Trump’s ‘National Emergency’ Idea, If Implemented, Could Be A Step Closer To Authoritarianism [Opinion]

President Donald Trump, looking slightly to his left.
Alex Wong / Getty Images

In authoritarian regimes across the world, leaders often use declarations of emergencies to increase their power. Rarely do they ever cede this power once said emergencies end.

President Donald Trump, in suggesting he may use a declaration of a national emergency of his own to procure funding for a border wall, is pushing our country one step closer toward the possibility that a leader in our own nation may someday do the same.

Unlike other authoritarian leaders, Trump’s proposed action has a definitive end — his national emergency will presumably be over once a border wall is constructed. But if allowed to stand, if he does indeed move forward with it, Trump’s declaration of a national emergency will create an immensely dangerous precedent for our nation moving forward, allowing himself or perhaps another president down the road to take more nefarious actions.

Some in Trump’s own political party have expressed qualms with Trump using emergency powers in order to obtain his controversial border wall, according to reporting from Quartz. Yet those warnings from a few members of the GOP are going largely unheard by the president.

Small encroachments on democratic norms in our country cannot be shrugged so easily off. Some may argue that calling out Trump’s national emergency declaration as one step closer toward authoritarian rule as a critique that goes too far.

I look at it in a different way. Such an emergency declaration and unitary action on an issue that deserves Congressional approval before going forward, as the issue of a border wall does, may seem like a minor infraction to some. But what is the next step? What will we allow ourselves to tolerate in the future if this action now goes unchallenged?

This is a huge misuse of the president’s powers. Trump does not take into consideration what elements should exist in order to actually declare a national emergency, and may do so based on frivolous standards and incidents that he’s inflating and exaggerating on.

There exists a system for passing law and implementing policy that must be respected. No branch of government should be allowed to circumvent that system just because they do not get their way.

Conservatives once berated former President Barack Obama for issuing allowable decrees in his executive orders. Trump himself did so, too, according to an old tweet he issued out six years ago. Where are they now? Why aren’t they condemning the current president loudly for his proposed actions, like they did to Obama back then?

Now that Trump is willing to forego the legislative process altogether, what do those conservatives have to say? Better yet, what will Republicans in Congress do, if anything, to stop this curtailment of American ideals of democracy and checks and balances?

There are too many questions being asked here, and not enough answers. The thing is, the answers should be obvious: every lawmaker in the legislative branch, regardless of party or ideological preference, regardless even of whether they support building the wall or not, should condemn this idea. That some are silent on it, or even supportive of the idea, should concern every constituent who may have voted for those individuals.