The US as a Fascist Dictatorship – Part 2: Can Trump Become a Dictator?

This is going to be a long one, so let me apologize in advance. You may want to plan a little time to read it…

There’s a rule about articles or posts that start with a question: the answer is almost always “no”. Whether this post breaks that rule or follows it is ultimately up to you. For me, I think there are enormous roadblocks in Trump’s way, but I absolutely believe that he’s trying, and that he wants to be a dictator. And I also absolutely believe that if we’re not careful, at some point we’re going to see the current administration using the Constitution as toilet paper, and no one will stop them. That’s why I’m writing this…

It’s really a warning… however hard it may be, it is possible, and you better believe that Trump and his administration are already trying to find every possible way to get as close as the can to this outcome as possible.

So… with that said…

I’m going to start this by sourcing mainly from an article written by Eric Posner at Quartz called “The complete guide to how Trump can make himself the first American dictator“, published on March 3, 2016. Obviously, it’s been a long time since then, so I’ll be pulling from much more recent sources, as well…

I’ve said this already, but we are in extremely scary times, and we need to be vigilant. So… without further ado…

If Trump is elected president, will constitutional law and American political institutions protect us from a would-be dictator? Europeans worry about the emergence of Caesarism in the United States, just as the founders did when they invented the presidency. Authoritarianism is making gains around the world; why not here? Of course, Trump may not want to be a dictator. He has repeatedly stated his desire to make “deals,” implying a willingness to cooperate with Congress. But there is no reason to believe anything he says; many of his actions and statements are those of someone with a dictatorial mentality if nothing else, and his popular support derives from his authoritarian image: he appeals to people who yearn for a strongman to protect them. So the question is worth asking. What is the answer?

The first thing we need to take into account are Trump’s continued promises to “strengthen libel laws”. Luckily, thanks to the first amendment, Trump can’t do this through executive orders or through passing a law through Congress. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around this…

If he can appoint flunkies to head the Department of Justice and the FBI (Chris Christie, maybe?), they can order agents to spy on a political opponent and bring prosecutions. All that is needed is a reasonable suspicion of law violations, and there are so many laws that any prominent person, particularly journalists and opposition politicians, might violate even if inadvertently—campaign finance laws, tax laws, business licensing laws, and secrecy laws come to mind, depending on the person’s activities—that an excuse for audit, inspection, or surveillance can be ginned up. Judges can interfere at various steps along the way; whether they do will depend on whether there are plausible reasons to think that the person has broken a law (think of Hillary Clinton, for example). While nothing may come of the investigation, the risk of such harassment, if pursued vigorously enough, may deter opposition to Trump at the margin.

Trump hasn’t done this yet, but since he has his own private security force that has so far been used to harass and terrorize protesters, I think it’s obvious that this is where he’s headed.

The article continues, talking about the two different ways Trump could make it power: either by a sweep, or (and this is sort of what actually happened)…

… Trump barely manages to win the election, perhaps because Hillary Clinton at the last moment is indicted for violating secrecy laws. He comes to power with the support of an enthusiastic minority but opposed by both parties and the majority of the population.

Trump, if you recall, lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million, but won the electoral college. He was inaugurated as the most hated candidate in US history (at least, from what I can remember… I may be wrong), and his approval ratings are below all previous presidents already. That said, he is largely supported by the Republican party, so this is not entirely accurate. However, for the purposes of this article, I’m going to continue on with the full scenario…

The more interesting case is the second. A president Trump opposed on all sides by Congress, the courts, the media, and all the rest of the establishment, but supported by an enthusiastic base, could accomplish the great things he imagines only if he exercised something like dictatorial power. At a minimum, he would need to:

  • Get his people into the bureaucracy, either as recess appointments or as “advisers” who don’t need Senate approval. If he refuses to appoint moderates demanded by the Senate, his advisers may be able to persuade civil servants to implement Trumpian policies but maybe not.

And he’s already doing this… as of February 1st, John Kelly (Secretary of Homeland Security), James Mattis (Secretary of Defense), Nikki Haley (Ambassador to the UN), Elaine Chao (Secretary of Transportation), and Rex Tillerson (Secretary of State) have all been confirmed.

