Guest editorial: Democracy, autocracy and the U.S.A.

The Oxford dictionary defines democracy as “a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives.” It defines autocracy as “a system of government by one person with absolute power.”

Clearly, the major difference between democracy and any form of autocracy is that under democracy, freedom and constitutional governance rule whereas under autocracy, both of those key elements are junked in favor of total subjugation to the wishes and whims of one person, the Ruler.

The major issue here is that democracies, where they exist, are open to every conceivable crazy political idea. Autocracies, however, are open only to ideas that are approved by the Ruler. The result is that democracies are far more vulnerable to revolutionary change than autocracies. And that is where we now stand. We Americans are custodians of a democracy in which internal opposition to our form of government is getting deeper and deeper. And those who argue for newer antidemocratic approaches represent a growing, anti-status-quo change.

Are these Americans knowingly promoting autocracy? Perhaps some, but certainly not most of them. They are simply responding to their ongoing (often unhappy and unsatisfactory) relationship with the in-power democratic leaders. The problem for our democracy is that the issue that motivates this political discontent is not our form of government. It is, rather, that the solution they back is the election of the individual who seeks the highest power in the country, former President Trump.

To understand how change in 2024 might affect us and our democracy, it is most important to understand precisely what the leader of the opposition to our current government has said that he, as new Ruler, would seek for the future of America.

Essentially, the entire focus of a new Trump administration would be to weaken the existing federal governmental structure, bringing it under the President’s control. He declared publicly in 2019, “I have an Article 2 (of the Constitution) where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” In this regard, he seeks the following national, internal changes:

• Return the independent agencies to total presidential control. They will have to present their plans and programs for White House review and approval.

• Employ the practice of refusing to spend appropriated funds on programs he doesn’t like.

• Castrate the U.S. Civil Service, which he views as part of the “deep state”.

• Strip job protections from federal employees who oppose him or his programs in any way.

Over time, Trump’s personality patterns have been found to be narcissistic, impulsive, dominating, risk-taking and controlling.

He has promoted conspiracy theories and made many false and misleading statements during his campaigns and presidency. Many of his comments and actions have been characterized as racially charged or racist and many as misogynistic.

He has consistently approved of some of the world’s most dangerous autocratic leaders, like Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Erdogan of Turkey, and Orban of Hungary.

What we have seen of Trump as a leader can be characterized as self-centered, wildly impulsive, deprecating, and uncontrolled. He also comes across as racist, anti-immigrant, completely unprepared to tell the truth, and anti-free trade.

In terms of his approach to any past or present job, it is clear from what he has said that, once elected again as President, Trump would use his executive power to effect as many of his desired changes as possible. What this clearly means is that a new Trump presidency will bring autocratic changes to this country, trashing all thoughts of preserving any vestiges of the democracy that has served us so well throughout our long history.

Haviland Smith is a retired CIA operations officer who focused during his Cold War career in Eastern and Western Europe on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

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