The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday May 21st

Opinion: What will happen to the guards of democracy?

In the United States, we talk a lot about the right-left political spectrum. What we more often neglect to mention, though, is the full dimensionality of our politics: the way we rely on our parties to balance the extremes of authoritarian and libertarian models of government.

Though we all register our preferences — one way or another — by voting for Republican, Democrat, Green or Libertarian candidates, most of us are silently glad that we have a multi-party system that keeps the other parties in check. For instance, the conservatives are expected to keep spending in check, while we look to liberals to push any government for equal opportunity and social justice. Even for those parties that we don’t cast a vote for, we still generally benefit from their presence in the political process.

But what happens to a country when one party abandons its post entirely? The Grand Old Party has, for years, served as our democracy’s police on oversized government and the chief activist group for limited government intervention in the lives of everyday citizens. For the past half century, it has argued for the merits of limited government, taking on the mantle of the libertarian politics. Whether or not the party has upheld the ideal of protecting individual liberties at the hand of our government, almost everyone would agree that its rhetoric and moral stance has served a purpose.

In the age of President Trump, those small government advocates have fallen silent. As our chief executive issues executive orders that disrupt families of legal residents, orders the construction of an irresponsibly expensive border wall and threatens the free press, those that we rely upon to call out governmental overreach say nothing. Instead, they vote along party lines and openly praise these big-government infringements on personal liberties.

In this landscape, who is our guard against encroaching authoritarianism? What can we expect from members of Congress who fail to live up to their promises of checking executive power?

Yes, liberals are decrying these strong-handed actions of the federal government to alter and dictate the lives of free individuals in the United States. But we need more than that. The fight against Trump’s policies is not partisan politics — it is, to a huge degree, a push-back against authoritarian impulses.

The GOP cannot, at will, abandon its post as the watchdog of personal liberty as a would-be authoritarian wields the powers of the executive branch under the Republican party’s name. At least, it cannot do so without throwing our two-party system into tumult and threatening the future of our democratic process.


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