by Evert Cilliers
Hitler and Mussolini came to power because they were freely elected by their people, with the complicity of many in the established political class.
Can the same thing happen in America with the freely elected President Trump, who is being coddled by our established political class in the GOP?
After all, in true authoritarian fashion, Trump attacks the free press, attacks our courts, attacks the FBI and the Justice Department, and tells half a dozen lies a day.
Never before has so much crap been dropped from the piehole of an American president.
It's something we've never seen in all of our history.
Unprecedented. Bizarro. Weird beyond weird.
We now have a presidential moron who, in between his intake of junk food and junk news, spends his days shitting on our democracy.
Ezra Klein wrote at Vox:
"This was a year in which Trump undermined the press, fired the director of the FBI, cozied up to Russia, baselessly alleged he was wiretapped, threatened to jail his political opponents, publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from an investigation, repeatedly claimed massive voter fraud against him, appointed a raft of unqualified and occasionally ridiculous candidates to key positions, mishandled the aftermath of the Puerto Rico hurricane, and threatened to use antitrust and libel laws against his enemies."
1. Why Trump Can't Become Our Mussolini or Putin
To get back to Hitler and Mussolini, their establishment parties saw that these two gentlemen had enthusiastic bases. They wanted that enthusiasm for themselves, and they got it when they backed Hitler and Mussolini.
They weren't too worried, because they thought they could control Hitler and Mussolini.
Boy, did they get that wrong.
Fortunately, in America we have a democracy that's been going for far longer than Germany and Italy have been actual unified states.
So even though we have a would-be dictator and a party who indulges his assholicity, we won't go the way of pre-war Germany and Italy.
After all, we have a robust press and a robust legal system (rigged against blacks, but more or less fair to whites). And we have a very liberal California and the very vocal opposition of millions of our women, blacks and Hispanics.
Women have marched against Trump after his inauguration and again last month, and their votes may help give the House and the Senate to the Democrats in November this year.
And women are running for office all over. More than 20,000 women have contacted Emily's List to say they're interested in running for office, and before Trump, that number was only in the hundreds every year. There's a Pink Wave coming.
That's one good thing that Trump has done: he has fired up woman and progressives, and united the opposition against him.
2. The Damage The GOP Have Done To Our Health
Given our strong press, many of our sane judges, our fired-up women, our dependable blacks, and California, what happened in Germany and Italy, and what's happening in Hungary and Turkey today (where popularly elected leaders have become rather authoritarian), is unlikely to happen here.
Despite his admiration for Putin and other dictators, Trump will not become our own Putin.
But who can really tell?
Today, democracies die differently. As Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote in their book "How Democracies Die":
"This is how democracies now die. Blatant dictatorship — in the form of fascism, communism, or military rule — has disappeared across much of the world. Military coups and other violent seizures of power are rare. Most countries hold regular elections. Democracies still die, but by different means. Since the end of the Cold War, most democratic breakdowns have been caused not by generals and soldiers but by elected governments themselves. Like Chávez in Venezuela, elected leaders have subverted democratic institutions in Georgia, Hungary, Nicaragua, Peru, the Philippines, Poland, Russia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Ukraine. Democratic backsliding
today begins at the ballot box."
Again, I think we'll survive Trump. Our democracy is older than Croesus.
But there is a big but.
In the short year that Trump and the GOP have dominated our government, they've done great damage to America.
EPA standards are being rolled back by a guy who used to sue the EPA before Trump appointed him to run it. Protected land is now open to drilling for oil. The polluting coal industry is being saved from its natural death spiral. Our environment is in great danger.
Much of the produce from California, who farm over 80% of what you eat, is being irrigated by oil industry effluent — the oil industry sells the leftover water used in their manufacturing processes to farmers, because they've run out of places to store it. This water is poisonous, ridden with oil and chemicals. It's going into our aquifers. You could get cancer from the fruit you eat.
3. The Damage They've Done To Our Diversity
Trump rose to political prominence with the birther lie and by demonizing immigrants (whom most of us descend from).
He spent the immigrant proportion of his State of the Union speech talking about criminals, the notorious MS-13 gang.
Yet the plain fact is that immigrants commit only half as many crimes as the rest of us. They're working too hard to have time for crime.
But to Trump, immigrants are criminals and terrorists. And this is what his base believes.
So our government targets immigrants.
ICE is being let loose on our hard-working immigrants.
Last week an immigrant father who's been here 40 years and has employed many Americans, was arrested for deportation without even getting the chance to say goodbye to his family. Fortunately a judge gave him that chance.
The Dreamers may lose their dreams.
Trans-gender people are being targeted.
Evangelicals are free to spout their homophobic rhetoric.
