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The Decline and Fall of the United States

June 3, 2018

US Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration (NAID 1667751) (PD as work product of federal govt.)

Edward Gibbon authored a monumental work titled The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  Coincidentally, Gibbon’s work was published around the time the United States was founded.

Like the United States, Rome was initially a republic – a state in which ultimate power is held by the people through their elected representatives, with a president rather than a monarch at its head.

Though we often use the terms interchangeably, a republic is distinguished from a democracy by the limits placed on government by law.  In a republic, a constitution “protects certain inalienable rights that cannot be taken away by the government, even if it has been elected by a majority of voters.  In a ‘pure democracy’, the majority is not restrained in this way and can impose its will on the minority [1].”

The Rule of Law

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this:  you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

-James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 51 (1788)

From the beginning, the United States was conceived as a nation of laws.  The rule of law is firmly established in our Constitution and Bill of Rights [2].  The arbitrary exercise of power by an executive is, in other words, subordinate to well-defined laws.  All people and institutions are subject to and held accountable by laws that are (or should be) fairly applied and enforced [3].

Democracy in Jeopardy

Democracy, itself, is jeopardized when the rule of law is undermined.

This can happen in many ways, most especially when checks on executive power are weakened or eliminated; when an executive attempts to politicize or otherwise undermine institutions like law enforcement, designed to function independently; when disinformation is disseminated to diminish public confidence in such institutions; and when elections are corrupted [4][5].

The United States has reached this critical juncture [6].

During the 2016/2017 campaign, then candidate Donald Trump consistently characterized his flawed and unpopular opponent as criminal.  He tolerated, if not encouraged, violence at his political rallies.  When his defeat seemed imminent, he disputed the validity of election results still to be obtained – hinting darkly that his followers might take to the streets, in the event of a loss.

Now in power, Pres. Trump has regularly disputed or downplayed the significance of an unquestioned attack by Russia on our electoral process – instead attacking the media and his own intelligence agencies.

To distract the American public from the Russia probe, the President has fabricated a series of scandals:  the alleged “bugging” of Trump Tower by former Pres. Barack Obama, during the campaign [7]; the FISA warrant scandal [8]; the Uranium One scandal [9]; and now “Spygate”, a false allegation that the FBI planted an informant in the Trump campaign for political motives [10].

His followers believe Pres. Trump to be the victim of a “deep state” conspiracy.  They view him as valiantly embattled.

To the contrary, the President’s actions demonstrate his intent to destroy the independence of the Dept. of Justice, at all costs.  Whatever conflicting explanations the Administration may have been given for it, the firing of former FBI Dir. James Comey was a step in this direction.

Most recently, Chief of Staff, John Kelly and Pres. Trump’s personal attorney, Emmet Flood were permitted to address briefings between lawmakers and the intelligence community, admittedly to glean information about the ongoing criminal investigation of the Trump campaign [11].

Congress – a branch of government meant to offset the power of the executive, in the Constitutional system of checks and balances – allowed this despite the fact not one but two meetings at Trump Tower with foreign entities have been uncovered [12][13].

The issue of emoluments has barely been scratched [14][15].

Alarm Bells

The American rule of law has been under sustained assault and is failing [16].  Pres. Trump did not initiate this process, but he has greatly accelerated it.

Rome went this route.  In modern times, so have Venezuela, Turkey, and Hungary.  Alarm bells should be ringing.  Why then do many Christians remain loyal to Pres. Trump?

Means to an End

“So if a leader does what it takes to win power and keep it, his methods will always be reckoned honourable and widely praised.”

-Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Religious leaders have, to their shame, defended the President’s moral failings and turned a blind eye to his past indiscretions.  For the Christian Right, the President is seen as the means to an end.  He promised and is delivering on socially conservative policies [17].

Pres. Trump has appointed social conservatives to key posts, has withdrawn federal funds from international family planning agencies that provide abortion, and has created a Conscience and Religious Freedom Division within the Dept. of Health and Human Services [18].  He has moved the US embassy to Jerusalem, and formally recognized the holy city as Israel’s capitol [19].

That the President’s motivation for these actions was crassly political carries no weight with the Christian Right.  But the Christian Right is not a religion.  It never was.  And the end does not justify the means.  It never did, as Paul, himself, confirms:

And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come?’ – as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say.  Their condemnation is just” (Rom. 3: 8).

That God may use any instrumentality to accomplish His purposes does not change this [20].

Tragically, we are watching the decline and fall of the United States.  Christians – some with the best of intentions – are complicit.

[1]  Diffen, “Democracy v. Republic”, https://www.diffen.com/difference/Democracy_vs_Republic.

