Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Trump has exposed the weaknesses of our much-ballyhooed system of checks and balances. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Trump has exposed the weaknesses of our much-ballyhooed system of checks and balances. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Pay Attention to the Risk of Martial Law

The latest ravings of our tyrannical President highlight a true threat to democracy.

Matt Rothschild

 by The Progressive

History will record that on Friday, December 18, Donald Trump held a discussion in the Oval Office about imposing martial law.

Martial law!

To even consider imposing martial law should be anathema to anyone who respects democracy and is sworn to uphold the Constitution.

Disgraced General Michael Flynn was in the Oval Office urging Trump to engage in this grotesquely unconstitutional and anti-constitutional maneuver. So was Trump’s lawyer, Sidney Powell.

This will leave the ultimate stain on Trump’s reputation, along with the blood of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who died of COVID-19 due to his negligence and narcissism.

To even consider imposing martial law should be anathema to anyone who respects democracy and is sworn to uphold the Constitution.

And to consider it for the sole and selfish purpose of holding on to power marks a new low, one that even Richard Nixon didn’t stoop to.

And let’s remember, Trump did this after his defeat was upheld in every state court and every federal court, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

Outrageous as it is, Trump’s consideration of martial law hasn’t received the attention and denunciation it deserves and demands.

Republican officials again have remained cravenly quiet.

And with the exception of CNN, most of the media have given it only faint coverage.

That’s a huge mistake.

When democracy is under all-out threat, minimizing the risk is a dangerous course of action.

Trump probably won’t be able to pull it off. His chief of staff reportedly argued strenuously against it, and military leaders have shown no inclination to go along—quite the contrary.

But the very idea that he is considering doing this should put all of us on our guard.

And even if he fails, he is setting the table for the next narcissist or fascist who would ride into the Oval Office.

Trump has exposed the weaknesses of our much-ballyhooed system of checks and balances.

Assuming that Trump does leave office on January 20, Congress will need to pass laws, on the double, that would prevent a future President from even considering martial law.

One would be to require approval of Congress before the President could issue such a declaration. But there are others. Chief among these are repealing the Insurrection Act, which lets the President put federal troops in our streets; repealing the National Emergencies Act, which gives the President enormous powers when he or she unilaterally declares an emergency; and overturning National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 51, which gives the President even more powers after he or she unilaterally declares a “catastrophic emergency.”

In all likelihood (but not 100 percent guaranteed), Trump will be gone on January 20.

But the risk of a future tyrant will remain.

This article first appeared in the Wisconsin Examiner.

© 2021 The Progressive
Matt Rothschild

Matt Rothschild

Matt Rothschild is the executive director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. Prior to joining the Democracy Campaign at the start of 2015, Matt worked at The Progressive Magazine for 32 years. For most of those, he was the editor and publisher of The Progressive.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

UN Agency Condemns 'Homophobic and Racist' Monkeypox Reporting

"Stigma hurts everyone," says one ranking UNAIDS official. "Shared science and social solidarity help everyone."

Brett Wilkins ·

'Tax the Rich,' Say Millionaire Activists Protesting at Davos Amid Record Wealth, Inequality

"As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of wealth my whole life I know how skewed our economy is and I cannot continue to sit back and wait for someone, somewhere, to do something," said one demonstrator.

Brett Wilkins ·

Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·

Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·

Omar Leads Charge Against Baby Formula Monopolies Amid US Shortage

Democrats urge the FTC to probe "any unfair or unsustainable practices, like deceptive marketing, price gouging, and stock buybacks, that may be weakening our nutritional formula supply."

Jessica Corbett ·

Common Dreams Logo