One of my favorite surgery teachers used to say, regarding therapeutic decision-making, “Keep your eye on the donut, not the hole.” Good advice. By design or not, Donald Trump has gotten us to concentrate on the holes in his leadership instead of the baker’s dozen donuts of danger. It could cost us our country.
We sometimes laugh but usually recoil at his mercurial tweets, his inaugural apparitions, his blaming a judge for any future terrorist attacks. We find it inexplicable that he repeats his lies about millions of illegal votes, about skyrocketing crime rates, and a judiciary “gone rogue.” And then out of the fryer comes this crisp confection, and it becomes clear: Trump’s senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, says on a Sunday show, referring to judicial stays on that mal-executed executive order: “… [T]he whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
Will NOT be questioned! “Ze hull vorlt vill zoon zee … zat ze powvers uff ze prezeedint … vil NUT be KVESHtunt!” (He also claimed Trump is 100% correct, always. Trump immediately tweeted love for the performance.)
Many Americans saw this coming, for it’s the despots’ playbook which far predates Trump: instill existential fear, intimidate and suppress opponents, distract attention, produce a flood of lies repeated until believed, convince citizens that only their new leader can save them. Promote distrust of the media and of experts, denounce as traitors all who resist, accuse judges of corruption. Thus are seeds of autocracy sewn, efficiently, deliberately, and, in the case of Trump’s supporters, with ease. Unless his devotees stop believing the lies -- which, so far, appears unlikely -- Trump will continue to tell them.
With his perseverative claim of voter fraud, Trump modernized the script. Willingly, believers believe, so when the next wave of voter suppression rolls around, disguised, per usual, as innocent ID requirements, those supporters won’t blink an eye. But, in the blink of someone else’s eyes, voters of the opposition, at whom those laws are specifically and admittedly aimed, will find themselves robbed of the franchise. And then, the means for his removal gone, resistance rendered futile, truth twisted on its head, enabled by self-serving acquiescence, Trump, like those before him, could be empowered without limits.
As Trump and his collaborators attack “mainstream” media, they cynically promote Fox “news” as the true source of information. If Trump hasn’t yet banned other news sources, he’s refusing to take their questions, while making Fox the Pravda (which, amusingly, means “truth”) of our age. Based on vituperation I receive, Trumpists are fully on board. After the restraining order on the “travel ban” was upheld, Fox did what Fox does, trumpeting a lie that the Ninth Circuit is the court most frequently reversed by the Supreme Court. That’s not only false on the facts; it reveals fundamental misunderstanding (or deliberate deception) about the tiny percentage of appeals the Supreme Court accepts, and how they’re chosen. Civics lessons? Not on Fox “news.” Following the pattern, I’ve heard from Trumpophiles who swallowed the lie. (Fun fact: a court with nearly the lowest reversal rate is the one of which Merrick Garland is Chief Judge.)
Wonder why Trump and his new attorney general are lying about soaring crime rates? Why the plans to militarize police, the talk of vague, easily abused and physically dangerous rules against protesters? Why, indeed. It’s the embryonic police state right-wingers hallucinated under Obama, now actually gestating under Trump. Russian collaborators and Nazi-sympathizers in the White House? Hey, look over there: refugees!
Is this paranoid hyperbole on my part? Against the evidence, I’d prefer to think so. Then again, Trump just offered to ruin the career of a State Senator whose ideas he dislikes. And, concerned more about who leaked than about the disturbing revelations of Team Trump’s Russia connections, Congressional Republicans, whose investigations of Hillary Clinton broke records for time and money spent, show little interest in investigating. How bad must it get before enough Trumpicists open their eyes? Those of us who value democracy can only keep trying to help them see, I guess.[Image source]