There are many alarming things that happened this week. Certainly the horror of Trumpcare has potentially grave consequences. But I want to stop and take a moment to reflect on two of Trump’s norm demolishing speeches from the week. I am talking of course about his speech commissioning the USS Gerald Ford and his ghastly performance at the Boy Scouts of America’s Jamboree.
While speaking to the military, Trump crossed another line- urging the troops to take political action. Of course- Trump is the Commander in Chief and thus his exhortations may indeed be construed as orders. This is why in the past, Presidents have not spoken to troops about domestic politics.
The speech that got more attention, of course, was his ugly oration before the boy scouts which he turned into a twilight zone Hitler Youth pep rally that somehow included allusions to orgy filled yacht cruises. There is something terrifying about watching an American president get a group of children to boo his political opponents.
But one should read Trump’s boy scout speech through this speech to the military…and be alarmed.
This is the beginning of tyranny. US is partisan & many in the military hold strong partisan Republican views- nurtured by Fox & Friends and the right wing media ecosystem. One must worry that the MAGA members of the military will follow their leader blindly- no matter how unjust, immoral and illegal his orders may be.
Trump has the power to take his role as commander in chief to a space no American president has before. He speaks of “his generals” and clearly believes that loyalty is owed not to America- but to him personally. What is there to stop him from turning the military into his personal army? We have seen the alarming behavior of ICE and Customs and Border Patrol whose agents seem to be more loyal to Trump than the rule of law.
I fear that one day Trump will label members of “the resistance” un-American (quite an irony given Trump’s collusion w/Russia). And once we are so labeled, we will be made subject to the patrol & force of Trump’s loyal soldiers.
This scenario may seem like hyperbole, but only if you reside in a world of established rules & norms. I suggest that we no longer live in such a world.
The president certainly does not adhere to such norms & the GOP spent last 25 years eroding & undermining our democratic norms & institutions.
I know this is hard to wrap your mind around. But that doesn’t make it less true.
Look at the norms they have already broken: Garland, Collusion, Comey, Attacks on the intelligence community, Attacks on the media, Attacks on Mueller, Exhortations to the military, Rallies for the base (outside of campaigning), Walking away from international treaties, Threatening allies, Cozying up to dictators, Rampant corruption, Closing press briefings to cameras… the list goes on and on.
We’re in trouble folks. Authoritarianism is on the march. Even as his poll numbers fall, Trump is building his army. Trump’s followers are loyal & armed. This is how strongmen maintain power despite unpopularity.
And because the framers of the Constitution did not imagine public servants unwilling to be a check on a corrupt President, today’s Republican Congress of callow, craven traitors will allow Trump to become a dictator. Neither Trump nor the GOP respect the judiciary, separation of powers or the democratic process. Nor do they respect or value the lives of all Americans
Trump sees himself as president of those who voted for him. This is why his speeches are all partisan rallies. He is not the president of the majority of Americans and he DOESN’T care.
This is the tyranny of a minority. One can maintain this through propaganda, voter suppression & by force. Trump & the GOP have clearly already implemented the first two.
In his remarks to the military & the loyalty he has from ICE & CBP, we see Trump working on the third- building up his army of loyalist brown shirts.
In retrospect, after it all goes horribly wrong, the descent into authoritarianism will seem obvious. But for now, many just shake their heads at the breaches of civility and decorum.
But it’s worse. Democracy is dying & something brutal is taking its place.