By Harry Colbert, Jr., Managing Editor
I make no bones about it … when it comes to politics I am left leaning to far left leaning in my views.
In every presidential election since I have been eligible to vote – 1988 – I have voted for the Democrat. Same with the most local races too, though not exclusively. A friend in Missouri ran for statewide office as a Republican and I was happy to vote for him. Though we differed on many issues, I believed him to be an honorable person who would not place party lines over the overall good of the people. Within my core group of friends at least one is a Republican (and others who are certainly moderate). We argue politics while at the same time celebrating our wonderful friendships.
I believe most Republicans to be wrong on issues of civil rights, voting rights, the economy, fair housing, education, deregulation, marriage equality, abortion, climate change and the list goes on. I’m happy to respectfully discuss and debate any of these topics with Republicans. And afterward, we can hang out and have drinks together and agree that the Vikings totally collapsed … again, the Timberwolves are a point guard away from being a real contender, winter in Minnesota is way too cold, crab legs are the best thing since sliced bread, Justin Bieber and Young Thug are abominations to music and we can mutually wish to never hear another word about anyone with the last name Kardashian.
I preface all that to say this. My issues with (as of Jan. 20) President Donald Trump is not that he is a Republican; it is with him as a person who is not suited for – nor qualified to be – in the office of the presidency. Though that has been my belief since day one (and the belief of at least 62 to 67 percent of Americans in polls taken just four months ago), this commentary is penned on the heels of Trump’s first press conference since winning the Electoral College vote (yet losing the popular vote by some 2.9 million votes). But to call the Jan. 11 event a press conference is in itself misleading and insulting to members of the press. After all, how can you have a press conference if you exclude questions from … the press?
That’s what happened when Trump went on a tirade against CNN. And when a reporter … a respected reporter with the network … tried to question the president, not only was he berated and not allowed to ask his question, he was warned that if he continued to attempt to ask a question he would be removed.
And folks, that’s how it all starts.
In the same assembly (I refuse to legitimize what I saw as a press conference) where Trump talked about consulting on a Supreme Court nominee with the Federalist Society – a group that believes in the most literal interpretation of the Constitution – Trump trampled upon the document’s very first amendment. For those less educated, allow me to present the First Amendment.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
A fifth grader in social studies can tell you the meaning of the First Amendment, yet our soon-to-be president either has no concept of, or no respect for, the amendment; and therefore the Constitution itself. For a president in a free and open society (as we are for now) to threaten to remove a reporter because he doesn’t like the legitimate questions being raised – questions about Russian involvement into America’s election – it is two to three steps of the way towards the demise of democracy in the land … a land that has up until this point been across the globe the standard-bearer for democracy.
This cannot be the new America in which we live. This is not China. This is not North Korea. This is not (yet) Russia. With President Trump our democracy … our basic freedom is at stake. This cannot go unnoticed and it cannot go unchecked.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
Those are the words of Martin Niemöller talking about those who stood idly by as Adolph Hitler and the Nazis rose to power in Germany killing up to six million human beings … human beings … simply because of their religious faith.
Earlier during the spectacle that Trump called a press conference he said, “That’s something that Nazi Germany would have done and did do,” in one of his many tantrums – this one maligning the United States intelligence community. Sadly, when talking about Trump the parallels to Nazi Germany are eerily similar.
In order for there to have been a Holocaust there had to have been a time before it. It is within that time that reason could have prevailed. It is within this time that we must vehemently object to any further slides down the slippery slope towards the collapse of democracy in this land.
Before I’m a liberal or Democrat I’m an American. Before others are conservative or Republican, they too are Americans. Collectively we should all stand up for America and the principles for which we say it stands. If not, there’ll be no one left when they come for you.