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How the Caligula Presidency is Backstabbing American Democracy How the Caligula Presidency is Backstabbing American Democracy
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-08-02 11:16:38
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“Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom”
--Thomas Jefferson

Democracy, usually associated with liberty, has a long history going back to ancient Athens. Within two thousand plus years of its theoretical development and practice we have learned much. We have learned is that it is a rather fragile institution. It can easily be subverted and even destroyed by those so bent.

Democracy is in fact measured by the barometer of human history and culture, what today goes by the name of cultural anthropology, and by that standards many democracies have enjoyed a rather short political life span. Great empires can often be measured by millennia. One thinks of the Roman empire, or the Byzantine empire, or the Ottoman empire. Democracies are usually measured in centuries, which may seem like a long time but in the larger historical scheme of things within the history of mankind, it can be compared to the blink of an eye.


There is a mass psychosis taking place as we speak. Many citizens have become used to a mad president. It has become the new normal; so the slow erosion of democratic norms has gone almost unnoticed as the vast majority of people are still deluding themselves that we have a legal, democratically elected president who governs a vast complex democracy legally and fairly. That’s the delusion which couldn’t be further from the truth.

What seems a veritable requirement for stable, durable democracies, if they are to survive for at least a few centuries, is the commitment of its citizens to the rule of law, even when their preferred policies lose at the ballot box. Indeed, what separates democracy from dictatorship or authoritarian governments (such as the ones presently existing in Russia and Turkey) is the settling of differences via ballot box and agreed upon democratic processes rather than through Machiavellians power grabbing and sheer violence.

As we well know, even though the Republicans now have the political power, and are in control of the three branches of government (the judiciary, the legislative and the executive) as provided by the US constitution envisioned by America’s founding fathers, they have been unable, so far to repeal the Affordable Care Act which they have contemptuously dubbed “Obama Care.” Optimistically, this could be seen as the winning of democracy and the will of the people. But there is more to this story and it is not pretty. For Donald Trump, lest we forget, is a “winner,” his father always reminded him that he was a king and a killer, and so we can hardly expect that he will let this loss stand. While it may be true that Trump, dumb ass that he is, hardly understands the Affordable Care Act, he is a master at preying upon resentments of class, race, ethnicity, religiosity. It is those characteristics which have propelled him and his family into the White House where he and the family consiglieri Sicilian style (Bannon and Scaramucci, who just resigned, being two of them) rule unopposed,  at least so far. But the sheriff (Muller) is busy investigating glaring irregularities. The results of that investigation will constitute part two of the Circus scene currently going on.

Be that as it may, the repealing of “Obamacare,” which Trump has called “a nightmare,” remains one of Trump’s priorities and crucial rallying cries to his equally deranged base, which by all accounts constitutes one third of the electorate. That’s why I call it a mass psychosis. It resembles in some respects the one which took place in Germany after Hitler was democratically elected Chancellor of Germany.


As Trump has already revealed the strategy now is to let “Obamacare” implode, never mind the welfare of millions of Americans. He will delay subsidies to deny participation to some insurance companies; he will fail to enforce the individual mandate, and he will ignore the failure of any state to comply. All done with the aim of not being perceived as a loser.

But there is more: he will attempt to strengthen his “base,” or the third of the country that misguidedly continues to support him, who believe that he and them are the victims of a liberal conspiracy. He will incrementally increase the mobilization of that base on a Republican party that is progressively distancing itself from him. One has to keep in mind that for Trump winning is everything, at any cost, even the destruction of established democratic processes.

Here are some of the ways by which Democracy is being stabbed in the back: Trump is demanding the obliteration of the filibuster, an important tool of democracy, so that anything that fancies him can be passed with a bare majority. This follows the disturbing trend of an increasing percentage of Americans regarding the other party as a fundamental threat to the country. Already in 2016 35% of Republicans saw the Democratic Party as a “threat,” and 27% had the same view. Those percentages are increasing as we speak.

In reality the common threat is to the democratic process as a whole. If one regards the other party as a threat, one is unlikely to accept democratic outcomes where the other party prevails, be the decision not to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or the outcome of an election. When large number of citizens are unwilling to accept democratic outcomes deemed illegitimate, democracy’s demise is not far behind. Then the bully president now occupying the White House will be the winner he thinks he is; for he never loses. The great losers will be the American people. I hope I am wrong but I would suggest that we take Jefferson’s advice to heart and remain concerned and vigilant.