White supremacists adore Trump and are on the march.
Trump took his time to get our government involved in hurricane-destroyed Puerto Rico. He said they expect too much and want everything done for them, and they shouldn't expect help for too long. Meanwhile, he promised white Houston that he would never abandon them.
The Justice Department is being run by a far-right zealot who wants judges to give out more severe sentences so we can fill up our strained jails even fuller (with 5% of the world's population, we have 25% of its prisoners). Jeff Sessions also has a bee in his bonnet about weed, when most Americans are cool with it. Heck, alcohol is worse than dope, which happens to have medicinal benefits.
4. The Economic Damage They've Done To Regular Folks
This may be the biggest under-reported scandal of the Trump administration:
A guy from Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn, who was one of the Wall Street guys responsible for the sub-prime crisis that led to the Great Recession, is now a top economic adviser to Trump.
At Goldman Sachs, Mr Cohn packaged and sold sub-prime deals, and then, when he realized they were crap, he bet against them, while continuing to sell this shit to his clients — behavior for which Goldman had to pay big fines.
But for which no-one at Goldman Sachs was ever charged. Instead, Obama gave these Wall Streets crooks more money.
This Gary Cohn, this white-collar crook, this complete cheat, who has made half a billion bucks from his criminal behavior, is now one of the main guys running our economy.
Yes, we now have an out-and-out crook in charge of us.
Gary Cohn is giving Goldman Sachs all the freedoms they need to keep ripping us off. Dodd-Frank is being gutted. Wall Street is being encouraged to lumber us with yet another recession.
Donald Trump, who used anti-Goldman Sachs rhetoric to get elected, now has more Goldman guys in his government than Obama, Bush or Clinton had.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, that great invention of Senator Warren that has forced many financial cheats to pay back what they chiseled from regular Americans, has been defanged. It's now being run by Mick Mulvaney — a CFPB foe serving part-time as its acting director.
Business is being deregulated at an alarming rate, with dire consequences for our health, both physical and economic.
Stocks are on a tear, but that only helps shareholders; most of us don't have enough money to own stocks.
Corporations have had their taxes cut from 35% to 21%, and more than 80% of the new tax benefits are going to the top 1%.
These tax cuts will explode the deficit and give the GOP an excuse to cut back what they call "entitlements" — our social welfare net, Social Security, Medicare, et al, which has alleviated poverty among our seniors.
Here's something I wrote some time ago:
"After WW2, for every dollar that individuals paid in taxes, corporations paid $1.50. Today it's 25 cents. Corporations used to pay more taxes than people, but now people pay more taxes than corporations. Goldman Sachs often pays less than 2% in taxes, and GE often nothing. Us hard-working regular folks (Romney's notorious 47%) are not the takers who mooch off the government tit — our big corporations are. So are our 1%. Since 1997 the 400 richest Americans have more than tripled their average annual income to $345m, while their taxes have gone down by 40%. A billionaire like Romney pays 13% in taxes, far less than you and I."
And after the new tax law, things are worse.
So even though Trump will not become our dictator — he won't last beyond 2020 — the damage that he and his party is doing to us is terrifyingly deep.
The next Democratic president will have to spend most of her first term cleaning up the mess left by the GOP, which is what Democrats always have to do.
5. The Damage Trump Does To Our Moral Authority
Something Jimmy Kimmel said about Trump:
"Here's how our government works now. If your party is in charge, you can lie, you can cheat, you can game the system to benefit your buddies. You can basically do whatever you want. And then when a newspaper digs whatever you did up and publishes a story about it, you don't just attack the facts, you don't just attack the story, you attack the newspaper."
America now has no moral authority left in the world. We can't lecture other countries about democracy, or how they might be failing at it. After all, what is our leader doing and saying?
Because of Trump, America now has the moral authority of a rock spider.
6. How Democrats May Fix Things
I can imagine that the next Democratic president will rush to protect our environment; help make our energy sources greener (something happening anyway, as green energy becomes cheaper than fossil fuels); stop this malarkey about election "fraud"; champion our freedom to smoke pot; strengthen Social Security and Medicare; get the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau back on its feet; raise the minimum wage; promote free tuition in state colleges; introduce Medicare for all; and be kinder to immigrants.
In other words, carry out the incredibly sensible Bernie Sanders agenda.
But what about regulating big business and Wall Street? What about the new tax rate for business? What about our tax burdens being shifted from business onto the backs of regular folks?
Will Democratic government be able to roll any of that back?
Will they even want to roll that back, when they're financed big-time by Wall Street?
That may be the GOP damage that could become permanent.
If that is the only legacy left by our would-be dictator, it will be bad enough.
Let's hope we never elect a mini-Mussolini as president again.