In the past few days Mr. Trump has launched a very serious and very dangerous campaign of suggesting that if an attack occurs it will be the fault of federal judges who ruled that his Executive Order on immigration was Constitutionally problematic. And more recently he suggested it might be the fault of the press for not reporting on terrorist attacks – an assertion which any fair read of the evidence shows is a lie. As with the sweeping allegations of millions of fraudulent voters (where is the investigation of that dire threat to our democracy now?), the White House cannot supply facts to back up the President’s claim.
Mr. Trump is the Commander in Chief. The armed services and intelligence community report to him. Searching for scapegoats to blame even before an event occurs is to sow the seeds of destabilization to the very fabric of our republic. These are the tactics of a thin-skinned bully who may realize he is in far over his head… This is a common tactic of authoritarian rulers I have seen around the globe.
… I do not see either judges or reporters backing down. Quite the contrary.
With regard to Trump being a “populist'” Krugman has some things to say about this, Reality TV Populism. For example:
Europe’s populist parties are actually populist; they pursue policies that really do help workers, as long as those workers are the right color and ethnicity. As someone put it, they’re selling a herrenvolk welfare state.
Trump, however, is different. He said lots of things on the campaign trail, but his personnel choices indicate that in practice he’s going to be a standard hard-line economic-right Republican.
…in what sense is Trump a populist? Basically, he plays one on TV — he claims to stand for the common man, disparages elites, trashes political correctness; but it’s all for show. When it comes to substance, he’s pro-elite all the way.
So what is the evidence that he an “Authoritarian?” Recently there has been lots written about this. For example Trump’s Authoritarian Approach to Managing Public Opinion, Trump ‘Is a Fraud’ Sending Nation in ‘Authoritarian Direction’. A CNN opinion piece by Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Trump is following the authoritarian playbook, makes a couple of persuasive arguments:
- Trump is targeting the media.
- Strongmen also target the judiciary.
Strongmen show aggression to the press as part of a slow-drip strategy of discrediting all information that is not dispensed by their close allies. Many were surprised at Trump’s rude treatment of CNN at his recent press conference. Calling the media outlet “fake news,” he refused to allow reporter Jim Acosta to ask a question. This was classic authoritarian posturing.
Strongmen also target the judiciary, since it stands in the way of their “reforms” that often veer into extra-legality. ..So look forward to Trump administration efforts to tar individual judges who seem to block the fulfillment of GOP agendas or interfere with Trump’s personal interests.[e.g., U.S. District Judge James Robart temporary block of the travel ban]
Assuming that Thump and his set of White House advisors are “Authoritarians” — probability 1.0 — what should we do? I found two sets of advice that appeal to me. One is from a Keith Ellison interview on Trevor North Feb. 6 where Ellison gives advice on strategy for dealing with Trump and the current set of Republicans. The other is from Global Voices, These Venezuelans Have Some Ideas to Share With Trump Opponents. Both argue that we have to fight tooth and nail to regain the support of those that depend on us the most.
From the Keith Ellison Interview: We have to fight him at every turn. People do not expect you to be always successful but they expect you to be faithful.
From Global, Voices: Recognize you’re the enemy they need; show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those that brought Trump to power; by all means be patient with democracy and struggle relentlessly to free yourself from the shackles of the caricature the populists have drawn of you.
New York Times Opinion Pages, Feb 2: Op-Ed Contributor Angelina Jolie: Refugee Policy Should Be Based on Facts, Not Fear.
Every government must balance the needs of its citizens with its international responsibilities. But our response must be measured and should be based on facts, not fear.
Refugees are in fact subject to the highest level of screening of any category of traveler to the United States.
Furthermore, only the most vulnerable people are put forward for resettlement in the first place: survivors of torture, and women and children at risk or who might not survive without urgent, specialized medical assistance.
And in fact only a minuscule fraction — less than 1 percent — of all refugees in the world are ever resettled in the United States or any other country.
If we create a tier of second-class refugees, implying Muslims are less worthy of protection, we fuel extremism abroad, and at home we undermine the ideal of diversity cherished by Democrats and Republicans alike: “America is committed to the world because so much of the world is inside America,” in the words of Ronald Reagan.
What happened to Give us your tired your poor…? According to Trump immigrants/visitors are welcome as long as they are white christians. No Mexicans, no Muslims. We don’t want immigrants, we don’t want imports. We will sell you goods but we don’t want your goods. Let’s turn the country into an island unto itself.
This will not make us great again. It will not make us safer. It will make us infinitely poorer.
Background on the poem from which the famous lines that adorn the Stature of Liberty (from a Katie Reilly TIME article); Emma Lazarus, who was born in New York City in 1849 to a wealthy Jewish family, composed “The New Colossus.” Lazarus drew inspiration from her Sephardic Jewish heritage and from her work on Ward’s Island, where she helped Jewish refugees who had been detained by immigration authorities, according to the National Park Service.
“Wherever there is humanity, there is the theme for a great poem,” she once said, according to the Jewish Women’s Archives. The poem in its entirety:
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”