Betsy DeVos (Education Secretary), Ryan Zinke (Secretary of the Interior), Wilbur Ross (Secretary of Commerce), Ben Carson (HUD Secretary; I’m still pissed at Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown), Rick Perry (Energy Secretary), Tom Price (Secretary of Health and Human Services), Steven Mnuchin (Treasury Secretary), Jeff Sessions (US Attorney General), Linda McMahon (Head of the Small Business Administration), Scott Pruit (Head of the EPA), and Mick Mulvaney (Director of Office Management and Budget) have all been confirmed in committee and are awaiting Senate vote.

David Shulkin (Secretary of Veterans Affairs), Andrew Puzder (Secretary of Labor), Robert Lighthizer (US Trade Representative), and Sonny Perdue (Secretary of Agriculture) are all awaiting committee vote.

He’s also nominated Neil Gorusch to replace Antonin Scalia (because Republicans refused to let President Obama exercise his Constitutional duty in appointing a replacement).

Make no mistake… regardless of whether they are Trump’s lackeys or puppet masters, they are all horrible picks for the positions he’s nominated them for. For most of them, there’s still a (tiny) chance that they won’t be approved. For example… if things go as predicted, Betsy DeVos may not make it through. But that doesn’t matter, because it’s up to Trump to nominate the next pick, and I’ve no doubt that his next pick will be just as bad, if not worse.

So Trump is already fulfilling Posner’s first point. How about the second one?

  • Use his personal funds to sue his political opponents, and persuade law enforcement to audit, monitor, and investigate them, as discussed above.

You mean like his private security force? Not exactly this, but it’s a first step…

  • Impound funds appropriated by Congress and use them for projects like expelling illegal immigrants. This is technically illegal, but presidents have for decades denied the constitutionality of the anti-impoundment statute, and Trump’s lawyers could repeat these arguments.

While he hasn’t done this yet, it’s likely only a matter of time. It’s true that his executive order banning immigration has been halted, but it probably won’t be for long. That executive order proved that he intends to do this, frankly.

  • Build political support by declining to enforce unpopular laws, for example, the land-use and environmental laws that are so unpopular in the West. He can cite Obama’s immigration enforcement actions as precedent if need be. He can exclude Muslims, at least temporarily, if he wants to.

Not yet…

  • Focus on foreign affairs, where he has a freer hand. He can threaten to withdraw military and economic aid to Mexico unless it pays for the wall. He will give the military maximum support. The military is the most trusted public institution; if he can bring it to his side, he will obtain credibility from the wavering middle.

Apparently, Trump did not threaten Mexico’s President Peña Nieto with war, but considering his actions so far, I fully expect Trump to try it.

Posner also discussed whether or not the separation of powers was a good constraint on Trump…

The separation of powers is a flimsy constraint on Trumpian ambitions. The federal bureaucracy is probably a more significant one. It has proven itself time and again skilled at opposing presidential power through embarrassing leaks, working-to-rule, simple inaction, and, in extremis, threatening to resign. Still, this barrier may not give much reassurance.

But, as Posner asks, are there effective political constraints?

Trump will need some support in Congress, and if the public detests him, representatives will keep their distance. Public hostility will also strengthen the hand of courts and the bureaucracy. If he is to gain significant public support, he will need a grand success. Taking a page from Putin, he could combine a ruthless military victory against a weak but unpopular enemy (but what exactly?) and extraordinary luck—an economic recovery that just happens to occur when he takes office. But in America, even this is not likely to be enough.

An economic recovery of sorts happened under President Obama, but it’s not gone nearly far enough. And things actually look worse, now. Here’s the thing, though… Trump was already immunizing himself from political damage during the campaign…

First, he has refused to make promises. More precisely, while he has made a very few promises, he has contradicted himself so many times, no one really expects him to keep those very few promises, or has any idea what he might do as president. Normally, this vagueness would be fatal. For whatever reason, it has worked for Trump. The upshot is that as president, unlike other presidents, he will not be constrained, not even minimally, by promises he made on the campaign trail, and so he can do whatever is most expedient.

Second, he has refused to work through the Republican establishment. Working through the Republican establishment means making commitments to party leaders and supporters, which would constrain his behavior as president. But because he has not made such commitments, he faces no such constraints as president—again, unlike any other president in modern times.

Third, he has disregarded what might be called “political manners.” He has casually insulted Latinos, Mexicans, women, disabled people, and veterans. He has mocked and belittled his political opponents. One might say, as his defenders do say, that Trump doesn’t really mean what he says. But that misses the point. By unsettling the implicit rules of the game which govern our politics, he has further eliminated constraints on his presidency. Will he eliminate affirmative action in federal hiring? Or will he strengthen it? No one knows. Having thrown into doubt the unwritten rules that have constrained other presidents, he has more scope to act as he sees fit.

