Scott's tough talk, though, would be a lot less hypocritical if Florida's newly minted U.S. senator weren't also begging President Donald Trump to do some very dictator-like things of his own.
Today Scott issued a media release declaring that Trump should declare a state of emergency to fund the inane border-wall project. This is, as many historians have noted lately, a truly terrifying idea. Declaring a fake emergency to leapfrog governmental checks and balances is a thing that dictators, authoritarians, and strongmen do. Though a move like that wouldn't turn the United States into North Korea overnight, it would be a massive step toward Trump-branded autocracy.
"President Trump has tried to work with Congress to get something done," Scott announced, "but if the Democrats continue to refuse to work with him, then the President needs to use his emergency power to fund border-security and include a permanent solution for DACA and TPS."
This is not Scott's only attack on basic democratic values in the past few months. During the November 2018 Senate recount in Florida, Scott utterly fabricated claims that Broward and Palm Beach elections supervisors Brenda Snipes and Susan Bucher were attempting to "steal" his election by creating new ballots "out of nowhere" through "fraud." Scott's repeated claims on Fox News undermined public trust in the election systems. These fake claims sparked a huge, pro-Trump protest in Broward County. After the election, Scott removed Snipes and appointed Peter Antonacci, his former personal attorney. Antonacci this week issued a postmortem report confirming no fraud or theft occurred. Scott has not apologized and will almost certainly face no consequences for his false claims.
DC is far beyond broken – it’s full of actors who are just playing politics.@realDonaldTrump has tried to work with Cong. If the Dems continue to refuse to work with him, he needs to use his emergency powers to fund border security & include a permanent solution for DACA & TPS. pic.twitter.com/I7ulupV5VV— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) January 31, 2019
There are a few things at play with Scott's new statement about the wall. For one, the Democrats (improbably) steamrolled Trump over the last government shutdown. By any objective measure, Trump caved and reopened the government after workers called in sick en masse and shut down New York's La Guardia Airport. A significant number of Trump's defenders in the media turned on the president after the move. For example, alt-right figurehead, Pizzagate promoter, and accused rapist Mike Cernovich tweeted that Trump had become the "Commander-in-Soy" after he bailed on the shutdown.
Now Republicans who've hitched themselves to the president's wagon (such as Scott) need to talk tough and seem like they have a coherent strategy going forward. Scott's plan seems to be to stroke the crudest and most self-interested parts of Trump's ego to curry favor. If this is some sort of bluff and/or negotiating tactic designed to scare Democrats, it's a weird and likely ineffectual move. Trump threatened similar action last time but
Now it appears possible that Trump will declare a state of "emergency" to fund a $20-billion-plus monument to racism and anger. CNN reported last week that the White House is preparing the text of an emergency-powers order that would funnel $7 billion to the wall project. Trump's constantly bewildered-looking son Eric even went on TV Tuesday night to demand his dad declare an emergency. Scott, an admitted white-collar criminal who has made a career of saying craven things to ingratiate himself to America's centers of power, is following suit.
Notably, professors who study authoritarianism say creating a fake emergency is a textbook move for an autocratic leader. Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a New York University professor whose work focuses on authoritarians, told the news website ThinkProgress earlier this year that strongman leaders — the sort Trump openly admires — intentionally manufacture so-called crises to justify shutting down opposition or checks and balances.
"The term ‘Southern Border’ was not used until the Trump administration made it a thing,” she told ThinkProgress earlier this month. “Now everyone uses it. This is an internalization of a security crisis and an example of how we unwittingly get roped into this. You want to create the idea of the threat.”
Likewise, the Atlantic recently outlined a host of terrifying things Trump could also do by declaring a random emergency — anything from proclaiming martial law to shutting down the internet. The idea is so outrageous that even U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said on TV over the weekend that an emergency declaration would be a "terrible idea."
It's important to know there is no crisis at the border right now. Rates of undocumented immigration are lower than they were a decade ago. The majority of border crossers are fleeing countries that have been decimated by U.S.-backed coups and dirty wars, such as El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Immigrant-rights groups say that to actually help Latin American refugees, the United States should begin righting the wrongs that death squads imposed in places such as El Salvador. America should just make it easier to become a legal citizen. Most undocumented immigrants actually arrive through U.S. ports and overstay travel visas — a border wall, of course, would not stop that sort of immigration.
The New York Times reported this past January 5 that Trump's campaign staff told him to talk about a wall simply so he would remember to discuss immigration at rallies. He needed a childlike memory trigger because his brain is withering into sawdust.
Scott is smart enough to know all of this. He's just soulless enough not to care. Instead, he's pushing Trump to grab more power while he can.