Sandra Day O'Connor thinks the United States is slipping toward dictatorship.
The recently-retired Supreme Court Justice cites the increasing numbers of death threats directed toward judges, and -- in particular -- efforts by the other branches of government to interfere with the independence of the judiciary.
The money quote is:
"We must be ever-vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."
Good God, this is scary stuff. Paranoiacs of both left and right have always warned about an American dictatorship, going back at least as far as the Jefferson presidency.
But Sandra Day O'Connor, a Reagan appointee whose departure is mourned most by Democrats, is not the Mel Gibson character in "Conspiracy Theory." Nor is she a politico on the hustings, seeking to motivate voters by the application of fear. She is the opposite of all these things: a an elder stateswoman, one of the longerst-serving of the nation's living leaders -- and a retiree from what is, in any case, the most circumspect of the three branches. These people aren't glib, they aren't facile, they aren't alarmist.
So ask yourself:
How bad do things have to get for a retired Supreme to warn us about dictatorship? And how bad does that mean things already are?