And that was back March of 2016. The results of this can already be seen, in every single one of his executive orders, memorandums, and proclamations so far.

Posner ends his article on a darkly “hopeful” note:

Many of the informal but powerful ways that politics constrains presidents with authoritarian tendencies will not constrain Trump. Whether that means he will be Caesar if elected remains to be seen. I think the likelihood is extremely remote. It is much more likely that his authoritarian tendencies will clash with a legalistic political culture and an individualistic political culture, yielding disruption and gridlock. But that is reason enough to be alarmed.

And, technically, as discussed in my last post, he isn’t wrong. It would be extremely hard for Trump to become a dictator. But the point is that it isn’t impossible, and he’s certainly trying…

donardell at Perry Street Palace already broke down how the US is poised to become a Christian Theocracy under Trump, which is a step Posner entirely left out (though that’s forgivable seeing as, during the campaign, this was not so obvious as it is now). And I’ve already posted about two actions Trump has taken in that direction.

On February 4th, writer Phil Torres interviewed the authors of a book called “The Dictator’s Handbook“. Written by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith, and published in 2011, it seems to be extremely relevant today, and entirely prescient. They started out discussing the differences between a Democracy (yes, I realize that the US is a Democratic Republic, not a full-blown Democracy) and a Dictatorship (the authors, BTW, see them more as on a continuum, and even say that the two are actually somewhat similar), as well as how one can slide into the other.

The first mention of Trump was in their answer to the second question:

Having said that, it’s not a super-rare thing for presidents to get elected without a majority vote. In fact, it’s very common. And there are multiple instances of presidents losing the popular vote: For example, George W. Bush and Rutherford B. Hayes. But in Trump’s case, the number of critical, pivotal voters whose support made the difference between winning and losing is only about 70,000 people. If Trump can keep those 70,000 people really happy, and keep the looser part of his coalition adequately happy, then he can do a lot of what he wants.

And how did they come up with that number?

It’s the number of votes — specific votes — that would have to be moved for the Electoral College to have gone for Hillary Clinton rather than Donald Trump. Trump positioned his votes, in that sense, really efficiently. Abraham Lincoln, by the way, moved something like 7,000 votes. If he had not done so, Stephen Douglas would have been president! Lincoln was incredibly efficient in converting votes into victory.

Then they talk about Trump’s “relationship” with the Press…

In your view, how worrisome is Donald Trump’s apparent delegitimizing of the press? For example, Trump called CNN “fake news,” Steve Bannon told the media to “keep its mouth shut.” And both have repeatedly described the media as the “opposition party.” Is this a dangerous push towards a less democratic form of governance?

[Alastair] Smith: People tend to think of democracy as just being about free and fair elections. But democracy is about a lot more than that, at least in the way we view things. For example, Iran actually has very free and fair elections, but there are real restrictions on who can run. And there are real media restrictions as well.

What’s very important is that people have the rights of free speech and an independent media. I don’t see Trump being particularly successful at making the media be quiet. It’s worrying that he gets away with some of it. But he’s now being called out for basically living in a post-factual world where these things don’t matter. So, I’m less concerned in the long run. If Trump were to start banning newspapers and prosecuting them, that’s very much how dictators like to do things: Bankrupt newspaper owners if they print stories that they don’t like and lock up journalists. I don’t think that anybody perceives that Trump is going to do this in the near future. The press will continue to talk about Trump; indeed, you’re writing and you’re not feeling the risk of being censored.

[Bruce] Bueno de Mesquita: I think there are three pillars to an accountable government. Many of the things that people think of as being pillars, like the rule of law, follow from these three pillars. You need freedom of assembly, free speech and free press.

That is, people have to be in a position to exchange information and find out that they’re not alone in disliking what the government is doing — and to organize and coordinate to oppose the government. The two threats to the free press are a) fake news, although “noisy news” has always been prevalent, like if you were to go back to colonial times, you’d find that this was true, and b) self-censorship: When Bannon says the press should shut up, he means censor yourselves. That’s a real danger because, to put it harshly, the press is not in the business of telling the truth. The press is in the business of selling advertising space to make money. So if telling the truth turns out to be a liability, then they might begin to self-censor. That is certainly what happened in Hong Kong after the return to China.

