Friday, July 22, 2016

Trump's Dystopia

Trump's Dystopia: Trump’s dark warnings and grandiose pledges that he alone can save the troubled nation sound an ominously authoritarian note.

Harold Meyerson
Yes, Donald Trump’s acceptance speech was remarkably dystopian, painting a picture of America in which good citizens cower in their homes, afraid to stir lest they be mowed down by marauding immigrants. Yes, it was a law-and-order speech—he used the phrase four times—modeled after those of Richard Nixon, whose 1968 campaign came at a time of devastating urban riots, generational upheaval, and a bloody war that would not end. And yes, it was a speech that hurled absurd accusations, backed up by fictitious facts, at Hillary Clinton—the last in a parade of such speeches at this year’s convention.
But what made Trump’s speech truly ominous and without precedent in American politics was the role he assigned himself—and the rest of us. We are mute and defenseless. He is our voice. He alone can fix our problems. That doesn’t really leave much for the other 300 million-plus citizens of our democracy to do. It doesn’t leave much for other elected lawmakers to do, either.
Were Trump to win, he would claim not merely a mandate, but a kind of personal and mystical authority.
Were Trump to win, he would claim not merely a mandate, but a kind of personal and mystical authority. He would amend the phrase vox populi vox dei— “the voice of the people is the voice of God”—to vox Trump vox populi vox dei. Indeed, he so amended it last night.
What Trump has to offer, then, is not merely the right-wing xenophobic populism of, say, a Marine Le Pen. To this already toxic mix, he’d bring a level of personal authority and legitimacy that Le Pen and her ilk don’t claim for themselves. Armed with this additional authority and legitimacy, which no other governmental figure could claim, Trump could govern in a way that unbalances some of our checks and balances, moving our system towards a more personalist and authoritarian regime.

The paralysis of the federal government ever since Republicans won control of Congress in 2010 surely makes Trump’s intimations of one-man rule more appealing to some of the people whose voice he aspires to become. But just as I don’t think most Americans will agree with him that it’s Midnight in America, I also don’t think that most Americans will take kindly to the notion that Trump is their voice, and that he alone can fix our problems—not if the Democrats sufficiently highlight the implications of these unsettling claims.
While Trump’s speech added a whiff of authoritarianism to his nationalist populism, he sought at the same time to soften his tough guy image just a bit—appealing, for instance, to Republicans to stop demonizing the LGBTQ community. But his designated image softener was clearly his daughter Ivanka, who outlined a Trump domestic program virtually cribbed from the Democratic platform. Ivanka suggested that Trump would enact child-care subsidies and an end to the pay disparity between men and women—proposals that have never passed her father’s lips, much less those of any audible Republican elected official. If Trump is running as Nixon, Ivanka has positioned herself as his Daniel Patrick Moynihan—the Nixon aide who urged his chief to go liberal on domestic policy.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophoberacistmisogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S. 


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