Not since the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln challenged the Constitution by not allowing “disloyal persons” a trial; meaning that he suspended habeas corpus and also brushing aside free speech and the press in the South and imposed martial law in many states have we seen a White House so brazen.
In other words, Lincoln tested the system and in many ways if he had tried to do any of this today, he most likely would have been impeached.
Defenders of President Lincoln would readily argue that what he did what was necessary given the unprecedented time the country was going through where literally lines were being drawn between northern and southern states regarding slavery. It was a dark time and those times called for extraordinary measures from the president trying to save the Union. In other words, and in this particular case, the ends justified the means.
Today, we’re not at war – at least not in the traditional sense like World Wars I and II, Vietnam, etc. and thankfully; the Union is more united than ever before — I’m not suggesting politically — rather we’re united around a shared sense of principles and a shared sense of facts. But are we?
We have a White House that readily dismisses news articles that it does not like as “fake news”, a White House that, on the day after the inauguration, stated, without any facts to validate its claim that 2 million to 5 million people voted illegally, and the list goes on and on with information coming out of the White House that’s simply not true.
The Congress is feeling anxiety surrounding this White House and so are the courts.
All throughout the 2016 campaign season, we knew that Donald Trump was a disrupter. We knew that he would turn the electoral politics on its head, because he did that in more when he running for our nation’s highest office. We also knew that “a different kind of thinking” was what the American electorate wanted and draining the swamp was very much a mandate that President Trump was given when he won over a much more established candidate.
But what about the anxiety that our core institutions are feeling? Is this normal for them and should this feel normal to us? Yes and no. Yes, any institution that has been around for quite some time should feel some anxiety when people want change. That’s normal and quite frankly, I think that’s a good thing. Change is good, but change is only good when it’s done in proper context and when it’s done with collective by in from people who want to be part of the process.
It’s not normal for people to have this much anxiety toward their government and their White House. In fact, it’s always quite the opposite. Do we get mad at the government around tax day for collecting too much of our money? Of course. Do we get upset with our president’s when we are in the middle of a war? Just ask Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon or George W Bush!
But have we ever questioned so broadly a White House who boldly states so many untruths from the White House podium? This is something new and uncharted territory that is what I fear to be very dangerous and this is what every American should be concerned about.
And this is why we all have to not only double down on protecting our core institutions such as newspapers, the courts, the Congress, etc, but to always be aware that these institutions are fragile and their only one generation away from slipping away from us.
Robert Traynham can be reached via Twitter at @roberttraynham.