[2]  The rule of law should not be confused with legalism, i.e. the excessive reliance on or formulaic adherence to legal technicalities.

[3]  Dictionary.com, rule of law, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/rule-of-law.

[4]  The Psychologist, “Democracy in danger” by Roger Paxton, June 2017, https://thepsychologist.bps.org.uk/volume-30/june-2017/democracy-danger.

[5]  WGBH, “Is American Democracy in Danger?” by Amanda McGowan, 1/31/18, https://www.wgbh.org/news/2018/01/31/local-news/american-democracy-danger.

[6]  Washington Post, “US democracy is in grave danger, a new Economist report warns” by Amanda Erickson, 2/1/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/02/01/u-s-democracy-is-in-grave-danger-a-new-economist-report-warns/?utm_term=.df18b3c98fd7.

[7]  Wikipedia, “Trump Tower wiretapping allegations”, 3/9/18, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump_Tower_wiretapping_allegations.

[8]  Vox, “The 9 biggest questions about the Nunes memo, answered” by Zack Beauchamp and Alex Ward, 2/2/18, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/2/1/16956290/nunes-memo-release-the-memo-fbi-russia.

[9]  Third Way, “Debunking the Uranium One ‘Scandal’ ” by Adam Twardowski and Mykael Goodsell-SooTho, https://www.thirdway.org/memo/debunking-the-uranium-one-scandal.

[10]  Vox, “ ‘Spygate’, the false allegation that the FBI planted a spy in the Trump campaign, explained” by Stefan Halper, 5/25/18, https://www.vox.com/2018/5/25/17380212/spygate-trump-russia-spy-stefan-halper-fbi-explained.

[11]  Chicago Tribune, “Giuliani:  Trump wants briefing on classified info shared with lawmakers” by Jonathan Lemire and Eric Tucker, 5/25/18, http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-giuliani-trump-russia-investigation-20180525-story.html.

[12]  Washington Post, “White House lawyer’s presence at briefings on FBI’s Russia source roils lawmakers” by Matt Zapotosky, et al, 5/24/18, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/after-day-of-negotiations-democrats-and-republicans-will-be-briefed-on-secret-fbi-source-who-aided-russia-probe/2018/05/24/2eddf548-5f44-11e8-b2b8-08a538d9dbd6_story.html?utm_term=.42e4b9c17fd0.

[13]  Mother Jones, “The New York Times by Madison Pauly, 5/19/18, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/05/the-new-york-times-just-revealed-a-second-trump-tower-meeting/.

[14]  US News, “Ka-Ching” by Robert Schlesinger, https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2018-03-05/how-is-donald-trump-profiting-from-the-presidency-let-us-count-the-ways.

[15]  CheatSheet, “How Trump Is Making Money in the White House, and  Why Nobody Will Stop Him” by Sam Becker, 5/3/18, https://www.cheatsheet.com/money-career/trump-profiting-presidency.html/?a=viewall.

[16]  The Atlantic, “America fails the ‘Rule of Law’ Test” by Conor Friedersdorf, 7/11/14, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/07/how-america-fails-the-rule-of-law-test/374274/.

[17]  USA Today, “Trump is the best friend the religious right ever had in the Oval Office” by Mark Rozell, 1/31/18, https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2018/01/31/donald-trump-best-friend-religious-right-ever-had-oval-office-mark-rozell-column/1075073001/.

[18]  US Dept. of Health and Human Services, “HHS Announces New Conscience and Religious Freedom Division”, 1/18/18, https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2018/01/18/hhs-ocr-announces-new-conscience-and-religious-freedom-division.html.

[19]  Fox News, “Why Trump’s promise to move US Embassy to Jerusalem is so controversial” by Kaitlyn Schallhorn, 5/14/18, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/05/14/why-trumps-promise-to-move-us-embassy-to-jerusalem-is-so-controversial.html.

[20]  Gospel Way, “Does the End Justify the Means in Religion?  Shall We Do Evil that Good May Come?” by David Pratte, 2009, https://www.gospelway.com/bible/end_justifies_means.php.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  https://avoicereclaimed.com

18 Comments
  1. I feel the Democrats should concentrate on the upcoming elections rather than using their energy complaining about 2 years ago. Why doesn’t Congress get down to the work at hand – running the government, passing bills, etc instead of playing the Dem vs. Rep game day in and day out? Don’t get me wrong, the Reps are at fault as well.

    • I think both parties have forgotten they are Americans first. Of course, the nation’s problems are not confined to government alone. We have turned our backs on God as a society, and no longer adhere to Judeo-Christian values. There are far-reaching implications from that. Thanks for stopping by, GP!

