Published January 11, 2019 / Updated August 7, 2020
If Trump claims emergency powers we have a crisis on our hands
The Southern border of the United States is not “in crisis.” By nearly every official and unofficial estimation immigration — legal and illegal — is down. There exists no evidence of a national security threat, no evidence of a terrorist conspiracy, nothing. Yet the President of the United States is reportedly considering declaring a state of emergency in order to build his wall.
It is not an exaggeration to point out that this is how democracies die.
From the time of ancient Athens, emergencies have been the means by which ambitious men have seized power from the people in order to enact their own will. Emergency powers swept a veritable who’s-who of tyrants, usurpers, and dictators into power: Sulla, Caesar, Cromwell, Robespierre, and Hitler to name just a few.
That’s not to say that Trump plans to undertake a genocide or a campaign of republican baptisms but the invocation of emergency powers would constitute an assault upon the system of checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution specifically to prevent tyrannical, executive overreach.
And now some members of Congress, who took an oath to protect and defend that Constitution, are calling on Mr Trump to use emergency powers to build his wall.
Once declared, an emergency can grant the President broad powers including control of electronic communications, the ability to freeze American bank accounts, and broader, less well defined powers like the seizure of private property via eminent domain, the internment of US citizens, warrantless wiretapping, and even the suspension of habeas corpus.
All of those things may come to pass or none of them. Either way, however, America is the lesser for it. Even if the emergency construction of The Great Wall of Trump proceeds with perfect, rose-colored respect for democracy and its ideals, it will set the stage for President Harris or President O’Rourke, or President Warren to use those same powers to usurp the powers of some future Republican Congress.
It is a dangerous game we play.
Tell Congress What You Think
While only Trump can decide to invoke emergency powers, the rest of this is up to Congress. The shutdown itself won’t last forever but the consequences of it could be with us for decades to come. You can write to Congress about this or any other topic by sending the word Resist to Resistbot on Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or as a Twitter direct message. If none of those work for you, Resistbot also supports old fashioned SMS: text RESIST to 50409 to get started. It takes 2 minutes to do something great.