THE ATLANTIC: President Donald Trump’s open admission yesterday that he’s sabotaging the Postal Service to improve his election prospects crystallizes a much larger dynamic: He’s waging an unprecedented campaign to weaponize virtually every component of the federal government to partisan advantage.
Trump is systematically enlisting agencies, including the Postal Service, Census Bureau, Department of Justice, and Department of Homeland Security, that traditionally have been considered at least somewhat insulated from political machinations to reward his allies and punish those he considers his enemies. He is razing barriers between his personal and political interests and the core operations of the federal government to an extent that no president has previously attempted, a wide range of public-administration experts have told me. […]
The deployment of federal agents this summer may represent the most tangible manifestation of Trump’s determination to wield the federal government as a weapon against his political enemies. Light, who has studied the federal government’s operations for decades and is usually no alarmist, describes it as “shocking.” Sending those assets into cities over the objection of their mayors, he told me, “does resemble the early days of a police state, I’m sorry to say it.” […]
Rosenberg framed Trump’s actions in dramatic terms. Trump, in his combative speeches around the July 4 holiday, claimed that “far-left fascism” is trying to “overthrow” and “destroy” American “civilization”—allegations that could justify almost any level of “authoritarian crackdown by the government of the United States against the president’s domestic political opponents,” Rosenberg argues. “We are watching an authoritarian in action before our eyes. And we haven’t woken up to the significance of what we are seeing, frankly.”
Those are accusations that have rarely been directed at an American president. But as students of democracy point out, the pattern of subordinating all government operations to the interests of one party, and even one individual, is a core characteristic of illiberal and authoritarian countries. Shaub, like Rosenberg, sees exactly that end point. “I think if he’s reelected, the republic may die—and I’m having to force myself to say ‘may’ so I don’t sound like a complete alarmist,” Shaub, now a senior adviser to the government-watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said starkly. “But I don’t see how the government can survive four more years of this … Whatever your worst fears are for whatever comes next aren’t as bad as it will be, by a long shot.” MORE