Salon.com has an article by Chauncey DeVega that features an interview with the distinguished (and I do mean distinguished) Yale historian Timothy Snyder. Snyder has studied and written about the Holocaust and makes a convincing case that Donald Trump, unpopular and unhappy, will foment a coup d’état. This coup will spell the end of American democracy as we know it and create an oligarchy in which our free elections and the orderly transfer of power will be a thing of the past.
I have been saying much the same thing since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. As Trump grows increasingly unpopular, the 2018 Congressional elections are getting closer and closer. With the House repeal of what has been labeled ObamaCare, the man must be more and more frantic. He increasingly caters to his conservative base and polling of that group shows that it is sticking with him the same way Hitler’s base stuck with him, no matter what.
Trump’s war against the press, including labeling the crucial First Amendment institution “enemies of the people,” is but one instance of his effort to dismantle the democratic system. His encouragement of those at his rallies to take physical retribution against protestors and his obvious respect for dictators around the world including Egyptian strongman Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Philippine self-confessed murderer-President, Rodrigo Duterte, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and certainly neither last nor least, Russian President Vladimir Putin, make a pretty convincing case that Trump admires their style and would like to emulate it here in this country. In fact, Erdoğan has now arrested thousands of Turks on charges that they participated in a recent coup.
There are a lot of guns whose owners have been making the point for years that this is the best potential antidote to just this kind of government take over. The problem is that most of these guns are in the hands of the Trump supporters. In addition, Trump has appointed a lot of generals to his cabinet, yet another ominous sign of potentially terrible things to come. In fact, there are many Americans who have adopted the term “resistance,” including Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo.
In an interesting twist, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell recently gave the back of his hand to Trump by saying that the president’s call for the end of the filibuster on regular substantive legislation was not going to happen. His remarks on that matter were very forceful and suggested that he would fight to keep the Senate separate from the presidency. He announced strong bi-partisan support for his position.
Assuming that our Yale historian and I are correct in our assessment of where Trump is and what he’s up to, this is a time for great courage. When Trump recently came to New York City, the expected demonstrators were there but not in the large numbers expected. That is a very dangerous development. If people give up, Trump is more likely to get his way.
Historian Snyder expects that Trump will have to find the equivalent of the Reichstag fire in order to declare his coup. So when you read of Trump’s threats toward North Korea, for example, you have a pretty good clue to the possibilities.
Look folks, this is scary stuff. There were those who sought to escape before the Holocaust. My wife, a Holocaust scholar, reminds us that those who said it could not happen, and that Hitler was a clown, paid with their lives. This may be the crucial historical moment that we should all recognize. So we have to look for that Reichstag-type fire and get out in the streets as the predictable happens.
There will, of course, be those who suggest that this is over the top. Maybe, but that is a powerful “maybe.” I don’t think we can afford to risk it.