My Turn: Authoritarian demagogues are not good for you




Published: 06-13-2024 7:23 PM


In the spring of 1945, as his “1,000-year” Reich was collapsing, Adolf Hitler issued a draconian order called the “Nero Decree.” In effect, it would utterly destroy Germany’s remaining infrastructures, cities, ports and transportation hubs. The stated rationale was to deny such resources to the victorious Allies, but those close to him recorded that his true aim was to punish the German people for letting him down and being “unworthy of their great mission in history.”

In short, Germany’s ultimate defeat was all their fault. Taking personal responsibility for one’s actions has never been an attribute of authoritarian demagogues.

Fortunately, Hitler’s more sane subordinates refused to carry out his directive. thus sparing the German people additional suffering which, frankly, they might have deserved. The Germans loved Hitler and willingly enabled him when he promised to make Germany great again and revive its moribund economy.

This anecdote is a warning that as autocrats gain additional power, they become not only crazier and more dangerous but eventually, they destroy themselves along with others. Proof of this lethal dynamic is seen in the actions of Vladimir Putin, Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump. Putin is currently dancing around with tactical nuclear weapons aimed at Ukraine; Netanyahu is determined to prolong the Gaza war  to save his own skin and Donald Trump … well …

Trump has gotten more unhinged and dangerous since entering the political world in 2015. Gone are the days when he schmoozed with Oprah and hosted a faintly amusing reality show. Being a shady real estate developer in New York City was hardly a threat to the Constitution. But that is ancient history. Despite him being a convicted felon, his own words describe what will happen if he is elected come November.

Trump plans to expel 11 million immigrants, but will first confine them in “detention” camps that would mimic the concentration camps we held Japanese-Americans in during World War II. He would allow states to monitor women’s pregnancies and incarcerate those who violate bans on abortion. Trump intends to pardon the Jan. 6 rioters while threatening to send the National Guard to subjugate American cities that run afoul of his policies. But overall, his presiding themes are vengeance and retribution against those who crossed his illegal path.

According to Trump adviser (and fascism-lover) Steve Bannon, appointing a special prosecutor to go after Joe Biden for nonexistent offenses is not off the table. Trump would be aided and abetted by a coterie of carefully selected and appointed true believers who would obey him without question.

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The Republican Party, in the thrall of right-wing “Christian” extremists, has openly hinted that they will seek to ban birth control; a strategy to further repress American women with their pathological terror of sexuality. A Republican-sponsored “Life at Conception Act” might be in a future budget battle.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to predict that reversing gay marriage equality is next on their medieval program. One theme of this election has been the scapegoating of gay and trans youth as well as teachers and librarians, a pattern that shows that promoting cruelty and ignorance are capstones of the MAGA agenda. Trump, of course, is about as Christian as Count Dracula, but evangelicals see him as a useful tool to manipulate. Trump could not care less as long as they elect him.

Trump has always shown a fondness for dictators and contempt for the 248 years of American democracy as do those around him. His policies are based on vengeance, retribution, government control over your private life, the destruction of the free press, a potential dictatorship, and the placing of women and children in concentration camps. He’s spoken not a word about improving the lives of the American people.

A recent editorial cartoon shows Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty sitting at the breakfast table sharing their morning coffee. Sam says to Liberty, “Maybe we should be open-minded … we may like living in an authoritarian theocracy.” Liberty responds with a glare that could shatter his coffee mug.

It’s not uncommon for the fearful to desire an authoritarian to come and save the day. But history shows that they rarely do. If anything, demagogues bring ruin to their countries, betray those who put their faith in them and end their lives as paranoid and deranged individuals.

Trump’s demented response to his conviction is evidence. As he lies in the rubble of his own making, Trump will blame not himself, but you, his loyal supporters, for “letting him down.”

Daniel A. Brown lived in Franklin County for 44 years and is a frequent contributor to the Recorder. He lives outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico with his wife, Lisa and dog, Cody.