President Trump has proven to be an abrasive, vindictive, and dishonest president. He resembles a classic schoolyard bully. His victims, however, aren’t some poor, scrawny souls, but democracy and truth. He’s pounded his victims for his first term, and now he prepares to come back for a potential second term. The swirlies, shoves, and insults are only going to get worse for Trump’s victims, as he will be a bigger and stronger bully, more determined to pick up where he left off.
Few institutional guardrails have kept Trump in line during his first term. He survived Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation with the help of his own obstruction of justice. He also survived impeachment with the help of 52 Republican Senators willing to look the other way to his attempt to cheat the election. In four years he has leveled serious attacks against individuals, institutions, and democracy itself. If given a second term, Trump’s final restraint, his reelection, will be removed. If he wins, America should prepare for a full-on frontal assault on democracy and other longstanding U.S. institutions.
Freedom of the press, one pillar of democracy, has been under attack since the inception of Trump’s presidency. He shocked the country in February 2017 when he tweeted that the media “is the enemy of the American people.” Ever since, the attacks have been constant and personal. The president’s attacks not only undermine truth in the United States, but have also put journalists and members of the media at greater risk. Extremist Trump supporter Cesar Sayoc mailed pipe bombs to several people, including CNN’s office in New York City. During the George Floyd protests, reporters were arrested and injured by police as they were peacefully doing their jobs. The number of attacks on the press continue to rise in the United States. While President Trump is not directly responsible for these violent acts, the constant deluge of vile verbal attacks against members of the media by the president prepares the ground wherein violent attacks against the media can be sown by others. Freedom of the press is an indispensable part of democracy and will be under even greater threat if President Trump is reelected.
Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution is the right of the American people to “peaceably assemble.” The right to peacefully assemble (the right to protest) is akin to the right to vote, as both allow Americans to make their voice heard and “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” On June 1st of this year, nonviolent protesters gathered in the plaza in front of St. John’s Church near the White House. Those gathered were protesting police brutality in response to George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota. Suddenly, and in a coordinated manner, U.S. Park Police and National Guard troops moved in on the protesters, violently dispersing the peaceful group. The authorities cleared the area, allowing President Trump to come marching in like a trophy hunter brandishing a Bible in front of St. John’s Church. The orchestration of this outrageous operation is usually seen in authoritarian regimes, not America. These actions were a direct violation of the protesters’ first amendment rights to peacefully assemble.
President Trump has made it clear that the only form of protest acceptable to him are protests that advance his agenda and serve his own interests. Earlier this year, in response to state lockdown measures, President Trump voiced his support for protesters, comprising mostly of his own supporters, to storm state legislatures. The dangerous actions of these armed protesters put state government officials at risk and increased the chances of a violence. For Trump, the double standard is par for the course in his presidency. Trump has a zero tolerance policy for peaceful protests against him or his agenda. Protest his opponents while armed and you will receive his blessing. The freedom to protest is under attack in President Trump’s America. If he is given a second term in office, no one knows the lengths he may go to to stifle the freedom to peacefully assemble.
The very essence of a democracy is the election of leaders through a free and fair vote. As the president of the United States, one of the most outrageous and indecent things Donald Trump has done is pulverize trust in the country’s elections. Regrettably, President Trump has cast doubt over the integrity of U.S. elections since before he became president. He long pushed conspiracy theories about millions of illegal immigrants voting for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. He even went as far as setting up the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity after becoming president to investigate his claims. The Commission was dissolved without finding evidence of voter fraud. Now, his Twitter feed and other statements are a constant stream of disinformation on “rigged elections” and supposedly fraudulent vote-by-mail systems. Despite all evidence and against the advice of experts, he continues to denigrate the integrity of American elections. President Trump was impeached over his own efforts to extort the Ukrainian government to produce “dirt” on his opponent Joe Biden. He withheld congressionally appropriated military aid to Ukraine, asking them to do him a “favor.” Foreign meddling is unacceptable in American elections and the fact the president of the United States encouraged such actions is deeply disheartening.
More recently, President Trump said he may not accept the results of the election. If he loses and refuses to leave office, it would be one of the greatest constitutional crises the United States ever faced. President Trump has done more to sow doubt in the integrity of the American election system than any Russian troll farm. If reelected, the damage to the integrity to American elections may be irreparable.
Democracy and truth at home are suffocating under Donald Trump. To begin to heal the country, Donald Trump must not be reelected.