How to thwart the next American tyrant.
June 10, 2021 3:31 AM   Subscribe

In this series, the Globe editorial board outlines the key presidential reforms that would prevent a future authoritarian president — perhaps a more competent one than Trump — from abusing their power and subverting our democracy. Just because President Biden has restored a semblance of normalcy to the White House, Americans should not be lulled into inaction. Our government survived a scrape with authoritarian corruption. Next time, we might not be so lucky.

A treasure map for an American tyrant
Donald Trump exposed weaknesses that a would-be dictator could exploit to end our democracy. It’s now up to lawmakers, voters, and public officials to prevent that from happening.

Who owns the president?
The 45th president was in bed financially with foreign governments, a precedent for America’s enemies to wield influence over the Oval Office. Lawmakers and voters must prevent this from becoming common practice.

A sordid family affair
Donald Trump exploited loopholes to build a White House rife with nepotism. Lawmakers must close them.

Hiding the evidence
Donald Trump got away with thwarting investigations of wrongdoing by his campaign and his White House. Without reforms, future criminals could exploit the powers of the presidency to even more dangerous ends.

Rewards for doing the president’s bidding
Donald Trump’s abuse of the pardon power to reward criminal loyalists is a precedent for a future authoritarian leader to commit crimes without consequence. Its use must be curtailed by Congress.


The case for prosecuting Donald Trump
Saving American democracy for the long run requires a clear condemnation of the Trump presidency. That means making clear that no one is above the law.
posted by infinite intimation (28 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
From A treasure map for an American tyrant: Before the day Donald Trump moved into the White House in 2017, Americans had never had to contend with a president in such deep financial trouble — and with such determination to conceal his true finances from the public. Trump’s business empire — the one he espoused during the campaign as an example of his purported financial acumen — was nothing more than a hollow gold-plated shell.

Thanks for the post, infinite intimation. Powerful stuff, and I've only just started diving in.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:56 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Good series of articles - sets out the case for prosecution and reform quite clearly.

I wonder, however, what odds a bookie would put on Trump facing actual consequences and the system receiving actual reform. I worry that there's little incentive for GOP to prosecute one of their own nor change the rules that they tried so hard to stack in their favour.

Consequences and reform might be necessary to save American democracy, but this whole mess exists because the GOP doesn't seem to give a shit about functional democracy in the first place.
posted by dazed_one at 4:09 AM on June 10 [11 favorites]


I'll be the first one to throw stones at the Democrats, because, man, Bidens people sure seem determined to sweep everything under the rug and put their fingers in their ears and not rock the boat.
posted by Jacen at 4:27 AM on June 10 [16 favorites]


Do these reforms require Rep. Manchin's cooperation?
posted by acb at 4:27 AM on June 10 [19 favorites]


I'll be the first one to throw stones at the Democrats, because, man, Bidens people sure seem determined to sweep everything under the rug and put their fingers in their ears and not rock the boat.
posted by Jacen at 4:27 AM on June 10 [+] [!]


Since I'm old, I remember when war criminals Bush and Cheney and all of their corrupt ilk were voted out and the Democrats won both houses and did exactly nothing. At least now, something is going on.
posted by mumimor at 4:32 AM on June 10 [25 favorites]


Since I'm old, I remember when war criminals Bush and Cheney and all of their corrupt ilk were voted out and the Democrats won both houses and did exactly nothing. At least now, something is going on.

This time, the so-called "liberal media" isn't giving Republicans as much cover, such as refusing to call Bush's torture regime "torture" and airing obviously bogus justifications as if they're made in good faith

They aren't quite at the point of holding Republicans responsible yet -- watch for how popular bills are portrayed as "failing a procedural hurdle" rather than "blocked by Republicans" -- and they didn't do as much as they could have to show Trump as the con man he is -- and of course Fox News has gone full fascist -- but Trump's obvious incompetence and dishonesty was so much worse than even George W. Bush's that a lot of people can't help but see it.

The problem, of course, are those who think electing Biden was the end, rather than the beginning, of getting rid of Trump and Trumpism.
posted by Gelatin at 4:57 AM on June 10 [10 favorites]


Right? Biden maybe has closed the door after the burglars have been chased out, but he sure hasn't locked the door or maybe closed the window, etc etc etc. They can just walk in again.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:25 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


... but he sure hasn't locked the door or maybe closed the window, etc etc etc. They can just walk in again.

FFS, that's on Republicans. It's not like Biden can halt the new state laws to limit voting rights, change (at the moment) the judges on the Supreme Court, yadda yadda. I know we like to bash on the Democratic party, myself included. But consider the context. There is no magic wand for Biden to wave to fix this stuff. If only!
posted by Bella Donna at 6:05 AM on June 10 [20 favorites]


I made the case to friends from overseas many times the last 4 years that it could not happen here. The polling where 70% of GOP would be happy with a white dictator (believe trump won) utterly confounds. I made the casemany many times that "our generals" believed in the rule of law and would never overthrow.

Lieutenant General Flynn, omg, what the hell.

The surreptitious attempt to change the staff at the Pentagon seemed to only start late in 2020, what if a charismatic potus started the control at the very start of their administration.

