Welcome to the partisan presidency – a precursor to the partisan dictatorship.
Not all dictatorship come to power after some coup or revolution. Indeed, since the latter part of the 20th century most dictatorships have come to power through the ballot box. Some were rigged from the get go, but not all.
Venezuela comes to mind. Hugo Chavez was pretty much duly elected. Yet he used the power of the position to chip away at democratic institutions, militarize his cabinet, discredit any press that disagrees with him, reshape the judiciary, and drive a partisan wedge in the legislative… Sound familiar?
Paraphrasing MLK, in the US the arc of democracy bends toward inclusion and diversity. But, that arc is bound to sometimes be bent backwars, dipping into exclusion and tribalism.
Every President in recent history (and throughout history!) has been partisan. They come to power with a definitive national agenda that reflects his Party’s platform agenda.
However, every President – once in office – also reaches out to those that did not vote for him and at least tries to welcome them into the national agenda. Most of the time this leads to pursuing policies that at least have the semblance of “across the aisle” compromise. Sometimes that is just not possible and the party in power goes at it alone. Sometimes. But that is the exception, not the rule.
This Administration has made partisan voting the rule and by-partisan compromise the exception.
Past Presidents made at least token attempts at speaking as the leader of the Nation first; as leader of their political party second – if at all. And, when they spoke as leaders of their Party, it was clear they were doing so. This President speaks almost always as the leader of his Party – and very seldom (and disingenuously so) – as the leader of the Nation.
Therefore, he is well on his way to establish nothing short of a partisan dictatorship, constantly disparaging the other Party, mocking those that protest and resist, and humiliating anyone that opposes any of his partisan positions.
In talking points terms this is called “speaking to the base.” In actuality this means he is solidifying the one third of the Nation that blindly supports him, placating the other third that continues to see him as a useful idiot to get their agenda passed.
The danger in this partisan presidency is that it makes “the other” the enemy, rather than affirming the American tradition of compromise, dialogue, and bi-partisanship. The consistent degrading of the opposition pins brother against brother, cousins against cousins, and makes it increasingly difficult to come together – sometimes even as family.
President Trump’s blatant partisan politics – couple with his distaste for any sort of accommodation for the opposition – is clearly a tell-tell sign of the beginning of a partisan dictatorship.
The only way to stop this is at the ballot box.