Now it’s the recording of Trump boasting about forcing himself on women. For his supporters, it’s a double standard: “If such talk and allegations are disqualifying, why are similar allegations and documented behavior dismissed when it comes to Bill Clinton — or to Hillary targeting Bill’s accusers? Can’t we focus on something substantive?”
And there’s lots of substance to Donald Trump.
On immigration, he wants to build a wall to block illegals, making Mexico pay for it by threatening to cut off the payments Mexicans in the US send back home. He also has called for a deportation force to expel the twelve million people here illegally.
On terrorism, he believes in toughness. He’s ok with his conversations being listened to by the NSA. He wants to let interrogators use techniques much harsher than waterboarding. He has also called for killing the families of terrorists. If the military reckons this illegal and refuses to obey, he’ll win: “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me, believe me.” (He later retracted his statement that he would ask the military to break the law.)
He likes might in foreign leaders — in this regard he recognized Vladimir Putin, and even the Chinese massacre on Tiananmen Square. To him, Gorbachev didn’t have a firm enough hand. “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep,” he once retweeted, quoting Mussolini unapologetically.
During the campaign, he has made veiled and not-so-veiled threats — of riots at the Republican convention if he weren’t nominated, of Paul Ryan paying a “big price” if he didn’t cooperate, that John McCain better be very careful or “… he’ll find out.”
He calls for opening up libel laws against his critics so that “when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” He’s already using the threat of lawsuits to spook people who speak truth: For example, his campaign sent Ted Cruz’s a cease-and-desist letter charging Cruz with defamation for running an ad “replete with outright lies”—which consisted of documentary footage of Trump declaring his support for abortion rights in the past. There is an entire website devoted to documenting Trump’s intimidation tactic of threatening baseless lawsuits.
In business he’s been carnivorous. His companies have faced more than3,500 lawsuits over the last thirty years, at least 60 of which involved people claiming they weren’t paid for their work. That doesn’t include hundreds of liens also claiming nonpayment — on just Trump’s Taj Mahal, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission found in 1990 that at least 253 subcontractors weren’t paid in full or on time. And it doesn’t include the other individuals who have come forward to say that he stiffed them and took advantage of their inability to face the expense of a legal battle.
His businesses have declared bankruptcy four times — another way of running up bills and then stiffing creditors. His school is facing three separate lawsuits for fraud, one from the New York attorney general. And he stands behind his attempts to use eminent domain to seize other people’s property for his business.
What does this all add up to? Donald Trump’s go-to solution for not getting what he wants is: Use a bigger hammer. Coercion — not just “there oughtta be a law” coercion but “you better knuckle under” coercion.
What we don’t see is Donald Trump making any distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate government coercion. He says little if anything about the rule of law, constitutional government, or limits on state power. Instead, he has injected threats of force into our political process itself.
Is it so surprising that people believe his bragging about forcing himself on women? And it’s not just private talk; he also publicly boasted to Howard Stern about how he would walk in on his Miss Universe contestants while they were dressing. People believe it because he’s already shown himself to be a predator in many other ways.
Trump doesn’t uphold coercion in the name of some principle or higher purpose. Instead, he’s random and spur-of-the-moment.
For example, he gratuitously abuses others in order to advance petty vendettas, even when it’s to his political disadvantage to do so. He disparaged John McCain for being captured and tortured. He mindlessly ridiculed Ted Cruz’s wife. He belittled Heidi Klum’s looks for no reason whatever. He impulsively tweets attacks on whoever happens to displease him at the moment, from Kim Novak to anchor Megyn Kelly.
He has said he won’t give specific policy proposals because he likes being “flexible,” and he reverses himself repeatedly on policy. In one case he took five different positions on abortion in three days, one of which maintained that women having abortions should face criminal punishment.
The five-and-a-half minute video showing Trump repeatedly talking out of both sides of his mouth makes the “Hillary Clinton Lying for 13 Minutes Straight” video insignificant by comparison. Trump lies openly and blatantly; when he gets caught, he continues to maintain the falsehood without a care. In one case, he persisted in maintaining that “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey were televised cheering the fall of the World Trade Center, when no such footage exists. His lies are often pitifully simple to unmask, such as when he denied saying global warming was a hoax invented by the Chinese. Ten seconds finds the tweet where he said it.
Trump has even used claims from the National Enquirer to make completely wild accusations, such as associating Ted Cruz’s father with Lee Harvey Oswald. He has given us every reason to believe that he will assert anything at all, as long as it serves whatever he happens to want right at the moment —in other words, that he sees truth and reality as slaves to his wishes.
