I HAVE POSTED about Trump relentlessly these last few weeks on social media. And I’m sure a healthy number of my Facebook friends—that is, the ones who have not yet unfollowed me—see these posts, roll their eyes, and think, “Why doesn’t he just stop? The election is over. Trump won. It’s time to get over it.” Or, even worse, “Just give him a chance!”
Here’s the thing: Donald Trump is a piece of shit, a failed human being, the Worst Person in America. And you’re welcome to disagree with that assessment, although the next story I read about some kindness he performed for kindness’s sake will be the first. That he is a Fascist, however, is not subject to debate. Hence the urgency of my Facebook posts.
With the release of the classified dossier, what many of us have known for months appears incontrovertible: Donald J. Trump is a compromised Russian asset who is, as Hillary Clinton sagely asserted in the debates, nothing more than a puppet of Russian despot Vladimir Putin. Even without that colorful document, it could not be more clear that Trump knows where his bread is buttered.
Putin is an autocrat. He does everything he can to trample free speech and other freedoms in Russia. This is what Putin wants Trump to do here. This is his model. Trump may not be Hitler, but he has enough totalitarian tendencies to make comparisons of him to der Fuhrer more than just a quaint validation of Godwin’s Law. He seeks to bully minority groups and trample my, and your, First Amendment rights. (To me, the First Amendment is more important than the Second, and the Founders thought so, too, which is why they put it first). He wants to tread on me.
Two days after the election, the Russian dissident and LGBT activist Masha Gessen’s essay “Autocracy: Rules for Survival” ran in the New York Review of Books. Gessen, who is intimately familiar with autocracies, predicted: “The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House. Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.” If you watched the so-called press conference last week, and followed the ravings of incoming White House spokesman Sean Spicer afterward, you know that this assault on the press is already happening. How many of Trump’s juvenile tweets concern the media?
But it’s not just Trump. It’s a morally bankrupt Republican Party that rails against the dying of the light by stripping away the voting rights of minorities (who tend to vote Democratic). Look at what happened in North Carolina, in the waning days of the term of bigoted governor Pat McCrory. North Carolina is less of a democracy than some Banana Republics at this point. In Congress, the very first initiative taken by the GOP was a failed attempt to castrate Congressional ethics rules. Jason Chaffetz, the mendacious House member from Utah, used his position as chair of the House Oversight Committee to attack the nonpartisan director of the Office of Government Ethics; threats like these are harbingers of Fascism. While there are plenty of patriotic Republicans who have boldly stood up to Trumpism (Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham on Russia; Jennifer Rubin, David Frum, and Evan McMullin in the media, to name a few), there enough sycophants in positions of power to cause grave concern.
Although I am a liberal and was a vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton, I should add that this is not about politics. Nothing less than the American way of life is at stake here. Trump’s policies are odious and will cause real harm to many millions of people, none of them his well-heeled peers. But policies can be defeated politically. Once a democracy falls, once a dictator is installed, the gig is up. It becomes a different game entirely. As Adam Gopnik puts in in the New Yorker: “In such a moment of continued emergency, the most important task may be to distinguish as rigorously as possible between new policies and programs that, however awful, are a reflection of the normal oscillation of power, natural in a mature democracy, and those that are not.” He continues:
Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.
Impeaching Trump will give us President Pence, whose policies could not be less in line with mine. I don’t care. The notion that Pence is the same as Trump, or somehow worse, is ludicrous. Pence will not get us into a nuclear war, there is no cult of personality to be built around Pence, bigots will not shout PENCE as they commit hate crimes. He is a generic GOP pol with lousy policies, but he is loyal to the United States and the American way of life. The same cannot be said of Donald J. Trump.
I should also add, in the interests of being politically neutral, that the ease with which Trump could steer our country into dictatorship was much abetted by President Obama’s own despotic policies; Barack Obama may be a good man and an exemplary person, but he bears some of the responsibility for the totalitarian abyss we’re now staring into. The last nine months of his presidency, during which he played “Eight Years of No Scandal” on his fiddle while Congress shut down his Supreme Court pick, Comey and Putin screwed him, and Trump poured gasoline on the Constitution and lit it on fire, may well prove to be the only ones history remember, and not kindly. Neville Chamberlain was a nice guy, too.
I’ve read enough history to recognize the (swastika-riddled) writing on the wall. Most Americans clearly haven’t. It’s no coincidence that the rise of Fascism here and elsewhere in the world comes at a time when those who lived through the horrors of the Second World War are dying off, when most primary sources are dead, when I suddenly wonder, writing this essay, if people still remember who Neville Chamberlain is.
“Trump has made his plans clear, and he has made a compact with his voters to carry them out,” Gessen warned us in November. “These plans include not only dismantling legislation such as Obamacare but also doing away with judicial restraint—and, yes, punishing opponents.” The repeal of Obamacare is already underway, despite the untold harm it will cause many millions of Americans. As for retribution, today it’s scathing attacks on Twitter. When Trump controls all the mechanisms of the mighty U.S. government tomorrow afternoon? Heaven help us all.
So: I see this as a life and death struggle. Trump is nothing less than a threat to the American way of life, and I mean that without hyperbole. Until my worst fears of his autocratic inclinations are proven wrong, I’m taking this very, very seriously. And if that means I have to disrupt the safe-space Facebook and Twitter feeds of my friends and family members, well, that is a small price to pay for maintaining the right to post whatever the heck we want on those very feeds. When Trump is no longer the president, we can resume sharing pictures of our kids and our cats. Until then, we must resist, with all our might, to ensure that Lady Liberty, having already been groped by his short fingers, is not strangled to death by them.
Despite claims to the contrary by John Wilkes Booth, we have never had a tyrant in the White House. Tomorrow, we will. If this doesn’t terrify you, you need to get your head out of the sand. Shit is about to get uncomfortably real. Venezuela-style economic collapse? Martial law? Nuclear war? In the reign of King Donald I, anything is possible.
Sic semper tyranis, indeed.