My Turn: New Hampshire delegation must unite against escalating militarism

  • Federal officers disperse Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse on Wednesday in Portland, Ore. AP

For the Monitor
Published: 7/26/2020 7:00:26 AM

President Donald Trump has launched a large volume of attacks on a diversity of issues, including immigration, the environment, and civil rights. Each requires our attention, but none so much as the rapidly escalating militarism that the administration admits it is now planning and launching.

The nation now faces a fundamental threat to its very core: democracy. This threat transcends political party, state borders, policy perspective, even the priorities of issue-based institutions’ priorities.

Under the darkness of the COVID-19 pandemic and citizen protest, President Trump has initiated a most dangerous attack on the very fundamental principles of democracy, risking the future of the country. The acts of placing ICE in Chicago and whisking private citizens off the streets of Oregon, while threatening to expand a federal force presence to the streets of New York and other states across the nation must be stopped now.

Never before have federal troops been deployed at this scale and in such a blatant political assault aimed at the authority of state governors and mayors of the opposing party. Further, utilizing ICE as a military tool to target communities of color and shut down civil liberties should evoke a spine-tingling fear for every citizen.

All the signs of a national crisis are here. Vans carrying citizens away. People of color being designated an internal threat. Armed militias, at least of a certain racial profile, sanctioned. The groundwork for rejecting election outcomes is being laid. Affiliation with foreign dictatorial regimes is solidifying. By proxy, a congressional party is prioritizing retaining power over the nation’s stability.

Some will respond that comparison to previous fascist countries is inherently hyperbolic, a dog whistle for the left. Those voices should be extremely careful, as should the left-leaning who claim “it could never happen here.”

We must remember that fascist rule is not birthed sui generis. It grows like a cancer. The German Weimar Republic did not crumble in a day nor did Mussolini press his foot on the neck of Italy in a brash moment, out of thin air. It took time. It took a devolution of institutions, the co-opting of the military, a failed parliament, the sanctioning of internal military action.

The unavoidable truth is that when the military is utilized as a police force, the people tend to become the enemy. When the people become the enemy, reversing the tide of fascism becomes a monumental task.

Fortunately, we have not crossed the point of no return. The nation has the strongest nongovernmental organizations in history, an important defense against government overreach. Our national structure should empower state leaders, from governors to mayors – even local police chiefs – to set aside their differences until this most dangerous threat is excised.

What does this mean in practical terms? Republican and Democratic governors and congressional leaders must come together to defend the sovereignty of their states, regardless of party affiliation. Congress must vote – and now – to block the Trump administration’s dangerous actions. This does not and should not become an abandonment of party differences. That also would be a rejection of our system of democracy. Diversity of opinion is the cornerstone of democracy and America’s greatest promise to itself and the world.

Today, we must call on all our leaders to stand together to protect that promise. This can begin right here in the Granite State by Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and Gov. Chris Sununu setting an example by acting together.

Sen. Shaheen sits on the Armed Service Committee, Sen. Hassan on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affair Committee. Both are critically relevant positions. As a Republican governor in a state that prides itself on its freedoms, Gov. Sununu has the particular responsibility and opportunity not only to speak out for his state, but to organize a multi-party barrier through the National Governors Association.

We must call on Gov. Sununu to join with Republican Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Phil Scott of Vermont, as well as Democratic governors, to stand together for the rights of our states.

These acts of militarism are not beyond our control to stop. They can be stopped by concrete steps by our duly elected representatives now. We call on our congressional leaders, Gov. Sununu, and our colleagues in other states to take action now to return our country to its ideals, including states’ rights, basic civil liberties, and diversity of opinion.

They must act together before the knocking on the door metastasizes into what we all fear: a United States without the protections that democracy was designed to afford.

(Franz Matzner of Hopkinton worked as a political strategist for nonprofit organizations in Washington, D.C., for 15 years, holds a degree in German Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, and is currently parenting twin 8-year-old boys.)

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