Daniel Ellsberg: Trump is an enemy of the Constitution and must be defeated


  • Christopher Michel, noamgalai / Shutterstock.com
  • Daniel Ellsberg (left).

Daniel Ellsberg is a former Defense and State Department official who faced 115 years in prison for disclosing the Pentagon Papers in 1971.

For almost four years, I’ve been very worried — ashamed and dismayed, really — that my country allowed Donald Trump to be president. It’s now of transcendent importance to prevent him from gaining a second term.

Michigan is my home state. I attended public grade school in Highland Park and was a scholarship student in high school in Bloomfield Hills. I’m sorry that Michigan went for Donald Trump last time. It must not happen again.

So, I’m urging people to vote for Joe Biden. As a progressive, I've certainly disagreed with him on many issues in the past. In fact, he was low on my list of preferences among the Democratic candidates. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary, as I did in 2016. (Elizabeth Warren would have been my second choice this year.)

Now, I’m in fullest agreement with Sanders and other progressive leaders like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as they urge us to support Biden to defeat Donald Trump, not only with our own votes but with our efforts to persuade others to do so.

Under a Biden presidency, progressives would need to be persistent from the very beginning in challenging and opposing many of the things that he may propose. Yet for now, the imperative need is to free the nation from Trump’s unhinged and destructive grip. That is our opportunity as citizens, and we must not fail it.

It’s true that on the momentous issue of climate, Biden’s program is not fully as good as the Green New Deal. But the former vice president has greatly improved his proposals since last year, on this and other matters.

Meanwhile, the current president is doing everything he can to maximize fossil-fuel emissions while eliminating regulations that would reduce them. Donald Trump is doing all he can to encourage drilling, fracking, and burning of fossil fuels, at a time when the scientific evidence is clear that continuing such a path may mean irreversibly calamitous climate change.

While climate disaster is probably baked in right now, even greater global catastrophe can be prevented — but only by programs that will truly work toward sharply reducing carbon emissions and then ending them by 2050. Whether we as a species will achieve that is an open question. But there’s no doubt that the present course is self-destructive, for humans and the planet we depend on for life. The world of human civilization cannot afford another four years of Trump’s presidency.

That alone is sufficient reason to do whatever we can to remove Trump from the White House. Hundreds of thousands of avoidable deaths resulting from his pandemic negligence are another. But there are at least two more sufficient reasons for the urgency of our efforts to do this. What must also stop is his encouragement of emotions and activism of white supremacy from the Oval Office. Trump’s refusal to disavow flagrant racism has underscored his own reliance on it for political support.

Even more urgently, we’re facing an authoritarian threat to our democratic system of a kind we’ve never seen before. Right now he is even casting unwarranted doubt on the validity of mail-in ballots, and in other ways as well putting in question for the first time in our history whether he would peacefully leave office after a full-accounting of votes cast by Election Day gave the majority in the Electoral College to his opponent.

I took an oath as a Marine, and later the same oath in the Defense Department and the State Department. It is an oath to defend and support the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign, and domestic.

I now see Donald J. Trump as a domestic enemy of the Constitution, in the sense of that oath. As president he has assaulted not only the First Amendment but also virtually every other aspect and institution of our country that preserves us as a republic.

The election now underway must remove Donald Trump from the presidency. Whatever reservations you might have about Joe Biden, the fact remains that his victory over Trump would mean that our country will have dodged a bullet — preventing the destruction of our Constitution as a functional document and averting irreversible damage to human civilization in the next four years.

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