, and many to sit home. Not to mention the low income people who are not receiving their food stamps or other government supports. Congress also has the power to shot down the government, but in this latest case, we could be seeing a replay of the takeover of the Weimar Republic.
Hitler too claimed there was a national emergency regarding lack of ‘lebensraum’ for Germans and used what may have been the first modern example of a government provocation, the Reichstag fire, to suspend civil liberties until the end of World War II. In the present case, we are witnessing white desperados’, the name given to 19th century outlaws in the Wild West, who took advantage of millions of discontents. Those who claim that there is a national emergency at the Mexican border are desperate to prevent the United States from becoming more ‘tinted’ (or ‘tainted’) than it already is. This risks becoming a fight to the death by an incredibly small world minority of 16%.
President Trump, in a show of bravado, threatens to keep the government shut down ‘for months, even years’ until Congress gives him what he wants: the money to build a wall to keep ‘undesirables’ out. He and Vice President Pence claim that ‘thousands’ of terrorists are entering the country from the south. (Official figures show that potential terrorists are more likely to be caught in airports, or on the US-Canadian border….(a ‘white’ border…..).
Having had to back down from his decision to withdraw all US troops from Syria, where the US is illegally, by getting Turkey to promise not to murder Kurds, Trump is doubling down on the wall, with jutting jaw turned toward the cameras a la Mussolini.
An anti-authoritarian campaign has largely replaced pure Russophobia in messages to voters, having the advantage of offering dozens of potential examples, ranging from Putin and Xi to Turkey’s Erdogan and the Philippines’ Duterte, to name but a few. No one considers the obvious fact that in today’s world, so-called ‘democratic’ governments have a very difficult time hanging on to their back teeth, as we used to say when roller coaster rides first became popular in amusement parks. France, the country that leads the world in number of yearly demonstrations, is inching toward insurrection, its ‘Jupiterian’ president ‘eating crow’ for discounting the population’s ability to survive proposed increases in basic costs such as fuel. His government has had to vastly increase the number of special police (known as CRS) on the Champs Elysees, which has been turned into a battleground after eight weeks of ‘yellow vest’ demonstrations across the country.
And yet, even with this vivid portrayal of people power, it does not occur to Americans fed up with Trump to follow the example of other democratic countries. Although Democrats are now in control of the House, its leaders are loathe to initiate impeachment proceedings, possibly because they recoil from a Pence Presidency. They must realize that even this religious bigot is the opposite of a Trump wildcard, suggesting that there may be other reasons for their inaction. Whatever these may be, it is clear that America’s vaunted ‘checks and balances’ are failing mightily, and it’s anybody’s guess what might come next.
As if the rest of the world were standing still under felicitous circumstances instead of careening from civil war to ‘yellow vests’ to human rights abuses, its so-called leader cares only about the Mueller investigation, the press gleefully announcing the indictment of the Russian lawyer who met with Trump’s team in 2016, while suggesting that the President’s desire to build a Tower in Moscow were somehow treasonous.
Deena Stryker is an international expert, author and journalist that has been at the forefront of international politics for over thirty years, exlusively for the online journal “New Eastern Outlook”.