I'm taking a day off from our regularly scheduled programming because I am so sick at heart about what is happening in my country that I can't retreat into my usual focus on science and skepticism. Instead, I'm reposting something I wrote almost exactly two years ago without further commentary. I think it speaks for itself.
Some of the naysayers thought I was being an alarmist -- that okay, Trump had some pretty reactionary ideas, but (1) they weren't really so far out of the mainstream of conservative ideology, and (2) if he did go off the beam too badly, we have a system of checks-and-balances set up that will rein him in. Others admitted that Trump was an amoral sociopath who was interested in nothing but self-aggrandizement and stroking his over-inflated ego, but they argued that he wasn't going to get very far. I had one person say to me, "There's no way that man could ever get the Republican nomination, much less win the presidency. Calm the hell down."
I don't like being wrong any more than the next guy, but believe me when I say that this is one time I'd have been delighted to be completely off-base.
And every time I think we've reached the absolute nadir, that surely someone is going to step in and stop our slide into a true fascist dictatorship, something worse happens. Witness the poll by the Washington Post that found that over half of the Republicans surveyed would be in favor of Trump suspending the 2020 presidential election "as long as necessary," and more specifically until he could see to it that we'd "weeded out illegal voters."
If Congress got behind the move, the support rises to 56%.
[Image courtesy of the Creative Commons Michael Vadon, Donald Trump Laconia Rally, Laconia, NH 4 by Michael Vadon July 16 2015 03, CC BY-SA 4.0]
Put bluntly, the president is lying for the sole purpose of whipping up fear of evil "illegals" rigging elections in order to manipulate his followers into supporting his becoming Dictator-for-Life.
And just as with Hitler, a lot of effort is going into making Trump seem superhuman. Instead of the racial purity ideologues (although there's a measure of that, too), here what we have is the Christian evangelicals treating Trump as inviolable, God's representative on Earth. Don't believe me? Just two days ago, Leigh Valentine, host of Faith and Freedom on Bill Mitchell's "Your Voice America" network, said the following:
Let me tell you, whether you believe it or not, [Trump] is speaking words of life over our country and over this nation, and every word he speaks, I see the hand of God upon it. He is a very, very smart man and he knows what he is doing. He knows the art of the deal and a lot of this is God’s deal, let me tell you.Then there's the story in The Atlantic this week wherein we read some pretty alarming stuff. Back in January 2016 Thomas Wright, a Brookings Institute scholar, warned that Trump had a "fondness for authoritarian strongmen." More chillingly, a senior White House official who (unsurprisingly) declined to be named described Trump's policy in three words: "We're America, Bitch."
If someone can explain to me how that's different from Deutschland über alles, I'm listening.
No wonder Trump is disdainful of an articulate negotiator like Justin Trudeau, and as I write this is overflowing with praise for a bloodthirsty, ruthless dictator like Kim Jong Un.
So what we have here is a president who is a wannabe autocrat and has no intention of turning over the reins of power when his term is up, and a Congress that seems to think its job is kissing Trump's ass and rubberstamping whatever he proposes. The whole time, the state-supported propaganda mill over at Fox News is convincing the masses that as long as we do what Der Führer says (and salute at the right time, and don't do anything outright treasonous like kneeling during the National Anthem or protesting the targeting of minorities by the police), everything will be fine. America will be great again.
Still doubtful about the parallels between where we are and Weimar Germany?
All we need is the final ingredient -- this era's Reichstag Fire. Something calamitous that ignites a frenzy in his supporters, and allows Trump himself to say, "See, I told you so." And at that point, the slide into catastrophe might well be unstoppable.
This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation of the week is a fun one -- George Zaidan's Ingredients: The Strange Chemistry of What We Put In Us and On Us. Springboarding off the loony recommendations that have been rampant in the last few years -- fad diets, alarmist warnings about everything from vaccines to sunscreen, the pros and cons of processed food, substances that seem to be good for us one week and bad for us the next, Zaidan goes through the reality behind the hype, taking apart the claims in a way that is both factually accurate and laugh-out-loud funny.
And high time. Bogus health claims, fueled by such sites as Natural News, are potentially dangerous. Zaidan's book holds a lens up to the chemicals we ingest, inhale, and put on our skin -- and will help you sort the fact from the fiction.
[Note: if you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]