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Full Version: A major democracy watchdog (Freedom House) just published a scathing report on Trump
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An organization from the Cold War that long identified the Good Guys and Bad Guys in the struggle for political freedom and responsible government, Freedom House, now shows concerns about the United States. America could have its swings from Left (Carter) to Right (Reagan), but nobody questioned whether a general respect for the principles of free elections, checks and balances, rule of law, an unfettered press, an independent judiciary, and a rejection of corruption. The difference between freedom and its lack did not imply so much that opposing sides got that they wanted or did not get what they wanted, as that is not the essence of freedom. Only in rare cases does anyone get everything that he wants. We knew that Big Business wanted cheap labor, low taxes, minimal regulation, and a reliance upon profits-first solutions to all economic questions. We knew what liberals wanted. But either way, government was to be clean of corruption and cronyism; government officials were to conduct elections impartially; law was to be left to neutral judges; Constitutional norms were beyond challenge; political language avoided demonization of fellow Americans; rational thought was the norm in decision-making; and news media were treated as honest brokers of information.

This was true even during the most dangerous time that any American  can now remember: World War II, when two Great Powers had designs on world conquest with the imposition of slave systems in which most Americans would become serfs, and others would be either enslaved or exterminated. We had elections as unecumbered as ever; we had as free a press as we could get away with (if it was not a military secret it was available). People did not accuse their opponents of having the intention of bringing an Axis victory to America.

In two years Donald Trump has degraded this heritage . It is not slow erosion due to neglect; it looks like design as in Italy under Mussolini. Trump cannot begin the degradation of American democracy as quickly as Hitler did by shutting down the opposition, sending people to political prisons, closing opposition papers, and turning people into helpless pariahs. Political institutions in Italy in the early 1920s were far more robust than those in Germany in the 1930s.

This degradation began earlier with baby steps under such operatives as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, but America reversed those baby steps quickly under new Presidents and reverted to normal.  For decades people who may have know of the seams in our system recognized the wisdom of refusal to exploit them. Trump does not act alone; he has collaborators.

The issue is not tax cuts or bigger spending. It is not lax environmental regulation or rigid protection of the environment. It is not being for or against abortion. It is not for putting profits first or putting service first. It is about tendencies toward dictatorship and tendencies away from it. We will solve the political debates on issues of legislation.

Such is my venting.
A respected watchdog group on human rights is sounding the alarm: President Donald Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy, perhaps the greatest challenge it’s seen in modern history.

“Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption, and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections,” Freedom House president Mike Abramowitz writes in a special section of this year’s report, released on Tuesday morning. “We cannot take for granted that institutional bulwarks against abuse of power will retain their strength, or that our democracy will endure perpetually. Rarely has the need to defend its rules and norms been more urgent.”

Freedom House is a respected bipartisan watchdog group that compiles an annual report on the state of democracy and human rights around the world. This report, known as Freedom in the World, is widely cited by policymakers and academics who study democracy. It’s a serious endeavor done by serious analysts — and this year, it’s heavily focused on Trump.

The report has been paired with a full court press, including op-eds in the Washington Post and the New York Times, highlighting Freedom House’s concern with the threat to American democracy under Trump. In essence, a nonpartisan human rights group is picking a major fight with the president.

This is an argument against the group’s own interest. Roughly 85 percent of Freedom House’s annual revenue comes from federal grants, per a 2016 audit report. If a vindictive Trump or his allies in Congress went after the organization, the consequences for its bottom line could be dire.

The fact that Abramowitz is willing to take that risk illustrates just how worried the group is about the survival of American democracy.