  2. Personally, I think the whole fiasco is embarrassing!

  3. Did Edward Gibbon ever mention that abortion nearly forced Rome into extinction?
    I was reading that a pregnant woman was not appealing to them.. but the king was forced to decree that woman were not to abort because of population decline..
    On another note, I would have voted for Ben Carson, he seemed genuine..
    I could not vote for Hillary because of the continued charity fraud.. the back story is very sad..
    No man but God can make America great again 🙂

  4. exiled in Babylon permalink

    extremely poor article ignoring a mountain of scandalous evidence against the hardcore evil of the Clintons, DNC, and deep state. Go to SGT Report on Youtube before they too are censored by Google.

    • You are perfectly entitled to your opinion. This is not, however, a defense of the Clintons. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the Clintons. Former Pres. Bill Clinton lost any respect I may have had for him w/ the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Hillary’s arrogance has been off-putting from the outset. Apart from everything else, their foundation was mired in corruption. I refer you to my post “Unleashed” dated 8/14/16 https://alawyersprayers.com/2016/08/14/unleashed/.

  5. This is such a powerful article Anna! Yes!! And amen. I wish more of us wrote this way. Even though Western Europe and Canada are very secular I find they are much more appealing to me than just a few years ago. I love my country but…..I often think about moving.
    I read an article on the best countries to raise children and most of them are Scandinavian. Italy and Ireland were way up at the top of the list. The U.S.? At 49 or 50, next to Russia -strange isn’t it? Some Asian countries were also higher. Homicides, lack of access to health care and a number of other criteria were all factored in.
    And I would prefer living in place without gun violence. No country is perfect but the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with assault rifles. I am sure our founding fathers would completely and utterly reject such nonsense.
    Unfortunately our country is not safe, on so many different levels.

  6. You know that I have great respect for what you do and what you write, but I date the decline of the U. S. to 2009, with the Obama administration’s refusal to abide by the rule of law. Obama and Eric Holder’s turned our government, in essence, into a mafia-like organization for the purposes of the furtherance of their agendas. Obama’s famous line “I have a pen and a phone” was representative of his contempt for the rule of law.

    • I agree completely that politicians of both parties have contributed to this slide.

      • Text does not communicate love very well but instead makes everything written sound angry. I am not at all angry (wait… when did I take my meds?) Please see the below through

        :>) :>) :>) :>):>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>):>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>):>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>) :>)

        Matthew 7 talks about removing the log from my eye in order to see and remove the speck in my brothers eye. I understand that to mean that I stop condemning my brother’s “fault” and see his need. Then I work with him to meet that need.

        You have rightfully condemned the Christians for being complicit with the down-turning of the United States. And every group that did not oppose Obama and Hillary before him are guilty. Every one that does not oppose abortion is guilty. Every one who hurls negative comments toward a woman entering an abortion clinic is guilty. Every rich man that pays low wages is guilty. Every poor man that votes to tax the rich disproportionately is guilty. Every one who votes for a politician that votes an unbalanced budget to get money for his district is guilty.

        I am guilty.

        How bout you?

        Now that we have identified who’s at fault let’s remove our condemnation and see the need.

        Conservative Christians were faced with voting for Hillary; who would have restricted religious rights, and killed unborn babies; or voting for a loud, braggart who would protect unborn babies and protect religious rights.

        I put my job (mental health worker) on the line (we have had millions of dollars of cuts since Trump) when I voted for the protection of unborn babies (“for” Trump). I feel that the most helpless in the world are the unborn. Even more helpless than my clients and my family and my self.

        That is my need. To decide what is most important and to act on it. Even if I do not have a good choice available.

        What are the needs of the other groups?

        What are your needs?

        How can we meet each other’s needs?

      • To be clear, I do not disagree w/ anything you have said. Our Christian obligation is far larger than any mere political allegiance. It calls on us to oppose policies that are morally reprehensible, whether or not we voted for the politicians at all levels putting them in place.

      • The canard of a binary choice… Sorry, but as Christians we don’t have to participate in choosing the lesser of two evils. After all the lesser of two evils is still evil. If Christians are shut out of the process by being denied a moral choice, a valid choice is to not participate.

      • Sir, I respectfully disagree. I believe I made the right choice in the context I was given. Thank you for commenting. I appreciate your opinion.

  7. I absolutely agree with you. And I have been negligent in opposing Trump’s policies that are wrong. I thank you for waking me up to that. Clear wrongs such as taking children away from parents needed to be opposed with all available influence, not just among my friends, And I have not done that. Thank you for your post and comments :>)

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