Check Dr Emanuel Paparella's EBOOKS
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rose2017-08-03 03:16:31
As usual great writing but I do not agree. We were suppose to open a champagne bottle after Hillary won remember? Can you at least give him a chance to be president. Don't forget elections are only 3 years away. The problem of health care is a worldwide problem but more so in the United states because we have formed an economy around it. You should know Cathy worked for an insurance company. There are no insurance companies in Italy. You can wait three years for an MRI. If you think they are better off think again. I personally believe that Donald Trump is sacrificing much by trying to change a democracy run by Democrats who's only objective is to fill their pockets and through a few bones to the poor so they can feel grateful nd vote for them. Personally I like a president that gets up in the morning and communicates with the people. I like a president that is not a politician. I hope he proves you wrong again when and if he is able to make America great again. You know it's been damaged too much by the Clinton's and the Obamas. I am afraid for the future. I hope you would give me some input on what we should do about Syria Iran and North Korea. Now there is something the world should really worry about not Donald Trump who has raised a family I would be proud of. Till next time your sister who still loves you. Rose

Emanuel Paparella2017-08-03 13:20:06
Dear sister Rose,

Yes, yes, but you must admit that President Trump, so called, looks good in a fascist uniform! Doesn’t he?

I feel somewhat reassured, after what happened to our niece Giovanna and what our so called President has been proposing lately about legal immigration (i.e., that legal green cards be reserved for only those who deserve it and pay through their nose for it, not to speak of admissions to universities, Jared having been admitted to Harvard with poor grades and with millions of dollars donated to the school by his rich father…) I am reassured that you still love me despite the vehement disagreements we have had recently, and that I can expect no knock on my door any time soon to ask where I was born, never mind my naturalized citizenship…because some relative may have reported the fact that I am not overly impressed by the blinding brilliance of this president and am definitely not one of those who thinks that he should be memorialized with his image on Mt. Rushmore together with Washington, Lincoln, and FDR.

But then again, one never knows, after all we have seen that movie before in the Germany of the 30s. Only when it happened to them personally, some of those misguided who went to vote for him, began to realize they had voted for the wrong Chancellor, that they had lost their freedom and that their country and families were in grave peril. Till then they were patriotic Germans shouting “my fatherland, right or wrong.” We know the rest of the story. They say history doesn’t really repeat itself, but it rhymes often enough, and it has lessons to teach to future generation.

Please, stay tuned for an article soon to appear on our great-grandfathers and their legacy to the future generations…I’ll make sure to forward it to you, since you have been talking lately on how proud we should be of our immigrant saga… but you see, the fact is that your grandfather would never have been admitted by a Donald Trump as president in 1902.

Aside from looking good in uniform, and before we open the champagne for being so lucky to have such a president in the White House, whom, as you know, I call Caligula redivivus (another historical lesson to ponder), tell me please which are the great legislative accomplishments of Mr. Trump that we can be proud of as Americans and can showcase the rest of the world? Alas, after the first six crucial months in office, there are none; or as my Irish wife says there is “didly squad.” What he has to show for himself however is quarrels and insults galore, ignorance and arrogance, narcissism, homophobia, transgender phobia, white supremacy, crotch grabbing, otherwise known as “pussy grabbing,” laundering of money via Russia, collusion with it to win an illegitimate election and lose the popular vote, lies, deceptions, otherwise known as “the art of the deal,” greed, lack of transparency when it comes to financial matters, nepotism, the running of the White House as a family business run by a crime family, for a while we had a consigliere known as Scaramucci… all things Mr. Trump and his “loyal” supporters are very proud of.
I am horrified at the thought that my grandchildren will grow up with such an example in the White House, and sorry to say, I am not very proud of those things and of course one can continue loving those people but refuse to admire them; I think they will eventually destroy democracy as we know it in America, and I am sorry to have to have to admit that I have been talking to the wind in trying to persuade such misguided people in my own family, in denial, trapped in their own cocoon of “ alternate reality” watching daily the reality show called “The Apprentice” which is shown daily on TV, especially by Fox News, so called. Sad, but I consider them an embarrassment of sorts, but of course I still love them…

As one president on Rushmore, Jefferson, put it: eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. So, I beseech you, be vigilant. Or even more powerfully, as a wise man in Palestine who went around saying that “I and the Father are one” used to quip: “let those who have ears, let them hear.” Indeed, those who have ears but are deaf will eventually reap the whirlwind for themselves and their descendants. To say it more colloquially: what goes around comes around.

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