Greenwich Indivisible Shielding democracy
There really is a national emergency and we must stand up and confront it. It is not at our southern border. It is in a much more serious and dangerous place — at the doorstep of our democracy.
We have known since our earliest school years that the Constitution consists of a series of so-called “checks and balances.” However, we often forget why these checks and balances were woven into the Constitution and why they are so vital to our democracy. We forget that the founders, with the experience of an oppressive king firmly in their minds, carefully crafted, through the first three articles of the Constitution, an elaborate system to ensure no single branch of government would overstep its prescribed function. That finely devised plan is now being tested in ways that, if accepted, threaten the core precepts of our democracy.
Most scholars and political theorists agree that President Donald Trump has already undermined critical democratic institutions in a number of ways. Providing “alternative facts” (lies), attacking a free press as the enemy of the people and dividing people along racial and ethnic lines are just a few. These attacks are out of the playbook of dictators and are precisely the kinds of concerns the men in Philadelphia addressed in the Constitution.
But we are faced with a new and more insidious threat from an imperial presidency — the decision to ignore the will of the people through their elected representatives (Congress) in favor of a fabricated “National Emergency.”
The Constitution expressly charges Congress with allocating money raised by taxes. Congress determined that it was not fiscally prudent to spend billions of dollars on a wall on the southern border as the executive requested. (Indeed, even when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, they did not approve of such spending.)
By ignoring Congress’ decision and reallocating money to build a wall, the president is usurping and overriding the role assigned to Congress by the Constitution. He is elevating the executive branch over the Legislative. This is, unfortunately, one more step — the most brazen to date — toward an authoritarian form of government.
When a president simply ignores the Constitution, we no longer have a democracy.
We could devote several paragraphs here citing a multitude of authorities that a) the wall is a publicity stunt to satisfy talk show hosts , b) no one (including each Intelligence, Defense, etc., Secretary) considers the southern border a threat to the Unied States, c) walls are not best practices in actually dealing with issues at the border, d) smugglers go through ports of entry or through tunnels, e) and our personal favorite, Trump’s tweet: “45 year low on illegal border crossings this year. ICE and Border Patrol Agents are doing a great job.”
In short, the overwhelming evidence is that the sole emergency at the southern border — the devastating and heartbreaking plight of children and families fleeing death, torture and extreme poverty — is a moral one that cannot be addressed by a wall.
The focus of this op-ed is not the absurdity of the National Emergency declaration. Rather it is on the effect of that declaration on our democracy. Congress has said no to funding the wall the president wants. And the president has overridden Congress, thus abrogating Constitutional checks and balances.
For those who say what does all this have to do with us in Greenwich, the answer is everything. Every American who wants to live in a democracy is called upon to stand up and label the conduct for what it is — a threat to our way of life. The Economist Intelligence Unit has now downgraded our democracy from a full democracy to a flawed democracy. Reporters Without Borders placed the United States on its list of most dangerous countries for journalists. Slowly, we are sliding away from being a democracy and it is up to us to demand Congress stop this president and this slide toward an imperial presidency.
Indivisible Greenwich will continue to stand against this abuse of power and the continued assaults on democracy. Regardless of your party affiliation, we hope everyone in this town will come together in sending the message that we care about and want to protect our democracy. We hope Greenwich residents will call their members of Congress regularly, let them know that we do not want to live under a king or authoritarian who thwarts the will of the people or their elected representatives and ask them to terminate this “emergency order.” Each of us will be called upon to answer someday, when our children and grandchildren ask, “what did you do when President Trump attacked democracy and took power from Congress?”
This op-ed was submitted by steering committee of Greenwich Indivisible members Joanna Swomley, Nerlyn Pierson, Wendy Kalan, Tim Alexander and Phyllis Alexander.