Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The authoritarian sore loser in the White House

Donald Trump Is Already Acting Like an Authoritarian writes Brian Beutler in the New Republic. “Just days since the election, the worst fears about him are coming true.”

Before President-elect Donald Trump eked out a victory on election night last week, the greatest source of liberal apprehension was that he would reject the legitimacy of his defeat, inviting his most reactionary supporters to seek revenge in various unsettling ways.

Instead, Trump described the presidential election as “open and successful,” presumably a moment for his supporters to bask in happily. Victory, however, has not quenched the thirst for revenge.

It is one thing for the losers of an election to lash out in anger as they cycle through the stages of grief. It is another thing altogether for the winners to do so. And yet the post-election landscape has been defined by a frightening outburst of retribution and calls for reprisals against Trump’s political enemies.

The way the Trump entourage and his rank and file supporters have responded to their triumph mirror each other perfectly. The tone of his pre-presidency was set during his victory speech, which was itself unusually gracious for a man of Trump’s narcissism and disdain, but was delivered to supporters beseeching him to jail Hillary Clinton and shoot President Barack Obama—interruptions which did not faze him at all.

The most blistering and unblinkered official condemnation of Trump’s behavior, and the toxic environment his victory created, came from Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid. “Every news piece that breathlessly obsesses over inauguration preparations compounds their fear by normalizing a man who has threatened to tear families apart, who has bragged about sexually assaulting women and who has directed crowds of thousands to intimidate reporters and assault African Americans,” he said.

Their fear is legitimate and we must refuse to let it fall through the cracks between the fluff pieces

If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate. Winning the electoral college does not absolve Trump of the grave sins he committed against millions of Americans. Donald Trump may not possess the capacity to assuage those fears, but he owes it to this nation to try.

When asked about Reid’s comments this past weekend, Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway called them “beyond the pale,” and warned him to be careful in a “legal sense.”

I guess the vengefulness percolates down through the Trump machine. Trump has made a career of suing those who he thinks have slighted him in one way or another. Now Conway issues a thinly veiled threat of the same sort.

Trump’s campaign was so unmoored from factual or ideological premises that it has been tempting for optimists to hope Trump used demagoguery as a campaign tactic he will no longer find useful as president. Everything we’ve seen suggests just the opposite.

In the same 60 Minutes interview, he told Stahl, “I’ll conduct myself—in a very good manner, but depends on what the situation is. Sometimes you have to be rougher.”

The themes of Trump’s campaign were vilification, revanchism, and revenge. What he won are the tools of repression and amnesty required to punish his scapegoats, and what his supporters won is the expectation that he will use them.

When LBJ left office he reportedly advised his staff to leave cleaner than a hound’s tooth. His reasoning was that Republicans go on a witch hunt the moment they assume control. Johnson was right.

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