During the English Civil War in 1644, speaking to supporters of King Charles I, Paul Gosnold lamented the rise of the Kakistocracy. Those who read former CIA Director John Brennan’s April 2018 tweet to President Trump have probably already looked this word up, but for those who haven’t, a kakistocracy is a ‘government of the worst, most corrupt, and most dishonest.’ Brennan used the word to describe what the Trump Administration is doing to America.
I have the greatest respect for Mr. Brennan and wish to state for the record that he has, in a short tweet, described exactly what is happening to the ‘Land of the Free.’ The turmoil of the past few weeks surrounding the administrations ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards immigrants on the Mexican border, resulting in the separation of over 2,000 children (some infants) from their parents, serves to prove just how right Brennan is in his assessment.
First, a bit about this term’s meaning and origins. It is derived from two Greek words; kakistos, meaning worst, and kratos, meaning rule. In other words, a system of government run by the worst, least qualified, most unscrupulous citizens.
Let the events speak for themselves.
In April, the Trump Administration began a ‘zero tolerance’ policy, the intent of which was to prosecute as many illegal border crossing offenses as possible. Because the Justice Department cannot prosecute children along with their parents, the new policy initiated an upsurge in family separations, with an estimated 2,000 children of all ages being taken away from their detained parent or parents in April and May. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, at a White House briefing maintained that DHS does ‘not have a policy of separating families at the border,’ and while the administration’s policy does not specify separation, the reality is that this is just what happened. Pressed, though, she acknowledged that separation is an inevitable consequence of the policy. Nielsen and other administration officials often cite similar actions by previous administrations, especially the Obama Administration, and blame congress for a law that requires them to do what they do. The difference is that in previous administrations, as odious as the practice is no matter who does it, there were at least guidelines prioritizing deportation actions against gang members, those posing a security risk, and those with felony records. The Trump Administration’s policy has no priorities—everyone caught attempting to cross illegally is swept up in the dragnet. The executive order issued by Trump in January 2017 refers only to ‘criminal offenses’ which can include misdemeanors, such as illegal entry, as well.
In some cases, children separated from parents are placed with relatives in the U.S., but in many, they are held in what amounts to juvenile concentration camps. Some child advocates have reported scenes of children in these facilities crying for their mothers while staff are prohibited from having physical contact with them.
To add insult to injury, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, on national TV, even used a biblical passage to defend the government’s policy—which the homeland secretary had previously stated ‘didn’t exist,’ and which Trump blames on Democrats in congress, saying ‘they gave us that law.’ Several things wrong with this scenario. One, Sessions, tone deaf on issues of race and ethnicity at the best of times, used a biblical passage that was at one time used to justify slavery, and Nielsen can’t seem to get her terminology straight. Trump, as usual, blames someone else for a policy that he, as president, can change with a phone call.
And, speaking of his powers, just days before he issued a vaguely-worded executive order calling for an end to family separations (which failed to address those already separated), he told a reporter, ‘we can’t do it by executive order.’
Trump also alluded to the separations as bargaining ‘leverage’ with congress in his efforts to get funding for his border wall and other immigration priorities. This is in sharp contrast to his statement when very publicly signed his executive order, when he said that ‘anyone with a heart would be against separating children from their parent.’
At times, various administration officials, including Sessions, have said that the prospect of family separation was a deterrent, a claim that has been debunked by the fact that the number of arrivals at the border have actually increased since the policy was implemented. And, Trump continues to blame the ‘Democrat’s law’ for the debacle, saying that they must work with their GOP colleagues to pass the law that he wants, a hardline bill—despite the fact that he has threatened to veto even a hardline bill that the GOP tabled.
The rhetoric coming from the White House has been, and continues to be, mind-blowing. Trump has said that without his tough policies, ‘millions will swamp the border and infest our country.’ Where those ‘millions’ will come from he does not say.
I could go on, but the taste of bile in my mouth as I write this is becoming overwhelming. It appears that the kakistocrats have taken over. It’s like the inmates taking over the prison.
Maybe this is the beginning of the third-party system in this country. The Democrats, those Republicans who’ve come to their senses and want to go back to Bush’s compassionate conservatism, and the Kakistocratic Party, made up with those who have glued themselves to the cult of Trumpian personality and seem to be willing to go over the cliff with their hero.
Forever the optimist, I keep telling myself that this, like a kidney stone will eventually pass. But, like a kidney stone, it’s going to be a painful experience.