President “Despot Don” is ushering America toward despotism . . . or—almost as bad—his precariously excellent imitation thereof. (OK, I coined the moniker, Despot Don, to inject a bit of comforting humor to aid my own endurance.) One frightening aspect of descent into fascism, despotism, or authoritarianism is that we can’t be certain until it’s too late to stop the slide. We are so blithely certain that America’s democracy is protected by its Constitution and strong institutions that our confidence could become our undoing. If you think I’m being alarmist, I urge you to research the sequence of steps associated with impending authoritarian government, which I referred to in my January 23 post, “Flirting with fascism in Trump’s America.”
One public blindness working to Despot Don’s authoritarian advantage comes from Democrat reactions to his unexpected election followed by Republican reactions to Democrats’ reactions. As Republicans accurately allege, there’s a lot of “crybaby” behavior among Democrats, much in the way that there was crybaby behavior and outright partisan opposition (to President Obama) among Republicans when Obama replaced President Bush. There’ll always be partisan reactions, of course, and they’re often bent more on partisan advantage than the good of the country. Unfortunately, some of the normal sorts of partisan reactions to Despot Don can be hard to distinguish from pointing our his very real threat to America, one that far exceeds both liberal partisan wailing and conservative partisan defensiveness. (If nothing else works to excuse Republicans’ current inaction, they can retreat out of habit into the ridiculous perspective that, well, Hillary would have been worse.)
Although this blog exists to discuss secular humanism and atheism, not politics, the serious threat posed to the republic by Despot Don has compelled me to write a spate of political posts, to wit: “America’s celebration of ignorance,” Sep. 26, 2016; “October relief…sort of, Trump’s still here,” Oct. 28, 2016; “Please, Mr. President-elect,” Nov. 15, 2016; “What does a proto-despot look like?” Dec. 12, 2016; “Trump and the new American truth,” Feb. 10, 2017; and the aforementioned “Flirting with fascism in Trump’s America,” Jan. 23, 2017.
Adding to a possible perfect storm is the impotence of the Republican party and individual Republicans in the Senate and House. Due to their majority position, they are the only salvation from republic-threatening authoritarianism . But Republican Senators are bending over backwards to pretend Despot Don is no threat, just an inconvenience. House Republicans are doing that as well, but the very jerrymandered districts that assured their election now lock them in place even if they were to see the light and to have the fortitude to act. Consequently, as a group, Congressional Republicans are more interested in kowtowing to Despot Don than reigning him in, resembling not so much the country’s protectors as Trump’s “enablers.”
Despot Don is far worse than can be described by thoughtless denial or a pathetic wink-and-a-nod phrase (“just Donald being Donald,” or “well, he’s not a typical president”). The cliff America is flirting with is not a Democrat versus Republican matter. Donald John Trump is not just a bad president—we’ve survived those. No, this is very different. Even at this early stage of his presidency, Donald Trump is a looming, impending threat to the very nature of the American republic.