Donald Trump's presidential victory came, in large part, thanks to his promise to "make American great again," which many of his supporters interpret as a vow to bring back "traditional American values." In addition to supporting capitalism and the free market, believing that anyone can be successful if they work hard enough, and accepting the idea of American exceptionalism as truth, revering the general concept of democracy is always part of upholding "traditional American values." It's safe to go even further and say that democracy is the most celebrated of these values. Which is hilarious because President Trump often attacks basic tenets of democracy.
Trump has fueled worries of a possibly authoritarian presidency since his days on the campaign trail. On one occasion he promised to "open up those libel laws" in order to successfully sue journalists and news outlets for publishing negative articles and "hit pieces." His tendency to praise dictators was another cause for concern. There was also that time he said he'd "absolutely implement" not just a database of Muslims living in the United States, but "a lot of systems" in addition to a registry, which sounded eerily similar to the mandatory registration of Jews living in Nazi Germani.
Since claiming his unexpected victory on Election Day, President Trump has continued to make comments that put his understanding of a democratic government in question. For example:
1. Throw The Flag Burners In Jail
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
Whether or not he sees the burning of an American flag as disrespectful, the act is still a form of freedom of speech.
The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 19, 2016
After the cast of Hamilton respectfully addressed Vice President Pence from their Broadway stage, President Trump tweeted the demand that they apologize. The tweet shows both a deluded view of what his presidential powers allow him to demand as well as another example of a limited understanding of freedom of speech.
3. Undermining Protesters
Just had a very open and successful presidential election. Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2016
Not only did he complain about the protests against his victory being "very unfair," he also attempted to discredit the concerns of demonstrators by calling them "professional protesters."
Protesting is, again, another basic right protected by the First Amendment. He later published a more respectful tweet, which notably lacks his signature writing style, but his continued attacks on protests suggest his respect for this right didn't last very long.
4. Undermining Voters
In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 27, 2016
His inability to accept that he lost the popular vote and insistence on spreading the falsehood of "millions" of illegal votes being cast is disrespectful to the actual millions of voters who didn't choose him.
5. Firing Attorney General For Lack Of Loyalty
1) Trump's statement on firing of Sally Yates for "betraying" him— Jordan Uhl (@JordanUhl) January 31, 2017
2) Passage from Hannah Arendt's "Origins of Totalitarianism" re: loyalty pic.twitter.com/z2G4RIuv7L
While Trump was within his rights to dismiss Attorney General Sally Yates, who was currently filling the position until his own AG nominee was confirmed, the language in the official White House statement was concerning. Yates' role is to serve the public and uphold the Constitution, not to show the president unquestioned loyalty. For her refusal to uphold Trump's ban on Muslims to be characterized as a betrayal once again displays a lack of understanding of democracy.
6. "So-called judge"
The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law-enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 4, 2017
Trump attacked yet another federal public servant by dismissing not just the decision taken by Judge Robart's to block Trump's travel ban, but also by sarcastically referring to Robart as a "so-called judge."
7. Alternative Facts
Intelligence stated very strongly there was absolutely no evidence that hacking affected the election results. Voting machines not touched!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2017
Trump's continued peddling of outright falsehoods is similar to the tactic used by authoritarian leaders throughout history. By building a false reality, he is able to control his supporters' beliefs and devotion.
It looks like Khizr Khan was right — President Trump needs to reread the Constitution.