How can Trump be on the path to dictatorship if a judge in Hawaii is more powerful?

My Facebook friends are convinced that they are doing the righteous work of resistance and that, without their efforts (one march/year plus a buttload of Facebook posts deriding Trump voters), Trump would be ruling as an autocrat.

Yet it seems that the lowest level federal judge, 5,000 miles from D.C. in a Hawaii courtroom, has blocked Trump’s latest travel ban (New York Times). When and how does Trump become dictator if, currently, he is less powerful than a judge appointed in 2012?

[Separately, haven’t these executive orders and litigation dragged out almost long enough for Congress, if it wanted to, to pass a new law regulating foreigners’ access to the U.S.? (see below related post)]



  1. Ken Hagler

    March 16, 2017 @ 11:35 am


    if Trump actually wanted to be a dictator he could, using power seized for the Presidency by Obama, simply order the judge executed. And yet, he hasn’t.

  2. Tony

    March 16, 2017 @ 11:38 am


    The best part is, the judge ruled based on what he thinks maybe, possibly, could have been Trump’s motivation, rather than the order itself or any sort of rule of law.

  3. Tiago

    March 16, 2017 @ 1:06 pm


    It is more or less accepted that a dictator is the most powerful person in a state. Therefore, a non-dictator can have more powerful persons above.

    @Tony: the order itself is pretty clearly addressing muslims. If you believe otherwise, I suggest you take a few courses on Trump university.

  4. brytebort

    March 16, 2017 @ 3:54 pm


    I ask again — considering your smug derision, how do you have friends? Or by “Facebook Friends”, do you mean the list of people you don’t really know but enjoy talking smack about on your blog?

    Oh to be a fly on the wall at the newspaper-reading / wine-drinking parties (or whatever it is that successful white tenured faculty do for fun).

  5. philg

    March 16, 2017 @ 4:07 pm


    Brytebort: Of course I don’t have any friends! I thought that the very definition of “Facebook friend” is someone whom one barely knows. And I was defriended by a bunch of them for posting about how I was coping with the Trump-inspired rising tide of Jew-hatred by purchasing Lindt Easter chocolate at Costco. It turns out that this is not a fit topic for jokes. #TrumpIsaVerySeriousThreattoEverything

    But the beauty of Facebook is that there are always more friends! Every few days an attractive young woman (to judge by the photos) friends me. The only thing that confuses me is how women who are so young and lovely have so few existing friends, sometimes only 2 or 3. And they live in exciting cities such as Paris. In addition to these young women who are desperate to see pictures of our kids, Golden Retriever, et al., there are the friends of friends, the college classmates (I’m Secretary of the MIT Class of 1982 so they find me), etc.

    What do successful white tenured faculty do? I wish I knew! I guess I could identify as a white tenured faculty member and then tell you.

  6. Toucan sam

    March 16, 2017 @ 5:05 pm


    I am phil’s Facebook friend and he has no idea who I am. Also I spend most of my time trolling the comment section on his blog. Most of my posts get deleted !

  7. G. Ranma

    March 16, 2017 @ 10:17 pm


    What is 1 ‘buttload’ in the SI MKS?

  8. Tekumse

    March 17, 2017 @ 9:12 am


    @Tony, except senior white house officials went on TV and described the process and called it a Muslim ban. The problem for the White House is that they want to conflicting messages to go out at the same time – one to their supporters and one to the courts.

  9. Peter Lund

    March 17, 2017 @ 11:35 am


    > It is more or less accepted that a dictator is the most powerful person in a state.

    Honecker vs Mielke might be a counterexample.

  10. M

    March 17, 2017 @ 10:07 pm


    I think this has been a nice theoretical analysis, but…

    Trump does not quite care about opinions of the liberal media, and neither do his supporters. The liberal press is widely perceived as a bunch of corrupt liars and a political(?) enemy, so it’s largely ignored no matter what they say. (And what about the conservative media? not sure: never bothered to read that.)

    Since the liberal media is all about reZistance, sidelining it and ignoring it is precisely what the administration has been doing. Making The NY Times et al look like a Red echo chamber is a priority, so the allegations of dictatorship would never travel too far. If you are preaching to the choir, at least you should know what color that choir is.

    The goal of Trump and his base is not to convince anyone outside its core circle of supporters: it’s to win the next election, to appoint politically conservative judges wherever possible, and to keep the support of the military and the law enforcement (just in case); the rest does not quite matter. Welcome to the cold civil war!

  11. the other Donald

    March 22, 2017 @ 11:02 am


    I can’t believe T is adding one vote to his 2016 count. If the lazy voters who dismissed him go out and vote next time, he should be history. Meanwhile pass the popcorn.

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