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The Authoritarian Checklist, September 2020

September 6th, 2020, 7:24am by Sam Wang


In his public abuse of Laurene Powell Jobs, Donald Trump reminds us again of the PEC Authoritarian Checklist. At this point, the Trump Administration meets all 10 criteria for authoritarianism that I laid out in 2017, before the start of the term. It was a way of laying out possibilities in advance, preventing the concepts from being redefined along the way. Each item has been reinforced over time, for example the use of federal forces to detain BLM protesters, and Trump’s defense of Kenosha shooter Kyle Rittenhouse and other white nationalists.

Whether this becomes a long-term part of our system of government is on the ballot in November.

Read more about the checklist.

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Tags: 2020 Election · President · U.S. Institutions

8 Comments so far ↓

  • ArcticStones

    In regards to Trump’s Tweet:

    In other words, Trump brings to the attention of his tens of millions of followers that he sees Laurene Powell as a threat to MAGA values.

    All it takes is a single enthusiastic MAGA supporter to interpret this as a “contract”.

    Lest you think I am exaggerating, you will surely recall the armed right-wing protesters in the capitols of Democratic-controlled states that Trump Tweeted to “liberate”.

    Likewise his loud proclamations of the need to “dominate the streets”. In the absence of the National Guard or sufficiently-heavy-handed police, we see that Trump-supporting militias are eagerly stepping up to the plate.

    Fortunately, the behavior of the protesters has been almost impeccably peaceful. Despite this, and the agent-provocateurs, who along with heavy-handed police are responsible for the vast majority of violent and property-damaging incidents, the protesters have refrained from handing Trump the narrative that he wants.

    That, of course, does not mean that the narrative cannot be falsified and have an impact on the election, or be used as justification for pre- or post-election draconian measures.

  • Greg Hullender

    I dunno. I think this one is weak. We call for people to write or call publishers, advertisers, customers etc. to protest racism/sexism/homophobia. Asking people to support you by writing/calling isn’t objectionable by itself.

    Also, Trump isn’t calling for violence here, and he’s not making the kind of accusation that leads to it. (E.g. saying it was secretly a pedophile ring.)

    The man does enough insanely outrageous things, like trying to undermine the election, that I don’t think it makes sense to get distracted by small things.

    • xian

      But “we” are not the president, nor are we using the office to prefer one business over another.

  • Howie Weiner

    Trump has spent the last several years building a para-military force loyal only to “the great leader,” very similar in form and scope to the Brownshirts of the Hitler era. They are growing in numbers and force and are being called into the streets, heavily armed, to terrorize and intimidate, and in certain cases, to murder the opposition. This will only increase as it becomes apparent that he cannot win the election by legal means. Trump has no intention of relinquishing power under any circumstances. He will lose the election and lose badly and will try to tie up the results in the courts but if that fails it will, I’m afraid to say, be up to the attitude of the military that will decide who will assume the Presidency come next January.

  • Norm Merton

    I admit I have not read each and every post here, but I’ve read many over the years, and this business of mixing advocacy with [presumably] dispassionate prediction is odd to say the least. This kind of overblown opinion you can find anywhere. The thoughtful analysis not so much.

    • ArcticStones

      Norm, I am rather perplexed by your comment.

      If certain passengers on a ship, and perhaps numerous members of the crew, carry out several analyses that all show the ship is charting a course directly towards dangerous reefs should they not use their analysis to advocate preventive action?

      If they in addition know the captain is drunk, then advocating preventive measures is imperative.

      It seems to me you’re suggesting the analysts on board content themselves with presenting the analysis.

      As though anyone on that ship can “sit on the sidelines”!

  • 538_Refugee

    If thoughtful analysis shapes your opinion then isn’t the next logical step to use it to advocate? It would be like spending 100 days protesting and then not voting.

    It had to be fairly high ranking staff members that leaked the information about Trumps disrespect for military service and then confirmed it to Fox News. The list of top ranking Republicans backing Biden is growing. If it’s bad enough that Dear Leader’s own party is overtly and covertly sabotaging his chances I don’t see this as overblown. If they’d rather take their lumps this round and move towards the center than head down the path we’re currently on then they see it as pretty bleak.

    • MarkS

      “It would be like spending 100 days protesting and then not voting.”

      Sadly, a lot of people are going to do exactly this. Many protestors are not convinced that Biden will make the kind of difference that they are advocating.

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