I have not seen the tiniest suggestion how to bolster any existing protection of American Democracy.
posted by sammyo at 6:12 AM on June 10 [10 favorites]


What worries me as well is, in the current spirit of "reaching across the aisle", there's politically not much being done from the Dems to stop or prevent much of anything because they don't want to seem like they want to prevent another Trump presidency or the abuses of someone more severe, because that would be partisan and we're one big happy family folks. Manchin among others definitely have a hand in this, but Biden himself is also not pressing forward at all with hammering out these protections, believing that democracy will magically produce the safeguards to liberty without intervention from upstairs. Which, uh... buddy... that's not really how democracies trend.
posted by Philipschall at 6:20 AM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Asymmetrical warfare at the finest, all nice and legal and wrapped up in the trappings of a crusade. Republicans are truly at war, and Democrats are the League of Nations.
posted by Jacen at 6:27 AM on June 10 [13 favorites]


Something that I found disturbing during the Trump presidency is that he seemed to be able to do whatever he wanted, micromanaging things if necessary, like removing the pages about climate change from the EPA website. This kind of power seems extraordinary in a democracy (perhaps I'm wrong: it would be interesting to see a comparison with other countries). Closing loopholes and adding rules is a start, but that won't be enough if there's nothing in the system that can prevent the POTUS to say "nah, i don't care, i'll do it anyway" and get away with it with less opposition than Louis XIV.
posted by elgilito at 6:29 AM on June 10 [16 favorites]


Y'all seem to be saying it's the burglars who make the rules about how you can secure your house. That's kind of a problem, yes?
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:49 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The issue is that the burglars have a say in whether you lock the doors and install a security system.
posted by schroedinger at 6:52 AM on June 10 [7 favorites]


It seems that obstruction of justice is no longer a crime.

I mean, prove me wrong, but.
posted by Dashy at 6:53 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Was it ever for rich white people?
posted by Jacen at 9:38 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


I'm mostly worried about the attempted teardown of Democracy itself, including voter suppression, gerrymandering voting districts (now allowed by the Supreme Court), and more.

The most most important unreported event was when Sen. Lindsey Graham called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to what appeared to be attempts to change the vote count in the Presidential election.

That much was reported, mainly because Secretary Raffensperger is one of the few honest men and said no and went to the press (and was punished for it).

What wasn't reported was the other calls. Does anyone think Lindsey Graham only called Georgia? What happened when he called up the other states? Does anyone honestly think that everyone told him 'no'? If they didn't tell him 'no', then what, exactly, did they do?

The 'Trump' Republican party is determined to undermine Democracy itself to get what they want, and they have learned their lessons and know what to do 'better' next time and few people seem to be paying any attention.
posted by eye of newt at 9:42 AM on June 10 [21 favorites]


I have not read all of TFAs, but the beginning is not encouraging.

The US does need to "reform the Presidency" but not to prevent the next Trump from building an enduring dictatorship: the laws don't enforce themselves, and any "reforms" that leave the Republicans with a reasonable chance of continuing to "win" elections without appealing to a majority of voters are just decoration.

The continued existence of the Republican Party as a political force is not compatible with the continued existence of the United States as an open society. The editors of the Globe don't seem to grasp that, or be willing to say it out loud, so they are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
posted by Aardvark Cheeselog at 9:47 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The continued existence of the Republican Party as a political force is not compatible with the continued existence of the United States as an open society.

And the evidence already in the public domain is strong that Republican leaders have concluded that the opposite is true as well.

Every antidemocratic measure the Republicans take -- including decrying bills to ease voting as "partisan" -- as an open admission that Republicans don't even pretend to believe they can appeal to a majority.

They aren't acting secretly. They're acting openly. The media can't pretend their self-serving -- or in McConnell's case, gleefully trolling -- justifications are made in good faith, when the implications of what they're doing is so obvious.

(Well, the media can and do, which means siding with the Republicans in the name of "balance.")
posted by Gelatin at 10:22 AM on June 10 [5 favorites]


One of the many problems with holding Trump accountable is trial by jury. How do you get 12 people to agree to convict when 30% of the adult population idolize the perp to the point of denying reality?
posted by Candleman at 10:52 AM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Hold the trial in a friendly jurisdiction, and believe your jury consultant.
posted by box at 11:17 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I have zero faith in the ability of the U.S. to heal itself at this point.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:23 AM on June 10 [6 favorites]


The Department of Justice continuing to advocate for Trump's tax returns to be withheld and for E. Jean Carroll's defamation suit against him to be dismissed, rather than taking any affirmative steps to signal that they're interested in holding the administration accountable for the oceans of criminal behavior perpetrated, does not bode well.
posted by Gadarene at 3:01 PM on June 10 [7 favorites]


I have zero faith in the ability of the U.S. to heal itself at this point.
posted by The Card Cheat


It's not looking good right now, particularly after Manchin blocked voting/election reform. :(
posted by Pouteria at 6:58 PM on June 10


It's not looking good right now, particularly after Manchin blocked voting/election reform. :(

Manchin, Sinema, Feinstein, Coons...
posted by Gadarene at 7:02 PM on June 10


The Congressional Budget Office was created weeks before Nixon resigned.

The Inspector General Act of 1978. Hows that working out.

The Government Accountability Office.

I have complete faith in another congressional inspired office to be created for executive branch offenses.
posted by clavdivs at 7:39 PM on June 10


cntl +F "DeSantis" not found. cntl +f "Abbott" not found.
really? i don't live in their states, but I don't really put a lot of stock in an article series on this topic that isn't looking at what's happening in 2021 USA
posted by eustatic at 12:34 PM on June 12


It's taken a while, but now I am almost through. It has made me think of a thing that has happened over the last four-five years that I see everywhere: upholding the rule of law and trust in basic science have become radical leftist positions, all over the world. The Globe are just claiming the obvious, what literally every person with an interest in civics would have said a decade ago if they could have imagined the Trump presidency, which they couldn't.
But the right have moved over the cliff of reason and are now hanging out there in the air like a cartoon figure. Like in the cartoons, they can hang there for quite a while, and they are not likely to die from falling flat, being run over by a train and smashed by a huge rock.
I have no idea where this is all heading, but I am not very optimistic.
posted by mumimor at 10:15 AM on June 13 [5 favorites]


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