Colson: How close are we to martial law? |

Colson: How close are we to martial law?

John Colson
Hit and Run

Over the course of last weekend, I found myself pondering the question: “How close are we to martial law in this country?”

President-elect Donald J. Trump (or King Donald, as he may soon be called) continued his scorched-earth assault on aspects of the federal government, including his insistence that his cabinet nominees should be confirmed by the U.S. Senate regardless of whether they have been fully vetted for potential conflicts of interest, criminal past behavior and other possibly disqualifying attributes.

Republicans in North Carolina, where a Democrat unseated a Republican incumbent governor in an election last year, responded by immediately moving to strip newly elected Gov. Roy Cooper of as many of his statutory powers as they could manage. Almost immediately, a county judge in North Carolina ruled that the state legislature had overstepped its bounds in their move to emasculate Cooper.

In cities across the U.S., tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets with their objections to the election of Trump, who lost the popular vote in November by more than 2.8 million votes, according to a final tally by the nonpartisan Cook Report. Hillary Clinton raked in a total of 48 percent of the popular vote, while Trump garnered only 46 percent but “won” the election by virtue of the flawed and highly controversial Electoral College system.

After the 115th U.S. Congress was sworn in last week, the Republican majority’s first two moves were:

1) Try to gut the Congressional Office of Ethics in a bald-faced effort to do away with its own ethical watchdogs, a move that even Trump could not stomach and which he condemned in a Twitter-storm that apparently convinced the Republican majority to back off. The Republican move generated still more protests in the streets, but Trump has either ignored or ridiculed any of his critics.

2) Rammed through a rules change that makes it easier to give away federal lands to the states and, most likely, to the private industries that make obscene profits from exploitation of such publicly owned resources as timber, oil and gas and others.

On top of all that, Trump seems poised to reverse pledges he made during the campaign about leaving alone the essential props of our country’s social security safety net — I’m talking about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — which even if left alone are barely adequate to the task of keeping afloat millions of poor people, senior citizens and others who would drown in the sea of poverty and die for a lack of health care if these programs were not around.

There are reports that the Trump transition team has managed to file “omnibus blocking permits” restricting public access to certain public spaces that were to have been venues for the Women’s March on Washington (originally tagged the Million Women’s March but renamed when critics said that name was a ripoff of an African American Women’s march in 1997).

According to a Jan. 9 article on the Crooks & Liars website, Trump’s team has blocked public access to large stretches of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, big swaths of the National Mall and other venues that traditionally always have been open to public gatherings, including protests.

The upshot of all this is that we are on the verge of not simply having a president who was not elected by a majority of the voters who cast ballots in November’s election (not to mention the fact that Trump’s “mandate” rests on a mere 24 percent of the eligible electorate), but we may soon be living in a nation where the president is actively stifling two of our basic Constitutional rights — the rights to free speech and freedom of assembly.

That’s right, two of our most basic freedoms, outlined in the First Amendment, meaning they were at the head of the line as the founding fathers moved to enshrine certain concepts in the Constitution, are now under attack by the man who soon will be our president.

I’m growing tired of hearing from Trump’s supporters, sycophants and toadies that we “lost the election and should just shut up about it,” because Clinton actually won the election. The only reason Trump is about to be sworn into office is that the Republican party has managed to engineer the electoral rules in the states (it’s called gerrymandering, look it up) in ways that they hope will prevent the Democrats from ever taking back control of the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court.

By any normal measure, winning the popular vote by 2.8 million should mean something, but democracy is not in keeping with the aims of the Republican party. Power is all the Republican party wants, and while their party happens to have been hijacked by Trump, it is clear that they are perfectly happy to let him do his damnedest to turn the U.S. into just another oligarchy in a world where the super rich own everything or, if they don’t own it, control everything.

But, to return to my initial query, it is not unlikely that every move made by Trump and his minions will be loudly protested by his opponents, who happen to make up the majority of our citizenry and have proven themselves willing to hit the streets.

And when that happens, what do you think will be Trump’s reaction?

My prediction is he will have a massive hissy fit and call out the National Guard to suppress the protests.

And do you recall what happened the last time we had mass protests suppressed by the National Guard?

Think of the words “Kent State” or the lyrics to the Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young song, “Four Dead in Ohio.” Think back to May 4, 1970, when four Kent State University students were killed and nine others wounded by gunfire coming from the pistols and shotguns of the Ohio National Guard.

That protest was against the war in Vietnam; the protests in our near future will be about the war our president has declared on the rest of us.

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