There was a little bit of a negative sign [this week] that made me concerned: President Trump made the selection of the Supreme Court justice into a game show by bringing in candidates rather than the one person he’s going to designate and then designating one — essentially humiliating the other. In my view, if I controlled a network or newspaper, my coverage would have been “President Trump has nominated Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.” I would not have given live television coverage of the farce as all the networks did because they were simply feeding Trump publicity that was not news. So I found that a little worrisome.

But the bigger threat is if there’s a loss of freedom of assembly. So far this freedom is working well — enough people have been actively protesting. For example, earlier this week Trump was essentially compelled to stay in the White House rather than go to Milwaukee and face opposition. That’s what has to happen: People have to be active in making known that they are concerned.

To paraphrase Barry Goldwater from a very long time ago, vigilance is the price of freedom. If people just sit back and say, “Well, democracies don’t become autocracies, so I don’t really have to bother.” People have to be using the freedom of assembly, using the free press and free speech to make it costly for members of Congress to go along with what the president wants when they believe it’s a mistake. Members of Congress have to believe that it threatens their re-election not to be a constraint on Trump.

Apologies for not just summarizing all this, but I need y’all to see it. It’s not all bad. They certainly don’t expect the Press to start being overtly censured, but I feel that there are more stealth ways to do that, as discussed above.

Anyways… after that, they got directly into talking about what’s most worrisome about Trump:

Smith: I’m more worried about the policies that he could implement, rather than deep-seated, long-term institutional changes. The courts are independent and already we’ve seen them rule that some of Trump’s policies are illegal. In the long run, of course, Trump can close down courts. A dictator closes down courts and gets rid of the independent judiciary. But that process takes a while. For a very long time in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe was actually held in check precisely because the courts were independent. It took him a very long time to erode that power. So Trump is not in a position to completely erode the courts. He’s going to shift the policy focus of the Supreme Court, which worries a lot of people: It’s going to have a much more conservative outlook. But he’s not fundamentally going to take away courts where people can get reasonably independent rulings.

In terms of changing electoral law, again that’s going to be difficult. The Republicans like to do this. They love to gerrymander, and so do the Democrats, although [Republicans] seem to have the upper hand right now. They also like to restrict voter access, for example, to reduce the number of people who are going to vote against them. But at the end of the day, are the Republicans in Congress going to go along with Trump undermining the democratic system? That seems unlikely to be in their interest. Let’s have “King Trump.” This is not in the interest, I think, of the Republicans in Congress.

Bueno de Mesquita: If I can go back to Alastair’s first answer [above]. We prefer to think of governance forms as a continuum, not a dichotomy. We argue forcefully in “The Dictator’s Handbook” that all political leaders, if unconstrained, would rather be dictators — all, Barack Obama, Donald Trump, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln. So the constraints are exactly as Alastair has pointed out: these deep institutions that are very hard and slow to erode.

I’m more concerned about the danger that President Trump puts us in with respect to foreign affairs than I am about the danger that he puts us in domestically. The president has much more latitude in foreign affairs than he does in domestic politics, and that is where his inclinations make me fearful.

And yeah, that is absolutely terrifying. I have no doubt that Trump will be the absolute worst president when it comes to foreign affairs; yes, worse than Clinton would have been, and worse that President Obama was.

They also talk about how likely Trump being impeached is, and they both basically agree that he’s more likely to removed under the 25th Amendment. Basically…

I think if he persists in using, as they have called it, “alternative facts,” when the evidence does not support what he is saying, and he nevertheless tries to shape policy on that basis, there’s going to be a point at which there will be a judgment that he is not mentally stable.

This was the last thing Bruce had to say:

The implication of our theorizing is that, loosely speaking, democratic government is the more dominant long-term form, but it’s not the unique form. It is not in equilibrium to have no dictatorships. Part of the reason is that while democratic leaders say they want to promote democracy around the world, in fact they don’t. What they want instead is foreign governments that, at the margin, will be compliant with policies that the democratic leaders’ constituents want back home. It’s very hard for a democratic leader in another country to comply with what you want if their voters don’t agree with you. But it’s very easy for autocrats to comply because all you have do is to give them what they need to stay in power, which is money to bribe their small group of cronies. And for you to stay in power, you need, at the margin, policy compliance. So there’s always a place for dictatorship.

