Trump, Authoritarianism, Demagoguery

Here is a comment I just posted in a small e-mail forum of old college friends that I participate in:

Jim, some thoughts on your observation that Democrats have been trying to get rid of Trump since he was elected: I would number myself among those people but would like to draw some lines. In some respects, this is what happens when any losing party gears up for the next election. And Trump’s depiction of ‘Never-Trumpers’ states the obvious in that respect — but probably also reflects his narcissistic criticism of people who would “dare” oppose him. It’s these latter aspects of Trump – his narcissism, his demand of absolute loyalty, his “I alone can fix it”, his camaraderie with Putin and many other authoritarian leaders, his (out of the paper today) reversal, to the dismay of high brass, military courts punishment of people convicted of murder, conscious lying in which his only concern is to keep his base intact and to divert it from falling for “fake news”.  A few hours after Trump’s inauguration, I posted a blog asking rhetorically “Is a Demagogue in Power?”  Trump is something dangerously out of the ordinary. I find myself in strange agreement with many cable news talking heads from the CIA and FBI who see Trump as a threat to the rule of law. Having lived for three years and carefully observed (reading the newspaper daily) a vicious military dictatorship in Brazil (where a supporter of the dictatorship widely known as “the Trump of the Tropics” is now president), I see in Trump a wanna-be dictator, someone who plays only by his rules and is ready to run rampant over anything and anybody who threatens his power.  One time in Brazil, knowing I was crossing a certain line, I stated to a neighbor with her son, about 10 years old “The military run everything here”.  The son, alarmed, said instantly “Mother, he is against Brazil”.  Trump at his rallies decries that a coup is taking place against him, that his opponents are enemies of “the USA”, etc, classically conflating the head of state with the country (“L’etat, c’est moi”).  And the problem is not just Trump but his sizable base and constituency (itself a part of an international rise of the right) , which is ready to be scared into believing in him.  Maureen Dowd made an interesting observation the other day that Nixon did not have, like Trump now has, a major television network behind him.  Fox is the most watched network of the impeachment inquiry.  And they toss up on the screen one-liners dismissing some of the most important conclusions of the inquiry. So the “fake news” is not going to hamper Trump’s fight against a coup.  And he can keep on screaming at rallies about becoming president for life (as he has, if you missed it).

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