Authoritarianism can happen here. For some, it already has.
The G-7 summit once again made it clear that U.S. President Donald Trump is intent on treating America’s allies worse than its enemies. Europe must draw the consequences and seek to isolate Trump on the international stage.
Leading Polish intellectuals, including a former president, are speaking out against the country’s judicial reforms. Fearing Poland’s democracy is at stake, they have urged the European Court of Justice to intervene.
Running for the third time, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is capitalizing on the current Mexican government’s wave of unpopularity.
This is not a column about whether Donald Trump is a quisling — a politician who serves the interests of foreign masters at his own country’s expense. Any reasonable doubts about that reality were put to rest by the events of the past few days, when he defended Russia while attacking our closest allies. We don’t know Trump’s motivation. Is it blackmail? Bribery? Or just a generalized sympathy for autocrats and hatred for democracy? And we may never find out: If he shuts down the Mueller investigation and Republicans retain control of Congress, the cover-up may hold indefinitely. But his actions tell the story. As I said, however, this isn’t a column about Trump. It is, instead, about the people who are enabling his betrayal of America: the inner circle of officials and media personalities who are willing to back him up whatever he says or does, and the wider set of politicians — basically the entire Republican delegation in Congress — who have the power and constitutional obligation to stop what he’s doing, but won’t lift a finger in America’s defense.
It’s not every day you see an American president trade a two-century relationship with a reliable neighbor for what could amount to a one-night stand with a ruthless dictator in Singapore. Mr. Trump may well think bullying Canada is cost-free. After all, three-quarters of its exports go to the United States, which makes retaliation risky for Canada. But having limited options does not mean having none. Reversals like these come with a price, although how and when the United States will pay depends on many factors.
Though the FCC voted to kill net neutrality last December, the formal repeal didn’t take effect until today. Moving forward, the FCC no longer has the full authority to police bad behavior by broadband monopolies like AT&T, Verizon and Comcast, thanks to the Trump FCC’s decision to gut classification of ISPs as common carriers. And while ISPs claim that the FTC is well suited to jump in and police any potential abuses, legal experts have argued that’s largely nonsense, since the FTC’s authority over ISPs is severely constrained.
But while ISPs think they’ve scored a major victory here by convincing Ajit Pai and the Trump FCC to ignore the public, ignore the experts, and cuddle up to telecom duopolies, this policy middle finger aimed squarely at consumers is likely to result in a policy and political backlash they’re going to be navigating for years.
To start, activists today will rally to gather support for an effort to use the Congressional Review act to reverse the FCC’s repeal with a majority vote in the House and Senate. The Senate already voted in favor of the effort, which now faces tougher odds in terms of getting a House vote and avoiding a veto by President Trump.
But that’s not the only effort underway to fight back against the FCC’s obvious regulatory capture.
Should the CRA reversal fail, the next best option rests with the courts and the numerous lawsuits that have been filed against the FCC for ignoring the public interest. Those suits will lean heavily on the administrative procedures Act, which requires the FCC to prove that market conditions were dramatic enough to warrant such a major reversal of an extremely popular policy. The court battle will also highlight how the FCC turned a blind eye to identity theft and fraud during the public comment period (which was the public’s only real chance to express disdain for the FCC’s policy).
Should that legal battle fail, there’s still the option of restoring the rules once the Trump era ends, whether that comes in the form of new FCC rules or a new federal law. That’s of course going to rely, in part, on angry consumers showing up at the midterms and voting out House and Senate ISP marionettes like Marsha Blackburn that have repeatedly prioritized monopoly profits over competition, consumers, and the health of the internet.
Knowing full well a political backlash looms, ISPs have been pushing for a bogus net neutrality law of their own they’ve crafted in a ham-fisted attempt to pre-empt any efforts tougher rules from being passed or the FCC rules from being restored (that gambit’s going poorly so far).
Meanwhile, more than half the states in the nation are exploring state level rules in the wake of federal apathy. These efforts range from executive orders banning states from doing business with ISPs that violate net neutrality, to new state laws in places like Oregon and Washington that in some instances go even further than the FCC’s federal-level rules did.
So while supporters of net neutrality may be currently frustrated by the Trump FCC’s grotesque fealty to some of the most hated companies in America, the decision to screw consumers in such a ham-fisted fashion will result in a backlash that these ISPs are going to be feeling for the better part of the next decade.
Canadians won’t consent to scrapping our supply management system if it becomes a point of national self-respect. We won’t be reduced to a simpering client state. If a few years of economic hardship is the cost of our pride, so be it. To the walls with our overpriced cheese. And make the Americans pay for it! It is remarkable that the one thing this G7 summit has highlighted is that, in the long run, Canada can’t trust or rely upon its closest and most trusted ally. We need to rapidly diversify our economy and trade partnerships. In the meantime, Trump should take note of history. After Nixon’s quip, Pierre Trudeau went on to become one of Canada’s most iconic prime ministers. Nixon did not fare so well. And history seems to love a reboot.