How many of us have looked at history (say, of Germany in the 1930s) or recent events (say, of Hugo Chavez's systematic dismantling of representative democracy in Venezuela), and then comforted ourselves by saying “That can't happen here!” I know I'm guilty of that.
Read this story of government intimidation in Fresno, California.
This is how takeovers start, when the government starts placing itself above the people it governs, and (most especially) when those who are governing start treating themselves as above the law. When the powerful get away with intimidating the citizenry, it of course only encourages more of this. These small acts of intimidation are actually very important, much like the early stages of a bacterial infection are very important – they are a warning sign, which, if taken seriously, provide an opportunity to wipe out the infection before it gets completely out of control.
Debbie and I had a conversation yesterday on a related topic. She keeps reading about efforts to allow Obama to run for a third (and further) terms as president, by somehow repealing or getting around the 22nd Amendment. My response is two-fold: First, I don't think such a thing is very likely in the U.S. Second, if it did happen, that would be a clear signal to us to make our home somewhere else...