While our democracy has historically been described as a rule of law system under which we are governed "by laws and not of men" (a "nomocracy"), this characterization is flawed and dangerously misleading. In fact, we are a government of laws and of men and women. It is important to recognize this reality, for the failure to do so renders us vulnerable to morphing from a true democracy to an autocracy, with a resulting loss of political freedom and human rights.
Donald Trumps actions as president provide glaring examples of this danger: recklessly enforcing our immigration laws, resulting in inhumane separation of parents from children and denying recourse to the courts; reneging on international climate change commitments and reversing the course of the Environmental Protection Agency through unwarranted deregulation; pardoning foe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, convicted of criminal misconduct; refusing to vilify white supremacists engaging in criminal misconduct; racially attacking minority judges who reject his unconstitutional practices; targeting transgender personnel in the US military; evading responsibility for numerous conflicts of interest; dismissing FBI Director James Comey for self-serving reasons; refusing to staff key governmental positions (thereby consolidating his power base); refusing to support alliances (both military and economic) with other democracies in the world; and acquiescing to Russian President Vladimir Putin in the face of strong evidence that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election--to name a few.
Under traditional rule-of-law principles, all citizens of the United States are entitled to equal and fair treatment under the laws enacted by their legislative representatives and executed by the president. More specifically, rule of law means that citizens cannot--and should not--be governed by the whim of individual government officials. Arbitrary actions undertaken by government officials subject our citizenry to chaotic and unpredictable actions. The governed become victim to uncertain, inconsistent behavior and unfairness as a matter of course. It is no longer the law "by the people, for the people" but the law as interpreted and executed as government officials see fit, much akin to autocracy.
Consequently, it is critical to appreciate that the rule of law also encompasses the manner in which such laws are actually executed by government officials. The most...