I recently saw a post on social media asking why conservatives are so concerned with socialism when what they should be concerned about is dictatorship in their own party. Historically speaking, accusing presidents of dictatorship is nothing new. In fact, it’s as old as the nation itself. I am not going to write about if President Trump is a dictator or not, but I do want to show that it can be said that being accused of dictatorship actually puts him in good company.
During the Nineteenth Century, the cry of dictator was not as prominent. For most of the century, presidents were fairly limited in their political power. The ones who did exercise real presidential authority always faced the accusation of dictator. Anyone who reads my columns knows the election of 1800 is my favorite. It is one of the most hostile in history and I have spoken on it many times. Suffice to say the principle accusation made by Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans was that John Adams wanted to make himself into a king or dictator. Jefferson, who believed in small government, feared that the Federalists wanted to enlarge the power of the federal government and strip away the rights of the people. It did not help that under Adam’s administration Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts, which in essence made it a crime to criticize the government. It turns out that Adams did not intend to enshrine himself into royalty but instead performed the most important political act in American history. He walked away from the presidency when he lost and set a precedent for the peaceful transfer of power between parties.
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