Are we on a path to dictatorship? Things that have happened that make us worry about the state of our democracy.
Media/Facts v Lies
The campaign by our president to confuse fact and lies is similar to the ways all leaders in a dictatorshipweaken the media.
The campaign to denigrate journalists.
There is a campaign to choke media outlets with right-wing news – by buying out local news channels and pushing right-wing messaging – which enhances all the other propaganda outlets that already present viewpoints and brain manipulating materials that once came from the right, but now come from the right on behalf of the president. (For example: Sinclair Broadcasting provides local backup for the international Fox News – which is not news.)
Our president is rounding up immigrants more aggressively than we have seen in our lifetimes and is separating children from parents.
He has harangued his faithful followers to stoke hate for people who do not conform to their image of a “real” American.
Even citizens who were naturalized are being deported.
Workers who come into the country to help farmers with time sensitive tasks like planting and harvesting are not as available as they once were.
Praise for Dictators
Our president admires dictators.
A dictator like Kim Jung Un who put his people in prison camps doing hard labor if they try to listen to an unapproved radio station or sell something on the black market to feed their family. Our leader thinks that it is amazing that Kim held on to power in N. Korea when he was so young, but it really only shows how well his father and grandfather prepared the ground for him and how well he learned his lessons. He learned to kill to stay in power. Kim Jung Un may be young but he knows how to use fear to stay in power. Why is this admirable?
Our president likes the Duterte solution for drug users, just shoot them.
He likes that Xi in China is now dictator for life, sees that as a strong move, when it is actually backed up by the threat of the loss of freedom (imprisonment) if permission is not given.
He insists that Putin should be readmitted to the G7 to make it once again the G8, despite the obvious aggressive moves Putin makes against Europe, his interference in US and other elections, his backing of the Assad beast in Syria.
He insults our allies.
We worry that he will adopt more of the strongarm methods used by the strong men he admires.
Lying to America
He lies to the American people. He lies with a smile on his face. We can’t always tell whether he is lying or not and that is exactly how he wants us to feel. Confusion is his friend.
Changes Role of America in the World
He does not react to crises around the world caused by extreme weather, geologic events, or wars by offering American aid to those who suffer.
He has no humanitarian urges.
It is all about America’s bottom line.
Even in the case of Puerto Rico, practically an American state, his reactions were cold and accusative.
He does not admire people who live in a weak economy. As a white supremacist he feels no compunction to assist people with darker skin or who practice a religion other than Christianity.
This all represents a change in how America interacts with the world. This takes away a source of succor for people who are less fortunate.
This isolates America.
We recall our isolationist position before World War II which may have emboldened Hitler and assisted his rise.
We have been anything but isolationist since World War II, in fact we have been so interactive we have been accused of meddling.
There is no World Council of Dictators, so admiring these supposedly strong men is just another isolating factor.
He rules alone, by decree
He circumvents any part of our Constitutional government that he can find a way to circumvent.
He surrounds himself with sycophants.
He requires loyalty oaths from his aides and advisors.
He operates on his own, leaving Congress swinging in the wind, a broken limb of a once-rule-based standard for making laws.
He turned a House investigative committee into a farce.
He defies all checks or balances.
He demands that Congress do his bidding.
Stuffing the Courts
Dictators often change the composition of the courts as one of their first concerns.
Republicans were already trying to ensure that our Supreme Court and our Federal courts were stuffed with Conservatives. They would not even consider letting Obama chose a new judge to fill Judge Alito’s seat. That allowed Trump to fill that seat with a rather moderate Conservative. If another seat opens up it will most likely be filled with a Trump loyalist.
Our president has Congress at work stuffing the federal courts with Trump loyalists, often without any experience in the law.
Between claiming loudly and often that others are fixing elections it is easy to imagine that Trump has people who are busily fixing elections. He often accuses the Democrats of doing what he or the Republicans are actually doing. The Republicans also used this tactic before Trump was elected.
We are not sure, but we suspect that the Russians may be able to fix our elections and that they have already done so. While we wait for the report from the Mueller investigation, Trump threatens loudly and often (he likes this strategy) to end it.
Trump has made us question the value of our own founding documents which seem to have no teeth to defend our republic against a tyrant.
He boasts that he can pardon himself. He reminds us that a sitting president cannot be indicted. He tells us often that he can end the Mueller investigation if he wants to. Experts think that he can do all of these things.
Again, he loved it when Xi in China was declared president for life, as if his people had any choice in the matter.
Insults as Weapons
We now see insults used as weaponry to rob those who disagree with our leader of credibility.
