By Kumar David –
There have been more than a few articles and commentaries in recent weeks arguing that Donald Trump is attempting to foist a dictatorship on the USA. It can’t be done before the November 2020 presidential election but more than one writer (most of them American) makes the case that this is entirely possible during his second term if he wins one. I do not think this is likely but to be fair let me summarise the case of these interlocutors today.
Part of the case is built around comparison with Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and more important what Hitler got away with as all Europe (except the lone voices of Trotsky and Churchill) shivered and shrivelled in the face of rising arrogance. There is truth in the parallel. In March 1938 Hitler annexed Austria while the European powers and America looked away. Pleased by this docility, he annexed the Sudetenland a largely German part of Czechoslovakia. France and the UK betrayed Czechoslovakia just as they are today complicit in dishonouring the Iran nuclear deal since they fear to say boo to the Trumpian goose. A year later in March 1939 (Trump never waits that long) Hitler invade all of Czechoslovakia, split it into the German client Slovak Republic and protectorates Bohemia and Moravia. America operates with similar objectives but through intermediaries; the Saudi Royalty despite its allegedly murderous Crown Prince, the Emirates and British colony Bahrain are contracted to contain Iran by war (Yemen) and embargo (Iran and Oman). Israel holds the nuclear trump (sic!) on behalf of Washington.
Appeasement of Hitler followed on two more fronts: The bogus “peace in our time” Munich Agreement entered into by British PM Chamberlin and the hateful Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which recognised German rights over western Poland and Lithuania while eastern Poland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Bessarabia were lunch for the USSR. The Pact was signed in August 1939, France and Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September, so Germany and the USSR helped themselves to their servings of the booty immediately afterwards. Today EU and NATO leaders squirm before Trump to a degree that even Chamberlain never would have, China’s president Xi Jiping dares not confront him not only on trade but also arming Taiwan with powerful new weapons and South China Sea logistics (I do not support China’s claim to the South China Sea but that’s a separate issue). Also, Trump plays footsie with an ever-willing Putin and gaily indulges in a love-in with fat-boy Kim.
I have no faith that the so-called international community will reverse the onward march of this mega bully. Except Putin all are waiting for November 2020 and praying for his defeat. Everyone in China and Hong Kong, in view of Beijing’s cowardliness in the face of Trump’s arrogance seem to be beaching the US electorate to rid them of this troublesome ogre. Observe the importance of the US voter to all who hope that election will bring deliverance to a world that dares stand up for itself.One fine morning Briton awoke to discover that Trump had told Theresa May that “Many people would like to see Nigel Farage as British ambassador to the US. He would do a great job!” I would not be surprised if Trump copycat Boris Johnson, Britain’s incoming PM, were to mawkishly kiss Trump’s butt with an appointment decreed from across the Atlantic.
Former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers moans “There’s something depraved about Trump’s dictator envy”; London Mayor Sadiq Khan compares Trump to 20th century fascist dictators and calls him “A Poster Boy For The Far-Right” and Thom Hartman claims in Salon that “Trump and GOP are blatantly encouraging foreign dictators to hack the 2020 election” in a reference to Trump-Putin bonhomie. Jonathan Freedland, a regular Guardian columnist cautions on 5 July 2019 that “Trump wants to be a dictator; it’s not enough just to laugh at him”. Not that humour is in short supply. Andy Borowitz a bestselling comedian has a skit in the New Yorker of 10 July titled “U.K. unable to find replacement ambassador who does not think Trump is an idiot”.
Following the resignation of Ambassador Kim Darroch the UK government has disclosed that it has been unable to find a replacement who does not think Donald J. Trump is a blithering idiot. At a press conference at Downing Street, Prime Minister May revealed that the search for a new ambassador who does not believe that Trump is an imbecile had come up empty. “We did not want a repeat of the unfortunate Kim Darroch incident, so we made the first question on the job application, ‘Do you think Donald Trump is a moron?’ So far none of the applicants has checked the ‘no’ box” she admitted.
Jonathan Freedland in the piece I referred to before observes that calling Trump a bone head because he had Washington’s troops capturing “British airports” in 1865 during the American Revolution” and fanciful gibberish “We will plant the American flag on Mars” at his July 4th speech should not deaden us to a chilling truth. This man is “behaving like an authoritarian dictator who threatens democracy in his own country and beyond”. He demonises migrants, dissidents and Congresswomen of colour and builds a kleptocratic hereditary dynasty. His claim of voter fraud in Texas has been debunked; he lied that his opponents were stealing elections; he accommodates foreign leaders at his profitable hotels and resorts to make money. The really chilling prospect that Freedland flags is: “He muses out aloud about being president for live saying it would be great. He has indicated that he would not accept the outcome of an election he lost and he has threatened to jail political opponents”. If he loses in 2020, he will galvanise an army of devotees howling that it was rigged and demanding the result be annulled; I expect him to declare the result void based on imaginary voter fraud or some other pretext.
Trump is unlike any US president we have seen before There is a false presumption that an elected dictator is an oxymoron. Democracy is a means to place someone in office; dictatorship is about wielding power. Trump does not fit the stereotype because he has is an American autocrat but American democracy may be facing the gravest crisis in its 255 years of existence. Often a dictator is elected for a first term but the game changes afterwards. Trump’s style is different from Duterte’s but equally outrageous. Not only Republicans but also some Sri Lankan ex-leftist are making excuses for this authoritarian is in the Oval Office. Democracy has withstood past threats but this time it seems different. He is appointing sympathetic judges in record numbers; the Judiciary is not going to be reliable in checking Executive abuse.
It is true that Trump hasn’t murdered journalists, jailed political opponents or confined minority millions to camps like in China. But he has built camps on the border where children are separated from their families in cruel conditions; some have died. He pushed zero tolerance for asylum seekers and fired officials for not being cruel enough. He instructs aides to ignore Congressional subpoenas; he is the first US president ever to declare a national emergency to circumvent the constitutional authority granted to Congress by the constitution; a straightforward authoritarian power-grab.
His most recent profanity is outright racism. He deemed four Congresswomen unfit to live in the US and asked them to go back and fix their rotten broken “home” countries though three were born in the US and the fourth got there at the age of twelve. By these criteria (colour, birth place, age at arrival and broken country of origin) every one of my relatives and friends had better start packing their bags. This man is a menace; violence against minorities and immigrants starts small before it goes out of control; Nazi Germany, SWRD’s Sri Lanka, Mugabe’s and recently Modi’s India. As the 2020 election campaign builds, Trump’s racist campaign is for electoral purposes. He is playing to his gallery as SWRD, Mugabe and Modi did. America has tens of millions who will fight him. In the end his dictatorial ambitions will bite the dust, but only after a fight. Republicans and the emigrant sludge from Lanka I spoke of will be hapless spectators in this fight. Pity!