Legislators need to remember their power before it disappears

Alastair Somerville
2 min readJan 29, 2017


As a follow up to a post about how quickly the Nazi party gained control of law making and enforcement, this post is a reminder of who to concentrate on when authoritarians are trying to gain power.

Judges save the day

In the UK and the USA, it has been the actions of the Judiciary that have blocked the more overt acts of authoritarian Executives.

In Britain, the Supreme Court formed the Conservative government to take the Article 50 decision on leaving the European Union through the Legislature. The government could not just use its own power to make the decision.

In the USA, just this weekend, it was a federal judge who blocked the Muslim Ban that Trump put through by Executive order.

Both of these events are great but they are only moments. Judges cannot and do not, in the long term, block authoritarian governments. They end up complying to the changes in law that are put through. They are professionals trained and patterned to obey law. A few rebel, most don’t.

It’s the Legislature, stupid

As I said in the last post, the Nazi Party moved quickly to remove the German Parliament and place their own people in police and security management roles.

It’s that former point that matters here.

Legislatures (parliaments, congresses, senates) are what authoritarians really hate. Chambers full of people with different views, different networks of connections and different needs.

Legislatures are hard to control if the legislators (the members of parliament, the congresspersons, the senators) remember that that have such power. Power that is drawn from their individual democratic mandate.

In the UK and USA, at this time, it seems legislators have forgotten this.

They don’t act, they don’t oppose, they fear the cry of populist authoritarians.

Populism is a lie used by authoritarians to hide their extremism behind a non-existent common person.

Write to your representative

There is only one request in this post.

Write to your local representative.

Be supportive, remind them of both their duty and their power.

Be clear that they hold a key position in a system of checks and balances.

Tell them that the system only works if they act.

Their power, their action is how authoritarianism is held back.



Alastair Somerville

Sensory Design Consultant, usability researcher and workshop facilitator. www.linkedin.com/in/alastair-somerville-b48b368 Twitter @acuity_design & @visceralUX