Donald Trump has violated federal law (The Hatch Act) by holding part of the Republican National Convention at the White House. Many have called it an abomination and a desecration of the White House. Presidents have traditionally not used the White House for partisan events in the last eighty years. Trump ignores both tradition and law.
The Hatch Act of 1939 prohibits federal employees from engaging in political activity: (1) while on duty; (2) in any room or building occupied in the discharge of official duties. Although the act does not apply to the President or Vice President, it does apply to White House staff and executive employees. The US Supreme Court has twice upheld the law.
While Hatch Act provisions are controversial, continually flouting our democratic principles is not. Trump flagrantly dishonors American standards and norms in a consistent move toward authoritarian rule. His core personality is one of a bully and dictator. He operates as if he is above the law and rules don’t apply to him. He has even implied he may not honor the next election if he loses. That would be a gross subversion of our American foundation. If we lose respect for our elections, we lose everything.
Some may argue that misusing the White House for partisan propaganda is no big deal. But every dictator has gained complete control through small steps and the use of fear. The core message of the whole Republican Convention was fear. We must not ignore “small” steps toward unlawful behavior and seizing power.
Naomi Wolf in The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot described the ten steps toward fascism, including
* invoke a terrifying enemy – “no one will be safe in Joe Biden’s America.”
* develop a paramilitary force – Trump sent Federal agents without identifying insignia to Portland, Oregon, in spite of opposition by local law enforcement.
* control the press – Trump has snapped at reporters for “nasty questions,” raged against the media for “outrageous,” “dishonest” coverage and “fake news,” and called the press “the enemy of the people.”
* harass citizen groups – Trump has criticized sports teams, independent builders of the border wall, NASCAR, Iowans, Mexicans, women, Muslims, anti-racist protestors, and the disabled.
* redefine dissent and criticism as treason – Trump criticized mayors and governors for unflattering comments. He fired Attorney General Sally Yates because he says she “betrayed” the US for refusing his executive order.
* suspend the rule of law – Trump says “I have an Article 2 where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
This latest spectacle at the White House is not trivial. Combined with the above examples, it describes a persistent and dangerous march toward dictatorship.