We see how crass this is and we see how well it works. Apparently insults repeated loudly and often (again) work very well with his loyal followers who have meager knowledge of the character of those that are being insulted.
It is just a spectacle, as if these people are in the stands at the Coliseum in Rome watching a slave fight a lion while they cheer.
There is fascism afoot in these verbal attacks, thuggery, brutalism, especially when it comes from a man who is contending that he, as president, has unlimited powers.
We suspect that the Tax Plan passed by the 115thCongress will eventually have negative effects on our economy but we have no proof for skeptical people because it was planned to postpone those negative effects until it can be claimed that other factors caused the economic fallout.
Our leader can lay claim in the present to an economy that is sort of thriving, although not for everyone and not to the standards of our boom economies.
Dictators often have less trouble dictating in strong economies. But they also often rip off the government and the nation to line their own pockets, which eventually ruins the once-healthy economics.
Ignoring the Emoluments Clause and Interdictions against Nepotism
Trump has been enriching himself and his family right before our eyes by acting as if any previous leaders who put their businesses in trusts and kept from favoring family members were wienies.
He continues to use his hotels and golf courses for personal gain even though he signed an agreement in the case of the hotel in DC that prohibited him from doing just that.
He won’t show us his taxes.
In a financial disclosure this week Ivanka and Jared admitted to profits of $147 million dollars during their tenure in the White House.
Once again Trump proves that our laws have no teeth and our documents cannot really rein in a president.
Destroying Faith in US Intelligence Apparatus
Questioning the Neutrality of the FBI
Firing Comey and McCabe from their positions at the FBI.
Making people believe that the FBI is biased.
Trying to test the loyalty of our intelligence agencies to the president.
Trying to turn intelligence agencies from being loyal to the country and the Constitution; to make them the president’s personal spies.
He asked every state to turn in every voter record to the federal government. Fortunately they refused to comply. This info could still be in the process of being collected in secret. We don’t know.
Destroying Faith in Social Media
The exposure of the Russian use of social media to skew the 2016 election has rocked the faith of the nation. We cannot trust that social media is actually a good source of news information or even of American cultural memes.
The Russia “Covfefe”
Representative Eric Swalwell said on MSNBC “Every time you shake a tree in this Trump forest, a Russian falls out.”
Just a coincidence?
Why, when you know everyone thinks you might have accepted help from our enemy to win the election, would you continue to praise the authoritarian leader of that nation so often and so loudly (a rather repetitive tactic) (annoying isn’t it).
Didn’t he ever hear what Shakespeare had one of his characters say, “Methinks [he] doth protest too much,” when he repeats the phrase “no collusion” over and over again.
(The odd thing is that when you think you have made a very comprehensive list of the danger signs we see daily in this Trump version of the United States, as soon as you wrap it up you begin to see all the symptoms you missed.)
There are some things that happen in a dictatorship that haven’t happened here yet.
Things we should watch for.
So far no one in the media has had their life threatened or been arrested and jailed.
The immigration tactics we see are bad, but so far only a difference of degrees from past administrations, except for the separating of mothers from their children. No mass roundups, no using fear to get people to tell on their neighbors, no railroad cars full of deportees headed for Mexico whether they came from Mexico or not. (Where else could we send them?)
So far citizens can still speak up to criticize our government and our president when they think it is appropriate. Our current president has such loyal followers that they fight back for him.
Demonstrators are not being jailed or beaten by policemen or sent home or to prison at the point of a gun.
Our Congress hasn’t been disbanded, just annexed.
We almost still believe we can hold a fair election in 2018.
Some of the people still have faith in the president’s ability to boost the economy.
We haven’t lost our health care yet.
We haven’t lost our social security yet.
We haven’t lost the safety net programs yet, although they have been cut.
Our schools still function.
We do not have to teach our children secretly at home.
Although the president does not shut down his private businesses or keep his children from profiting from proximity to power, he does not seem to have stolen outright from our tax dollars, except to try to bribe businesses to come back to America so he can get credit for that with that outrageous tax plan that gave money to all the people who already had too much money and none of the people who had too little money.
Although the president stokes our fear of attack by gangs and terrorists and lone wolves, he does not seem to stage attacks to keep our fears at their peak.
I think we will all know if we are in imminent danger of becoming the next dictatorship if it takes any of the forms we already recognize, but I also think we could slow-walk our way to a society that appears to resemble the America our founders designed, but is, in actuality not a free and democratic society at all. For some we are already there. Some don’t see the danger at all. For most of us we wait breathlessly to see if we will need to act and when.
This is a view from the cheap seats. Here was a meme that generated lots of discussion on Facebook this week:
Graphic from the Other 98%