Authoritarianism in America
‘Alarmists’ and ‘Realists’
Trump doesn’t do pivots. He doesn’t do nuance. He never did and he never will. Yet there seems to have been genuine surprise and shock felt by many well-meaning but ultimately misguided individuals who cautioned and patronised the ‘Alarmists’ who warned of what was to come. However it’s looking like the Alarmists have a better take on what’s happening, and the potential of what could happen, and that those who shouted that if Trump was elected, the American Republic was in mortal danger, have turned out to be correct. The scale has tipped to him being more like a Putin than a Berlusconi. The ‘Realists’ have got it wrong.
The Realists have the following arguments, each of which have either fallen by the wayside or come under extreme stress since the Presidential Election. In the run up to November and before the Inauguration, there was the ‘He’s a politician; he’s just playing politics’ line. Then there was the ‘He’s not really racist, he’s just being Populist’ thread. And lastly, we have the claim that ‘there’s too many checks and balances to allow him to implement his programme’. A cursory look at each of these talking points will show us why the Realists were wrong.
A stunted personality with a totalitarian mindset has so far done a lot of what he promised to do. He told us he was going to introduce ‘extreme vetting’, he bragged that he wanted to build a wall, his surrogates vowed to fire anyone in Washington who got in their way. All these things are on record and have been since at least June 2016. Remember what you’re dealing with.
The second point, about him ‘just’ being a populist is a simple so what? The effect of discriminatory legislation and executive orders are the same whether he believes in them or not. Although he’s an exceptionally dim man, he has enough cunning to sell stuff he doesn’t really believe in. Yet, he is in thrall to the Extreme Right. Judge a man by the company he keeps? Damn straight.
The point that the Republic is resilient enough to survive what’s happening is addressed in more detail below. But it is the complacency with which the Realists used this line in the run up and aftermath of November that is breathtaking. They dismissed the move by the Hamilton Electors to deny a would-be dictator the Electoral College vote, ignored the evidence of Russian hacking and corruption, and underplayed Trump’s grotesque character defects. They still have faith in a system that named an Extreme Right-Wing Lunatic as President. What happens if and when he changes the shape of the Supreme Court in his favour?
Call it as it is. Authoritarianism has arrived in America. The coup was in full view, except, apparently, to a cadre of blind-sided commentators who thought that there was a way through this, that although he would be Right Wing, he could be checked and balanced from within. As argued below, the he can be stopped, but it will take a colossal effort.
Stopping a Tyrant
The Resistance will come from four main groups: the Democrats, Protestors, the Courts, Internationally. There must be a consistent application of all four to have the desired effect,
Nothing will come from Congressional Republicans. They’re gone, sold out to the dark-side, evident since the Senate refused to confirm Merrick Garland. So it’s up to elected Democrats. Oppose everything. No co-operation. That includes you, Bernie. You don’t take any pork or crumbs from Trump’s table. You refuse to ratify any of his proposals. You filibuster. You block. You do everything you can to explain to that mythical beast, the White Working Class, that they’ve been conned but you don’t pander to their racism. You are the new Tea Party.
The Women’s Marchers will keep going. The airport protests will continue. Anytime there’s a threat to civil rights, it needs to be protested. That goes hand in hand with Congressional, State Legislature and Local Political activity. Protest does not have to just mean marching; it can be organising, phoning your representative, engaging in debate with your friends and neighbours.
The Courts have been and will have to be used for emergency stays, habeas corpus, you know, the basics of the Constitution. The ICLU is going to be stretched but there is capacity there. Support them, if you can. In relation to the first two points, Sessions and Trump’s Supreme Court nominee must be opposed as far as is possible. The Courts can be a bulwark to tyranny.
Yes, internationally, America’s friends need to step up. That means co-ordinated EU statements and action against this rogue administration. It means calling out Bannon interference in the French and German elections. It means working with democrats (small ‘D’) to uphold human and civil rights.
Trump is a bully. Once his power is challenged, he is vulnerable. He can be stopped. It won’t be easy. But then, fighting authoritarianism never was.