Donald Trump has been extremely consistent in showing and telling us who he is: He is a man who deifies his own whims — naked, arbitrary, range-of-the-moment, National-Enquirer impulses — and relishes the idea of enforcing those whims at the point of a gun, without any legal restraint.
Is it surprising that he espouses people who love dictators? He hired Paul Manafort as campaign manager, a man whose firm is on the list of the top five lobbying for human-rights abusers, and who himself advised the successful campaign of Russia’s puppet president in Ukraine. Trump even once refused to disavow neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke and claimed to know nothing about him, when in fact he had spoken publicly about Duke several times in the past.
Trump’s director of African-American outreach, Omarosa Manigault, tied it all together on Frontline: “Every critic, every detractor, will have to bow down to President Trump. It’s everyone who’s ever doubted Donald, who ever disagreed, who ever challenged him. It is the ultimate revenge to become the most powerful man in the universe.”
To say “Trump doesn’t want to be dictator” is to pretend that he would want to identify the nature of what he wants. Maybe he doesn’t “want to be a dictator.” But everything we know about him says that he wants both the arbitrariness and the power of a dictator. The fact that he has no ideology like Nazism is completely nonessential.
“Oh, but he could never become a dictator in America. The system and his advisers would rein him in.”
How’s that working out for you?
Throughout the campaign we kept hearing that Trump was going to turn presidential, that he would “pivot,” that he would be moderated by his advisors and become prudent. And each time, Trump went out of his way to prove that his advisors have no control over him. Establishment Republicans — desperate to forgive and forget — have been laughably dishonest to think that Trump would say the magic words, start drawing inside the lines, and change his established character.
Donald Trump’s whole campaign has been based on the idea that he will not be accountable to anybody. The point of funding his own campaign was to prove he wouldn’t be in the pocket of donors.
After the Republican convention, practically the entire Republican Party knuckled under to Trump — including the allegedly uncompromising Ted Cruz. They spent their time whitewashing his statements, or apologizing for him, or looking the other way. Even after the Access Hollywood video, fewer than a third of Republican senators have repudiated him or have no stance. Where is the evidence that they can “rein him in”?
If he can do that to the Republican Party, without presidential powers, what will he be able to do if he has the whole machinery of the executive branch at his disposal?
President Trump wouldn’t owe anybody any favors. His whole circle would instead be made up of people who owe him favors. He would have free rein to fill the executive branch with ruthless people who answer only to him — not to the Constitution, but to Trump personally.
He would have at his disposal mass surveillance, militarized police, executive orders, and today’s broad latitude for discretionary power by police, prosecutors, regulators, and tax authorities. Why doubt that his administration would compile dossiers and use muscle on members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, and anyone else who might get in the way? Congress will be a puppet, just as the Republicans are puppets now.
And Trump has been maintaining that the election is “rigged.” If he comes to power, he will have four years to “unrig” the system in ways Richard Nixon could only have dreamed of.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters engage in campaigns of vicious harassment and violent threats against critics and journalists. We’re even seeing the return of militia groups such as the one that plotted to bomb a Kansas apartment building where Somali immigrants live. Why do such people expect us to see them as friends of America rather than brownshirts?
Donald Trump has shown us he’s exactly the sort of figure America’s founders designed our institutions to stop.
I don’t take lightly allegations of Hillary Clinton’s subversion of the FBI email investigation, her desire to regulate political speech or the Democrats’ drive to suppress dissenting views. But the very fact that Hillary Clinton owes lots of people favors is what makes her constrained by the system.
It doesn’t make any sense to see Hillary Clinton as the candidate of weakness and simultaneously to fear her strength. The Democrats may talk about making America into Sweden, but all she’ll succeed at is turning us into France. We can come back from becoming France. There’s a big difference between “at the end of that road lies dictatorship” and actually being at the end of that road.
People forget when they look at the rise of dictators that they have the benefit of hindsight. Oh, if we had been there in 1932, we would have seen it coming. It was obvious that Hitler was going to round up six million Jews and put them in concentration camps and try to take over Europe.
But today when a Putin wannabe aims to send the DHS to kick in the doors of millions of people, round them up into internment camps (with limited if any legal representation) and leave them there, if their country of origin can’t be determined or refuses to take them — voters bury their heads in the sand and fantasize that only lawbreakers will be targeted.
You can see it coming. You are in Germany in 1933 and you have to do it over again. This is not a drill.
This post was first published on Medium.
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