Trump’s Brand Of Authoritarianism Should Be Raising More Alarms
“As [Mussolini] was consolidating his power, he said, ‘if you pluck a chicken one feather at a time, nobody notices.’ And so, I have been concerned about the feather-plucking that is going on in the United States…I think [Trump] is the least democratic president that I’ve observed.” — Madeleine Albright discussing her new book “Fascism: A Warning” on Pod Save The World (April 2018)
On Tuesday, President Trump once again broached the idea of removing the due process rights of migrants crossing the southern border.
TRUMP threatens to close border with Mexico as soon as this weekend, then rants about immigration during Oval Office meeting with NATO secretary general: “What we have to do is Congress has to meet quickly & make a deal… to be honest with you, we have to get rid of judges.” pic.twitter.com/DAbeXVXUIK
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 2, 2019
President Trump’s authoritarian tendencies are not new, nor are they surprising. Candidate Trump ran a campaign promising that he would lock up Hillary Clinton, tapped into the xenophobic fears of the Republican base, and began his attacks on the media.
As President, Trump has labeled himself a “nationalist”, declared a national emergency based on a manufactured crisis at the southern border, separated migrant families, cozied up to dictators around the globe, repeatedly called for his political opponents to be jailed, threatened the independence of the Justice Department, asked for loyalty from FBI Director James Comey, and subsequently fired him.
President Trump has called the media the “enemy of the American people”, the “opposition party”, and “fake news”. Trump has praised a GOP congressman who body slammed a reporter and has not quieted his anti-media rhetoric even after one of his supporters sent pipe bombs to CNN. Anyone with a knowledge of history knows the first target of despots is the media.
President Trump has forged a relationship with Fox News that can only be compared to that of state-run TV while the mainstream media pretends to upkeep the appearance of normalcy through false equivalency. According to The Washington Post, President Trump has made at least 9,451 false or misleading claims during his presidency.
Given the wide array of corruption investigations encircling him, President Trump has a vested interest in eroding the truth and gaslighting his far-right base. All the while, he scapegoats minorities for his base’s economic plight as he passes legislation that benefits the top 1%. Trump’s central political message is fear.
Since Attorney General William Barr released his summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report last week, President Trump appears emboldened. The Trump campaign circulated an enemies list and promised to “punish” those who reported on the very real ties between Russia and Trump. Trump has falsely accused those who ran the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election of “treason.”
Meanwhile, the Republican Party remains complicit in Trump’s endeavor to consolidate power. While they echo President Trump’s attacks on U.S. institutions they also engineer minority rule through gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics. The once so-called “Grand Old Party” of Lincoln is now the corrupt party of Trump.
These tendencies run contrary to everything the United States of America stands for and yet the President of the United States embraces them in order to maintain his power. The media needs to be taking this conduct more seriously, instead, many outlets jump from story to story without connecting them to the broader story of Trump’s brand of authoritarianism.
Meanwhile, the wannabe authoritarian in the White House is already spending millions of dollars on digital ads for his 2020 campaign. As the Democrats gear up for a competitive presidential primary, they must be smart and stay focused on the bigger picture. Internal squabbling will only embolden a President who must be beaten in 2020 for the sake of our democracy.
When it comes to the American people, stay vigilant and never let Trump convince you that any of this is normal. Make sure your friends are aware of the dangers Trump poses to democracy and that it’s not hyperbole. If nobody notices President Trump’s feather-plucking in the midst of the chaotic news cycles that serve him, he wins.
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