Throwing around the word fascist should be as heavy a lift as heaving a manhole cover like a discus. It can’t be done lightly. But Donald Trump’s love of authoritarian dictators, modeling their behavior, becomes more deeply troubling every day. His sending unrequested federal military personnel into crowds of protesters in Portland, Oregon, evokes images of late night SS raids in Nazi Germany. Trump’s “soldiers” were pulled together by Homeland Security from disparate federal agencies. The camouflage-clad troops were unidentified and horrifyingly took off protesters in unmarked vans to unspecified destinations. Now Trump says he plans a similar deployment to Chicago, which, despite a recent violent weekend, is opposed to this. And, says the President, he may target other cities with Democratic mayors. “If Democrats run cities, they’re liberally run. They’re stupidly run,” said Trump. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other mayors have made clear that such unwanted “help” will be resisted.
This isn’t like Little Rock, Arkansas when President Eisenhower sent in federal troops because of segregationist blocking of school integration. There, local actions were in defiance of court orders. When George H. W. Bush sent troops to Los Angeles after police acquittal in the Rodney King case, it was at the request of the California governor. Laws and protocols have been in case since the days of Thomas Jefferson, and Donald Trump (a longtime stranger to laws and protocols) doesn’t meet those standards. Current and past Defense Secretaries have opposed Trump on deploying U.S. military against civilians. This is scary stuff, even for this President.
Equally chilling was Trump’s response to a question posed on Sunday by Fox’s Chris Wallace about whether Trump will be willing to accept a loss on November 3. Despite that the peaceful transition of administrations following an election has been a hallmark of our democracy, Trump demurred: “I have to see. No, I’m not going to just say yes. I’m not going to say no.” As a prelude to any number of nightmare scenarios, Trump is already trying to undermine the credibility of the electoral process, losing no opportunity to declare it “rigged” and question the reliability of mail-in voting with false accounts of voter fraud.
It’s not unfair to lump Donald Trump together with other authoritarian leaders across the world today. There’s his bromance with former KGB heavyweight Vladimir Putin in Russia and his imploring China’s Xi Jinping to help his political standing among farmers by buying more soybeans. Trump and Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro have been called “two of a kind,” especially when it comes to their disdain for science in the pandemic. Foreign Affairs Magazine compares what we are experiencing here and now with Turkey’s “slide into autocracy under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.” I hate to think we have become complacent about Donald Trump’s ease at using force against peaceful protesters, feeding hatred, sowing divisions, nepotism, cronyism, attacks on journalists (Turkey is a world leader in jailing journalists), and overall assault on democratic norms.
The stakes in this election couldn’t be higher. No less than the future of our democracy hangs in the balance. Joe Biden, with all his flaws, is the one thing Trump cannot claim to be – a decent man. The former Vice President must not only win, but win big.
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