That… sort of kills Posner’s hopes above. The reality is that this is exactly what we’re seeing. Between Trump’s continual attempts to force Mexico to build a wall, to his currently (and likely temporarily) halted executive order banning immigration from Muslim-dominated countries, to rising tensions with China, to his domestic actions so far, Trump is showing us exactly who he is and the kind of president he intends to be.

Back on January 26th, Rmuse posted an opinion to Trump Makes It Clear After Taking Office That America Is Under a Fascist Regime. In it, they break down exactly what the title says, and offer this conclusion:

All of these Trump-Republican tactics are naked fascism and nothing else. Add to the above mentioned Hitler-like tactics Trump’s assault on the press, and the warning(s) “they’re going to pay a big price” for reporting the factual truth. and there is little left to conclude that despite a 239 year-old Constitution mandating America as a representative democracy, Donald J. Trump and his Republican facilitators are establishing an honest-to-dog fascist regime in what is rapidly becoming a third-rate banana republic; or what Trump contends is making America great.

While Rmuse is probably not a respected political analyst or theorist, they make a very strong case, and one I find myself agreeing with.

But maybe it’s not all hopeless…

Recently, the Atlantic published an article called How Donald Trump Could Build an Autocracy in the U.S. It starts off with an imagining of how Trump might have won the 2021 election. Once that story is over, it gets into how Trump could do it, starting off with this:

Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.

I’ll return to that at the end of this long post (and it’s coming shortly). For now, I want to highlight the breakdown of what’s been happening in Hungary since 2010:

What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example—and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.

The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s rule over Hungary does depend on elections. These remain open and more or less free—at least in the sense that ballots are counted accurately. Yet they are not quite fair. Electoral rules favor incumbent power-holders in ways both obvious and subtle. Independent media lose advertising under government pressure; government allies own more and more media outlets each year. The government sustains support even in the face of bad news by artfully generating an endless sequence of controversies that leave culturally conservative Hungarians feeling misunderstood and victimized by liberals, foreigners, and Jews.

Conservative Hungarians feeling “misunderstood” and “victimized” by “liberals, foreigners, and Jews”… sound familiar? It should. That’s exactly what’s happening here in the US, as well (just add people of color, Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ community to that list). Even Bernie Sanders played to this, always maintaining that the Democrats don’t need minorities, but white people, to win (which, by the way, has never been true; both of President Obama’s elections proved that).

The article continues, discussing how the US political system is robust, but has been showing strong and worrying wear. It cites how the Republicans nearly caused the US to default on its national obligations in 2013 just to score political points, and how President Obama asserted unilateral executive power to allow millions of “illegal” immigrants to become legal citizens. About Trump, it says this:

Donald Trump, however, represents something much more radical. A president who plausibly owes his office at least in part to a clandestine intervention by a hostile foreign intelligence service? Who uses the bully pulpit to target individual critics? Who creates blind trusts that are not blind, invites his children to commingle private and public business, and somehow gets the unhappy members of his own political party either to endorse his choices or shrug them off? If this were happening in Honduras, we’d know what to call it. It’s happening here instead, and so we are baffled.

Due to how politics has become polarized, Congress, designed to be a check on executive power, has only been a check on opposing Presidents. Ideally, it shouldn’t matter which party holds the executive branch and which party holds Congress; Congress should always curb any President’s attempts to abuse their power. But Congress really doesn’t, due to “party loyalty”. This is perhaps why George Washington warned against political parties in his farewell address.

In the Atlantic article, they go on to talk about how the House, specifically Paul Ryan, has basically been ignoring everything terrible about Trump’s nominees, actions, and lies, saying essentially “I don’t know” when questioned about any of them. This is how the House will allow Trump to get away with everything he does, because, for the Republicans in control, he is the culmination of their dreams of domination… of Dominion. And the Senate, which can usually be relied on for dissent, won’t be of any help either, especially since many of those against Trump are up for re-election in 2018, and if we progressives fail at voting then, they will cow-tow to their conservative constituencies simply to get re-elected.

At the end of the article, they hammer a point home which I really want to hammer home to all of you now, as well. It’s something most of you already know, and many of you are probably already doing. But I don’t think it’s possible to overstate this.

What happens in the next four years will depend heavily on whether Trump is right or wrong about how little Americans care about their democracy and the habits and conventions that sustain it. If they surprise him, they can restrain him.

