by Daniel Carter
The United States is often viewed as having a political system that is most contrary to dictatorship. It is governed by the many and is the only country to explicitly guarantee rights such as freedom of speech and the right to bear arms in its founding documents. For many, it would be unimaginable for the US to fall into the hands of a dictator. But I’m not so sure the US has the legal framework or cultural attitude to fight off dictatorship forever. To be honest, I think we are already more than half way there.
Unbeknownst to most modern-day citizens, the US has already flirted with dictatorship. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was sort of a proto-dictator in my view. He was the only US president to serve more than two terms. In fact, he was on his fourth term before he died. He was a major factor in the US’s turn toward imperialism. Against the peoples’ will, FDR provoked an attack from Japan to get the US into WWII. He put people in concentration camps based on their ethnicity. He grew a previously small government into a behemoth. FDR is a hero to many, especially to people on the left. But to me, he was a tyrant.
Although the government has kept its abuse of citizens to a minimum in the modern era, the power of the executive branch has continued to expand. After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the executive branch was given the power to declare war (without Congress’ approval) and to spy on citizens without a warrant. Using the post-9/11 legislation (AUMF), Obama showed us how powerful the US government had become by killing an American citizen in Yemen without due process. This citizen was more than likely a terrorist but think about the ugly precedent this set. All the government must do now is accuse you of being a terrorist, and then they can kill you. No trial needed.
These types of legislative moves to disregard the US Constitution are paving the way to dictatorship. All it takes is the wrong person to be elected or a perceived threat to the government to elicit the subjugation of American citizens.
Many republics and democracies have fallen to dictatorship before; Athens, Rome, Germany and Russia to name a few. Just because we have a system in place that supposedly guards against authoritarianism doesn’t mean things can’t change in an instant. This issue is above political ideology. If there is someone in the presidential office you prefer, you shouldn’t demand they get overly tough with your political foes. Someday, maybe soon, the power of the presidency will fall into the hands of someone that doesn’t mind showing you cruelty. The only logical step forward is to reduce the power of the government. But that is much easier said than done.