"So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause."
January 31-February 1, 2018 -- Trump's desired rump parliament
January 31-February 1, 2018 -- Trump's desired rump parliament
Donald Trump, like other autocrats, clearly rejects the trappings of a democracy. Trump has demanded total loyalty from the Department of Justice and security apparatuses like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and he has set about on a course to purge them of anyone who fails to toe his political line. Trump also rejects the independence of the federal courts and has sought to pack federal benches with unqualified sycophants.
An independent and co-equal legislative branch, crafted by the founders of the United States as a check on the powers of the presidency, is also something that gets under Trump's skin. Republican senators and representatives who so wildly cheered Trump's nationalistic and jingoistic State of the Union address remind one of the utterance of the character Senator Padme Amidala in Star Wars's Revenge of the Sith. Padme, witnessing the reception of her fellow senators to Chancellor Palpatine's plan to seize power and change the Galactic Republic to an imperial dictatorship, declares, "So this is how liberty dies . . . with thunderous applause." Those Republicans and even a few Democratic quislings who applauded and cheered the autocrat Trump during the State of the Union address have become witting participants in Trump's desire to create a rump parliament in the place of the U.S. Congress.
The term "rump parliament" comes from the latter days of the Second English Civil War. In December 1648, Colonel Thomas Pride blocked entry to the English Parliament of 231 supporters of the Treaty of Newport, which was designed to restore King Charles I to the throne. Only those members of parliament who opposed the treaty were permitted to sit in parliament as virtual rubber stamps for the tyrannical Commonwealth of England, a dictatorship that would soon fall under the total control of the theocratic despot Oliver Cromwell. In 1653, even the rump parliamentarians became a hindrance to Cromwell, so he had the rump parliament dissolved.
The English rump parliament has been copied by dictatorships around the world. These "remnant" legislatures, which are kept in place following a seizure of power by a tyrant, are designed to give the appearance of democratic rule when, in fact, they are nothing more than window dressing contrivances and applause machines for dictators and autocrats.
Rump parliaments, or undemocratic legislatures, have existed in several Communist countries and fascist dictatorships. Perhaps the most undemocratic of these is the Supreme People's Assembly of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Whenever this North Korean rump parliament has met, it was to wildly cheer and applaud speeches by the three generations of Kim family leaders: Kim Il Sung, Kim Jong Il, and Kim Jong Un. Donald Trump can only be envious of the Kim's for having such a compliant legislature.
After the 1973 Chilean coup by General Augusto Pinochet the military junta disposed of the bicameral Chilean Senate and Chamber of Deputies altogether. The junta served as the executive and legislature until 1990. The pre-1997 Mexican presidents, all members of the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), relied on a subservient legislature to carry out their policies.
Today the world is creeping toward a situation where rump parliaments are the rule rather than the exception. Trump's friend Rodrigo Duterte, the authoritarian president of the Philippines, enjoys wide support in both houses of congress. Duterte's over-arching executive orders have been accepted prima facie by the Philippines Congress. Trump has copied Duterte in issuing various executive orders to circumvent the U.S. Congress. Duterte drafts his executive orders with advice from a very small group of aides. Similarly, Trump relies on such fascist-inclined advisers, including white supremacist Richard Spencer's friend, Stephen Miller, to write his own executive orders.
Trump recently hosted the president-dictator of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, at the White House. Nazarbayev, a veteran of Soviet rump parliament politics, enjoys his own rubber stamp bicameral legislature in Kazakhstan. Trump must have been envious of his Kazakh counterpart during their White House sit down. Nazarbayev never has to worry about explaining his decisions or his dubious finances -- some of which are connected to Trump's money laundering activities -- to the Kazakh Majilis, the lower house, or the upper house Senate.
During his meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump would have been enthused to learn that Kagame appoints 8 members of the upper house Rwandan Senate, with the remaining 18 "elected" through the subterfuge of Kagame's virtual one-party state. Kagame also ensures that he is in control of the lower house Chamber of Deputies. 41 of its 80 members are Kagame loyalists. The remaining members represent a Rwandan "rump" opposition of mainly Kagame supporters.
Another autocratic hero of Trump, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, relies on support for his dictatorial presidency that is conferred by the 316 Justice and Development Party (AKP) members of the Turkish National Assembly. Since the aborted 2016 military coup against Erdogan, the opposition parties have been forced into acquiescing to many of Erdogan's autocratic policies.
The Inter-Parliamentary Union's 2017 report states that cases of members of parliament (MPs) being killed, attacked, intimidated or jailed for their political views or differences are on an upswing in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. Of 459 attacks on MPs, 369 were directed at members of opposition parties. With Trump's rhetoric in tweets and speeches referring to those in the Democratic Party, some within his own Republican Party, and members of the press as "enemies" and "obstructionists," it is only a matter of time before law makers and the media are subjected to physical attacks from Trump's anti-democratic loyalists. One neo-Nazi has already been arrested for threatening a terrorist attack against CNN's studios in Atlanta. Most cases of planned terrorist attacks in the United States, according to FBI statistics, originate with far-right groups. Also known as "Trump's base," these right-wing terrorists would gladly help bring about the dissolution of popularly-elected legislatures in the United States and their replacement with "pro-Trump rumps."