Public opinion, public scrutiny, and public pressure still matter greatly in the U.S. political system. In January, an unexpected surge of voter outrage thwarted plans to neutralize the independent House ethics office. That kind of defense will need to be replicated many times. Elsewhere in this issue, Jonathan Rauch describes some of the networks of defense that Americans are creating.

Get into the habit of telephoning your senators and House member at their local offices, especially if you live in a red state. Press your senators to ensure that prosecutors and judges are chosen for their independence—and that their independence is protected. Support laws to require the Treasury to release presidential tax returns if the president fails to do so voluntarily. Urge new laws to clarify that the Emoluments Clause applies to the president’s immediate family, and that it refers not merely to direct gifts from governments but to payments from government-affiliated enterprises as well. Demand an independent investigation by qualified professionals of the role of foreign intelligence services in the 2016 election—and the contacts, if any, between those services and American citizens. Express your support and sympathy for journalists attacked by social-media trolls, especially women in journalism, so often the preferred targets. Honor civil servants who are fired or forced to resign because they defied improper orders. Keep close watch for signs of the rise of a culture of official impunity, in which friends and supporters of power-holders are allowed to flout rules that bind everyone else.

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

These are my final thoughts, as well. I’ve said it already, multiple times, but it’s not possible to put too fine of a point on it… I am genuinely terrified that, in electing Trump, the electoral college has given us the last president the US will ever have. But I have no intention of just letting it happen, either.

If you care at all about this country, about what’s happening, and about what’s going to happen, then please… if you are able to, participate in every election you possibly can. Call, email, mail, and fax your senators and representatives. Protest. Sign petitions.

Remember that quote above I said I’d get back to?

Everything imagined above—and everything described below—is possible only if many people other than Donald Trump agree to permit it. It can all be stopped, if individual citizens and public officials make the right choices. The story told here, like that told by Charles Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is a story not of things that will be, but of things that may be. Other paths remain open. It is up to Americans to decide which one the country will follow.

It’s up to us to stop Trump, the Republicans, and the Dominionists from destroying this country. Are we going to, or are we going to just sit back and let this happen?


  1. cubist says

    I don’t think the Angry Cheeto is deliberately, consciously planning to make himself a dictator, because as far as I can see, “planning” isn’t a thing the Cheeto does. Rather, it’s a stimulus/response deal—you tell the Cheeto “No, Donald, you can’t do that,” and the Cheeto lashes out at you. In brute practical terms, however, what the Cheeto is doing will have the ultimate effect of making himself a dictator, so… [shrug]

    Note that while the end result may be the same, the appropriate tactics for resistance are likely to be different, depending on whether the end result is the product of deliberate malice or an incidental by-product of something else.

  2. says

    Unfortunately, Putin’s soft dictatorship serves as a step-by-step playbook for how to take over a stumbling democracy. And the US wasn’t even a democracy. Like Russia was, before Putin came along and took the reins of power, the US is an oligarchy -- all Putin had to do was convince the power elite that he would leave them in peace to enjoy their privilege, and they didn’t resist at all. In fact, they still support him (because he’s good for their interests). That’s the same model that’s in China, basically.

  3. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Apparently, Trump did not threaten Mexico’s President Peña Nieto with war, but considering his actions so far, I fully expect Trump to try it.

    He already did, purportedly. Trump, purportedly, said the following in a conversation with Mexico’s president:
    “You have a bunch of bad hombres down there. You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
    That’s a pretty explicit threat of military invasion.

    Due to how politics has become polarized, Congress, designed to be a check on executive power, has only been a check on opposing Presidents.

    I agree this is an important part of the story. However, there is more. I would also argue that there is a concerning lack of fear of government tyranny and abuse. People like who me fight against the police state are painted as looneys and libertarians. It seems that most people want a police state -- it’s frightening. Just the other day, I got into an extensive argument about how stop and frisk, and roadside sobriety checkpoints, are police state, and they should be declared unconstitutional as per the American federal fourth amendment. It’s quite rare that I get a seconder on the motion that roadside sobriety checkpoints are police state, they should not exist, and they are clear violations of the American federal fourth amendment.

  4. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Ah, I see your link. So, the Mexican president denied the authenticity of the transcript. Understood.

  5. says

    EnlightenmentLiberal @ #4:

    Yup. Maybe that doesn’t necessarily mean that Trump didn’t make the threat, but they do deny it, so…

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