THE TWELVE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS DONALD TRUMP HAS TAUGHT ME (Thing No. 7):
America’s potential for authoritarianism is stronger, deeper and more menacing than I would ever have believed before.
As I studied American politics, I had the notion that our country and all our social and political relations rested on a solid consensus around our constitution and fundamental democratic values.
We have had our share of demagogues, political bosses, and corrupt politicians. But we somehow muddle along electing enough good people often enough that something close enough to “good government” allows us to live our lives in peace and prosperity — at least compared to the lives people live in countries ruled by dictators and criminal syndicates.
No small part of our ability to keep decent government in place can be credited to our merit-based, professional civil service. One of Donald Trump’s most frequent targets is the “deep state”. He has undermined the civil service (including the foreign service) by leaving them understaffed, giving them inept and corrupt appointed political leadership, and gutting the system of agency Inspectors General, and attacking protected whistleblowers.
His use of social media for direct communication with voters has been near genius for the purpose of building a faithful army of followers with cult-like love for their supreme leader. On January 6, 2021 he showed that they could be mobilized like an army and attempt to thwart the Congress in its constitutional duty to count electoral votes and declare the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
What is particularly shocking is the ease with which it has been done by a man of little ability but with a dogged determination to have his way. Always. And his interpersonal skill at bullying and threatening has left most of the people in his political party totally unable to stand up to him. They are craven, pitiable little politicians who will kiss the king’s ass if that is what he needs.
His success in putting together this army of followers the press refers to as “his base” and the ease with which he did it should be a warning to us all.
Be vigilant, be informed, be active, and — by all means — vote.