The Nunes Memo has proven to be extremely partisan and misleading, but the point that seems to be shocking the Democratic Party the most is how much their Republican counterparts seem to be willing to play along. At CPAC in 2017, Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus sat on the stage and Bannon informed the American people that the intention of the administration was the “deconstruction of administrative state”. He was clear that the process of, as he described, taking the country back would be a fight. The Nunes Memo is the most crucial step in dismantling that administrative state which has created a sense of structure and stability in America’s republic for so long.
The United States has not been on the other side of despotism and has been blessed with the freedoms that are established in our constitution. Although members of the republic have had to fight to be included in those rights over time, the structure of that document has served the nation well. The two most crucial pillars that are holding up the democracy are the free press and the balance of powers through coequal branches of government. Unfortunately, a small group of the nation has turned a blind eye to the precedent that is being set by the Trump administration and therefore could be watching those pillars crumble before their eyes. They shout “fake news” without knowing how much worse a state-sponsored press is. They cheer deregulation without knowing that the regulations were created to reign in the powers of the greedy and wealthy. We only need to look back to see what could lie ahead now.
History is hindsight, and hindsight is 20/20. We study figures like Hitler and Stalin as villains because we look back at the totality of what they accomplished. Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century reminds us that Hitler was elected due to an economic paranoia and propensity towards nationalism, but there had to be agreement for his rise to power. He worked hard to discredit the press, gaslight the public and create dysfunction in the judicial system before the Reichstag Fire made the public so fearful that their civil liberties were easily stripped in the name of protecting the state. We see Putin as a dictator, but the skillful confusion that he created over time has allowed him to have high approvals from his own people no matter how much death he has caused or liberties he has stripped from his people. He rose to power and was seen as a savior for Russia who could create stability after Yeltsin’s failed attempts at creating democracy.
The Russia probe has become America’s Reichstag Fire and Trump has taken notes from both Hitler and Putin’s playbooks. He has told thousands of lies, even lies about things that don’t matter like crowd sizes and television ratings or electoral wins. This is not without purpose, it is to create an environment in which his supporters do not care about the content of his words and rather focus on the campaign promises that he fulfills. The Trump administration has convinced a portion of the country that the “Deep State” is out to get Republicans and that Democrats created the problem. This is to eliminate any hope for bipartisanship. He continues to discuss Hillary Clinton to remind his base that his presidency kept them from the woman who they hate and to add to his argument that the “Deep State” was out to help her and hurt him.
Regardless of the intentions of House Republicans, the fact is that Trump supporters no longer support or trust the FBI as an institution due to his gaslighting. If they did, they would be concerned that the Trump-selected director had “grave concerns” about the memo’s release. His supporters are convinced that the “Deep State” is out to get their president, illegal immigrants are pouring in to murder citizens, legal immigrants are out to get their jobs, and our immigration system and intelligence communities are not capable of protecting us from terror threats. Meanwhile they have not noticed that their water and air are less protected than they have been in years, they missed the FBI report that stated white supremacists caused more American deaths on our soil in 2017 than any domestic group on their watch list, and they are happy to take their bump in pay from the tax cut and let the Trump team do the rest.
America had not yet experienced a severe regime change and looking at history has not prepared the country for being able to recognize it while it’s happening. On Feb. 2, 2018, the nation got to see a point in American history that we will later look back on as the day that the administrative state was deconstructed. The sad part is that we were warned well in advance, and the Republican Party stood by and allowed it until the day that they decided to be complicit in it. I plead with members of the party who are choosing to retire that if they know how dangerous these moves by the president are, they need to stay and work with Democrats to right the ship. Otherwise, it could be years before the land of the free and home of the brave will be able to recognize itself again.