Trump takes one more step toward becoming an autocrat — and it hardly makes a ripple

Trump takes one more step toward becoming an autocrat — and it hardly makes a ripple
President Donald J. Trump talks to members of the press on the South Lawn of the White House Tuesday, July 30, 2019, following his trip to Williamsburg, Va. (Courtesy Photo by Caleb Spencer)
The week Donald Trump lost the election

While the Republican Party, now stripped of everything but con men and fascist sycophants, drones on about What The Constitution Means To Them in virus-infected Senate hearings, they have closed their ears and pretended, to a person, not to notice Donald Trump going full authoritarian by flat-out demanding the arrest of his political enemies. You know, on Twitter. As one does.

The New York Times has taken notice, at least, providing an assortment of historians and past officials to warn in very polite terms that this is absolutely batshit crazy, that Trump is absolutely performing as an authoritarian, and that we absolutely are going down a dangerous road. No, it is not normal that Trump is getting visibly impatient with his allied attorney general, William Barr, for not producing the evidence necessary to prosecute his Democratic enemy. No, it is not normal for ex-House Republican and lifelong cretin Mike Pompeo to use his State Department perch (granted, it's not like he's using it for anything else) to push out "more" Hillary Clinton emails in the three weeks before the election.

(That Trump still considers "Hillary Clinton emails" to be an election-bending move, as an aside, is beside the point. Yes, he's an idiot. Yes, he's hopelessly obsessed with his own pet grievances, and is reliant on the whole rest of his party to be obsessed with those same grievances, and on conservative media to make them obsessed again whenever it's becoming clear that the base is getting bored.)

What is not present, in the Times' report or many others, is any sense of true desperation that (1) the nation's sitting president is calling for the arrest of his enemies, (2) the Republican Party is, collectively, either ignoring or embracing those calls, and (3) we are exactly that one inch from becoming an authoritarian regime. The Times frames it as an act of corruption not even Richard Nixon followed through on, because it was so obviously crooked. Now that the new crook has crossed the line, we will make a note of it like we have all the others, but there's no evidence of brakes being applied. There are no Republican lawmakers piping up with a now that would be too much.

Republican Party leaders are instead playing both sides of that fence. For now they are ignoring Trump's newest act of overt corruption. If Trump loses the election, they will say that it was all the ravings of a madman who is now gone—so the problem is solved. If Trump wins and demands follow through, the same Republican leaders will ... enable it. Let's be honest here: The party openly endorsed Trump's extortion of a foreign leader, something that also would have gotten a Nixon-level crook impeached back in the day. Daddy Can Do Crimes is their new thing.

So if it happens, we will likely get the Ted Cruzes and Rand Pauls of the party explaining that Democrats and government officials deserved arrest for their role in displeasing Dear Leader with evidence that his team was playing footsie with a host of foreign agents, and besides Trump's newest acts aren't anything like true authoritarianism because Republicans are only arresting critics, not poisoning them or pushing them off balconies as is done in the more sophisticated versions. And Sean Hannity will nod his enormous head until it is in danger of coming loose, and Tucker Carlson will explain to his audience why something called the "Proud Boys" are now the police force that America always needed but was too cowardly to have.

We have established, from the Senate, that Republican leaders are allowed to commit corrupt acts in service to the party. We have established, from lawmaker silence, that Republican leaders are allowed to demand the arrest of enemies on purely fictitious charges. There's not a lot of ground left between that and following through, so everyone from the Times to Republican senators are quietly hoping the election solves the problem without anyone to pipe up too loudly.

That's our best-case scenario: Trump will be turned out by a margin too large to allow for fuckery, and Every Last Republican will spend the rest of their careers lying their asses off about how much and why they supported his corruption. But the fascist agenda will remain, because the party built that. Fox News built that. It's not going away.

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