My Turn: Trump’s brutal promise no joke

DANIEL A. BROWN

DANIEL A. BROWN

By DANIEL A. BROWN

Published: 02-05-2024 4:49 PM

One thing we Jews have learned from our fraught history is that when someone threatens to kill you, they mean it. History itself teaches that when a psychopathic strongman threatens to establish a vengeful dictatorship, they mean it as well. Donald Trump has threatened it and he means it. The scary thing is that many Americans don’t care and even welcome such an outcome.

According to Trump’s enablers, the United States is in such lousy shape with its institutions either broken or on life support that only a dictator can restore order. Furthermore, most Americans are fed up with snooty liberal elites constantly badgering them on what words, pronouns and phrases they’re allowed to use or having to deal with entitled identity politics.

Truthfully, I find the brittle orthodoxy of the activist crowd to be irritating as well. Still, while their recent self-righteous and naïve actions can inspire eye-rolling and head-shaking, at least they aren’t dangerous. Trump most certainly is.

According to a recent Reuters poll, 46% of Republicans agreed that “the country is in a crisis and needs a strong president who should be allowed to rule without too much interference from courts and Congress.” This statement could have been published in the Germany of 1933. Ironically, it’s also what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was trying to achieve before Hamas united his country on Oct. 7: control without the constraints of law. It’s been the goal of every dictator, regardless of ideology, nationality or religious belief, for millennia.

Quite a few Americans appear to be fine with that. I’ve always believed that most of us would not object to a fascist dictatorship in the United States as long as we had access to guns, shopping and television. Just keep your mouth shut and as South African musician Johnny Clegg once wrote, “Toe the line and you’ll be fine. You’ll see another day.”

And despite the Pioneer Valley’s crunchy reputation, there are many here who wouldn’t object either. This includes our friends and neighbors and possibly ourselves. Fear and obedience often combine to make a lethal brew. Having read a generous amount about how authoritarian systems operate, I’m painfully aware as to the ease in which people can turn on each other, spy on each other, or report each other to the security forces.

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It can be as basic as not liking the political values of your neighbor or revenge against the guy who borrowed your power tool and never returned it. Or more easily, to curry favor with the local capos.

Trump has repeatedly made clear that if re-elected, vengeance will be a prime motivator against those who crossed him. This includes all Democrats, the free press and those few Republicans (like the courageous Liz Cheney) who refused to be servile cowards quivering at his feet.

It’s no secret that Trump brings out the worst in those around him. He will surround himself with corrupt, right-wing extremists who more resemble James Bond villains than those entrusted with the public good. Trump talks about cleaning out the Deep State unaware that his regime will, in fact, be just that; a monolithic institution based on brutality. Already, his more rabid supporters have committed or have threatened to commit acts of violence, while such methods are condoned by a third of Republicans polled.

Since the beginning of Trump’s ascendancy in 2015, I’ve compared Trump to Hitler without apology because the creation of the Third Reich and the rise of Trumpism are frightfully similar. And no, Trump hasn’t marched millions into the gas chamber, but his rhetoric of revenge, scapegoating, contempt for democracy and unbridled egomania calls to mind that other despot with a loud mouth and bad hair. Trump calling his opponents “vermin” and railing against the “impure blood” of immigrants proves that he once read “Mein Kampf.”

The activist left has hardly covered itself with glory. Singing chants to exterminate Israel while denying the sexual atrocities committed by Hamas tosses them off the pedestal of moral superiority. Worse, many young liberals have threatened not to vote in the coming presidential election in protest of Biden’s support for the Jewish state.

The left has always had a fatal attraction to purity in place of pragmatism. To deliberately allow our country to degenerate into a dictatorship over Palestine would evoke a mythical scene in “Star Trek.”

Mr. Spock would observe, “Jim, this is most illogical.” Captain James T. Kirk would also offer an opinion although his, like mine, would be unprintable.

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