“Somebody said 'treasonous.' I mean— yeah I guess, why not. Can we call that treason? Why not. I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.”—Donald Trump about Democratic Senators and Congress members who didn’t clap for him in his State of the Union speech.
Really? We have a temporary resident of the White House whose definition of loyalty to the United States of America is loyalty to, and expressed enthusiasm for, his boneheaded ideas and false claims of greatness?
We would expect such autocratic monomaniacal pronouncements from Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Rodrigo Duterte, or any other egomaniac warlord. Hitler and Stalin were such demented oppressors. Saddam Hussein, Augusto Pinochet—the anti-democratic autarchs are easy to name.
If the new definition of treason is being willing to not clap for Trump’s utterances, I hereby formally and publicly admit to treason.
If we still live in a democracy, I charge Trump with treasonous statements. If there were one united value embedded in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, it is the right to dissent, politically and publicly, without fear of reprisal. Let the views contend in our public discourse.
Instead, this is how a country slides from democracy toward dictatorship, one thought control episode, one veiled threat, after another. We are on a very slippery slope here and the signs are not good.
We have zero guarantees of the future of democracy in the US. Indeed, Freedom House, a nonpartisan think tank which measures and ranks all countries on Earth every year in the aggregate values and indices of democracies, has us sliding downward. They analyze both the US role in promoting democracy worldwide and practicing it at home. They note that this slide began slowly in 2010— the year the Republican rightwing gained control of the House— and is accelerating dramatically since Trump took office.
Meanwhile, we see the strongman sort of government using Trump’s tactics now and in history. In Cambodia in September, dictator Hun Sen trumped up charges of treason against a candidate for office, Kem Sokha, who dared to call for peaceful changes toward more democracy and more human rights. Sokha faces 30 years in prison, where he has been since his arrest five months ago.
In Venezuela in August, despot Nicolas Maduro engineered a path to charge political opponents with treason, targeting Julio Borges and other opposition leaders with potential arrest and imprisonment. Borges is out of office as of last month.
This is a slippery slope toward tyranny. Trump is the most treasonous occupant of the White House since Richard “Break-and-Enter” Nixon. He too deserves a swift exit from power for his foul rule, his abdication of responsibilities to defend democracy and right to dissent, and his lies about collusion with Russian government operatives to steal our election.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director and on occasion an expert witness for the defense in court.