The president and his neo-authoritarian acolytes are following an ancient playbook.
By Thom Hartmann / Independent Media Institute May 29, 2018, 6:37 AM GMT
As our country slides into an ugly Americanized form of neofascism, there’s good news: nonviolent protest, when in the service of progressive, egalitarian goals, almost always wins out when it reaches a national critical mass. And we may well be on the verge of that right now. But we must understand what we’re up against.
Donald Trump and his neo-authoritarian acolytes are following an ancient playbook.
Part Machiavelli, part Caesar, part Mugabe/Duterte/Mao, it always includes a few simple and primary elements of seizing and subverting normal political power.
Here's how the president is building authoritarian institutions.
1. Lie Often — Lie Big.
As President Franklin D. Roosevelt pointed out, the Big Lie technique wasn’t invented by Hitler but was essential to his success, and in the 1944 election, the Republican Party began to turn it on Democrats.
2. Consolidate Power While Challenging or Co-Opting Institutions That Enforce Accountability.
Every authoritarian leader who’s come to power in history, from Samaria 7,000 years ago to today’s administration from the White House at the top, to the EPA under Scott Pruitt, makes this their second big move. Weaken the institutions of accountability, while intimidating your own allies into submissive servility.
3.Attack the Press.
British conservative (and advocate of the American Revolution) Edmund Burke coined the phrase “the fourth estate” in 1787 to describe the press when arguing that Parliament should open itself up to newspaper reporters. Along with the legislative, executive, and judicial “estates” of governance, every functional republic since that era has included strong protections of the press as a pseudo fourth branch of governance, an explicit and public check on the abuse of power.
4. Vilify Protesters, Minorities, and Political “Enemies” to the Point of Provoking Violence.
This administration and the GOP they’ve captured have become the party “of dreadful fear and hate” that President Dwight Eisenhower warned against. We see it in institutionalized police violence against African Americans and immigrants; excessive arrests and punishments of people protesting Trump’s inauguration and speeches; new laws punishing journalists for reporting on factory farm and corporate environmental abuses; and violence-tinged rhetoric against “Mexican rapists,” using MS-13 as a rhetorical proxy for Hispanics, and saying Black NFL players hate/disrespect our flag and country, among other things.
5. Scapegoat Minority Groups to Rile Up a Mob Mentality.
Sadly, one of the psychological legacies we share with other predatory mammals is the ability to instinctually form “packs” and drop into pack-like behavior, particularly against those who are weak or wounded. Although we have an intellect that should protect us from such behavior, the instincts wired into our DNA will always beat our thought processes, at least over the short term.
6. Elevate One Religion That You Can Control (and Reward) While Trashing Others.
After World War II, one of the most interesting and conspicuous of the suicides in Germany was that of the Reich’s Bishop, Ludwig Müller. Elevated to the head of the German evangelical movement by Hitler himself, Müller became the most wealthy and powerful member of Germany’s clergy during the Reich. At first skeptical of the Fuhrer, he later told his colleagues that the “great goods” that Hitler would bring the church far outweighed his failings as either a person or a leader.
7. Co-opt and Make Institutions of Military and Police Power into Loyal Sycophants.
Without the police and the military on their side, a tyrant’s days in office are inevitably numbered.
8. Ignore Competence and Incompetence; Only Loyalty Matters—and Is Richly Rewarded.
Mainstream Republicans on TV seem baffled as to why Trump would want clearly incompetent people like Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, and Wilbur Ross in Cabinet positions where they run major governmental agencies.
9. Foster a Sense of Helplessness Among the Opposition.
Whether it’s done with selective and brutal enforcement of the law, subtly shutting down access to the media, or outright infiltration, destroying the opposition is a critical key to seizing and holding authoritarian power in any nation.