As a 70-year-old Alaskan, I reminisce about my junior high school civics class where I was proud to learn that our country, founded 244 years ago, is populated by citizens who are granted equal status under our constitution. There is no privileged class or privileged individual. Intentionally, our government was designed to spread power among three equal branches, each with unique responsibilities and each acts as a check on the other two branches.
Imagine my dismay in observing in my lifetime the disintegration and “selling out” of a growing list of our institutions and safeguards written into our Constitution.
Every American now knows, except for those who choose sources of information which shield them from the truth, that our president initiated and directed an extortion campaign over a very vulnerable ally engaged in active combat with our preeminent adversary, Russia.
That act of extortion was clear to everyone involved to be predicated on the objective of coercing this ally, engaged in an existential struggle to free itself from a history of corruption, to commit a corrupt act by producing almost certainly manufactured evidence of unlawful and corrupt behavior of President Donald Trump’s expected political opponent. This is no stretch of the imagination for American citizens. This clearly is the man we now know Trump to be — of course he would feel uninhibited in this kind of corrupt behavior to further his personal advantage using the power of his office and illegally withholding funds appropriated by Congress to an ally in the throes of war.
Now, we American citizens have the added insult, that the Congress is complicit in this flagrant violation of the principles and high standards that have always made the United States of America a living example of democracy that peoples all over the globe want to emulate.
We have always proudly believed that our Congress would safeguard the institutions and founding principles of our democracy by rooting-out wrongdoing and corruption in our government and holding offenders accountable, even the president. We are no longer that shining example for other struggling democracies.
Trump has denigrated law enforcement officials, our national security professionals, and our diplomatic corps, favoring and promoting what National Security Council specialist Fiona Hill described as a “a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.” This is serious business; a matter concerning our own national security. Trump is oblivious to the consequences of any of his statements or actions, rather focusing only on how it might benefit his personal interests.
Now Congress has failed to call-out the president’s corrupt behavior. Surely, Congress could have at least censured the president’s corrupt acts. Some Senators have foolishly imagined that Trump has learned his lesson, but immediately he is on the war path weeding out any member of his administration who fails to be sufficiently subservient to his personal interests.
Today we learn that the president has coerced Attorney General William Barr to intervene in the lawful prosecution of Trump’s stooge and self-avowed dirty tricks operative, Roger Stone, to reduce his prison sentence. The Justice Department is apparently no longer a politically independent institution of justice for the American people, but a tool of the President.
Step-by-step we are sliding into an authoritarian form of government in which the president’s political adversaries (essentially 60% of our population) are labeled “very bad people” and “scum.”
More frighteningly, Trump has adopted the dictators’ trope of calling our news media an “enemy of the people” aligning Trump with Stalin, Mao and the Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels; a chilling disintegration of Constitutionally guaranteed principles.
How far must our situation deteriorate before Congress takes a principled stand to safeguard our country’s constitutionally promised heritage?
• Alexander Hoke resides in Juneau.