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All the hallmarks of a fascist state
Why weren't media, politicians, prominent figures calling this out for three years?
After President Donald Trump had protesters gassed and fired on with rubber bullets so that he could have a photo-op with a bible at a church, the outrage was swift and furious.
Many religious leaders condemned him and the Washington Post, among other papers, editorialized that Trump was inciting violence and, in “enabling his incitement, Mr. Trump’s aides are helping him to push the country closer not to order but to anarchy.”
The editorial board focused on Trump’s call to deploy the military to American cities, and slammed Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who “surely know” how dangerous this would be.
“Yet they allowed themselves to be used as props in Mr. Trump’s march across Lafayette Square,” the Post said.
A strong and urgent warning of what is happening, but it was all evident a long ago. Trump was engaging in fascistic tactics from the moment he stepped into the White House, with the help of his loyal aides. He punished his enemies, right up through and after his impeachment, purging them from the government. He put migrant children in cages. And he unilaterally took emergency powers — enabled by a GOP bowing to him and by judges he installed on the highest courts.
It was powerful to see even the Catholic Archbishop of Washington calling Trump’s photo-op visit to a Catholic shrine the day following his gassing of protesters “reprehensible” and condemning his actions. But where has the Catholic Church been for three and half years?
Trump has been allowed to get away with all of these actions. Many hoped the GOP would stand up to him, but we weren’t shocked when they didn’t — and, true to form, they stayed mostly silent in recent days, running away from reporters. The Democrats in the House did impeach him — but for far too little, and it came far too late. Many of us who used words like “fascism” and “authoritarian” going back to 2016 were told we were exaggerating and even mocked. Now those same critics are agreeing.
As Eric Boehlert noted in PressRun:
CNN anchors on Monday night rang loud warnings about Trump's deeply disturbing authoritarian turn, after he ordered peaceful protesters rammed out of Lafayette Park across from the White House so he could stage a photo-op at a nearby church. As the night progressed, angry and sometimes-violent protests continued to erupt all over Trump's fractured America. The dramatic CNN proclamations came often. But are they too late?
Trump is immensely desperate right now — more desperate than he’s been since he took office. He is looking at polling numbers in battleground states that show him headed for defeat, and he could be charged with crimes when he leaves office. He’s ordering his lieutenants to engage in further possible crimes and cover-ups so that they have they more incentive to keep him in office. The struggle moving forward is going to be more intense than anyone could imagine, and we should expect Trump to use everything at his disposal.
Fortunately, the American people are speaking out loudly on the streets, standing up to the brutal injustice of George Floyd’s killing at the hands of police officers, as well as speaking up against the bigotry and inequality it stemmed from. Trump’s attempt to turn the largely peaceful protests, using media images of the inevitable acts of vandalism by infiltrators and opportunists that often accompany mass protest, into a violent leftist uprising is right out of every dictator’s playbook. It’s no wonder he spoke with Vladimir Putin on the day he gassed protesters.
But the energy of protest is powerful, and the American people support the message. We’re seeing the highest level of support for Black Lives Matter in three years. All of the noise and fretting about Trump using a replica of Richard Nixon’s 1968 “law and order” campaign to win the election are overblown. As Princeton University historian Kevin Kruse notes in a Washington Post op-ed, this strategy worked for Nixon because he wasn’t the incumbent. Trump is essentially making the case for his own removal by running on America in disarray — because he caused the disarray:
As a presidential candidate, Nixon manipulated the issue of “law and order” for his own ends. But as president, he learned it was a losing issue for the politician then in charge.
The call for “law and order” is, at heart, a call for a new order, a call for the current leadership to be replaced. An incumbent who presses the issue is effectively making the case for his opponent, not himself.
Trump will be defeated not because the media or the political or judicial systems worked — all of them either failed or were weak. It will happen because the American people, led by African-Americans demanding justice, rose up in spite of the often dismal failures of those institutions, with many taking brave actions and putting their bodies on the line. Every one of us needs to support the protests and their spirit, organize and get out the vote in November.