Is Trump Moving Towards an Authoritarian Direction?

by Elpidio R. Estioko

Despite election results showing former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as the president-elect in which he won the popular votes with more than 3 million votes and counting; won the electoral votes with 306 against Trump’s 232, U.S. President Trump is still hanging on to the presidency and is not conceding the election.

In fact, Trump started telling audiences that the system was “rigged” back when he was losing the election and threatened not to accept the outcome if he lost, which he is now doing.

Is he moving towards an authoritarian direction, a “dictator” in a democratic society?

According to the editor of Diggers: “Dictators often rise to power out of conflict or a coup d’état. However, there have been dictators who got into power democratically or legally. Adolf Hitler, for example, was appointed chancellor, or head of government, by President Paul von Hindenburg in 1933. After Hindenburg died, Hitler made himself “Fü­hrer” (a combination of president and chancellor).”

In the case of Trump, he was elected president in 2016 and within the four years that he was president, he has shown some qualities of dictatorship in most of his tweets and actions in governing the country. In managing the country, he employed MBI (management by instinct) instead of MBO (management by objective). In most cases, he is thinking of his own interest (I, me and myself doctrine) instead of the citizens, just like how he mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic, which is known to be seven times more deadly than pneumonia. In his government functions, he is using his hotels as venues, so he is earning revenues at the expense of taxpayers’ money.

The editor of Diggers asked: “How can you tell if your President is a dictator?”

First, he said that “Dictators foster cults of personality, a form of hero worship in which the masses are fed propaganda declaring their leader to be flawless and divine.” I agree with the author because the GOP revolves around Trump. People around him glorify him and defend him even if they know that he is wrong, lying and advancing conspiracy theories. They find a way to justify his actions and are afraid of how he will retaliate if they will not follow him. His famous phrase in television “You’re fired!” takes shape in his executive function by firing cabinet members and other key officials if they do not follow him or go against him. The latest was when he fired his defense secretary and the election officer who went against his theory that the election is rigged.

Second, the editor wrote: “Political power is concentrated in the hands of few people or just one person.” The political power rests in Trump’s hands… sometimes encroaching on legislative and judicial processes. He wields power in the GOP-controlled Senate and tries to woe the Supreme Court appointing conservatives where he now has three appointees.

Another author, Stephen M. Walt said on Nov. 23, 2016, “Just because the United States is a democracy now, it doesn’t mean it will stay that way… But if you live in the United States, what you should really worry about is the threat that Trump may pose to America’s constitutional order. His lengthy business career suggests he is a vindictive man who will go to extreme lengths to punish his opponents and will break a promise in a heartbeat and without remorse. The 2016 campaign confirmed that he has little respect for existing norms and rules – he refused to release his tax returns, lied repeatedly, claimed the electoral and political systems were “rigged” against him, threatened to jail his opponent if he won, among other such violations – and revealed his deep contempt for both his opponents and supporters. Nor does he regret any of the revolting things he did or said during the campaign, because, as he told the Wall Street Journal afterward, “I won.” For Trump, just like any dictator, it seems, “the ends really do justify the means.”

Walt offered some warning signs that American democracy is at risk. His first warning sign is Trump’s “Systematic efforts to intimidate the media.” Trump, Walt said, “sailed to the presidency on a The Top of lies and exaggerations, and there is no reason to think he will discover a new commitment to the truth as president. The American people cannot properly judge his performance without accurate and independent information, and that is where a free and adversarial press is indispensable. If the Trump administration begins to enact policies designed to restrict freedom of the press, or just intimidate media organizations from offering critical coverage, it will be a huge (or if you prefer, yuge) warning sign.”

In Trump’s ideal world, Walt said: “Americans would get their news from some combination of Breitbart, Fox News, and the president’s own Twitter feed, which would keep the public bamboozled and go a long way toward insulating him from the consequences of his own mistakes. Congress would probably refuse to fund a public broadcaster that was reliably in Trump’s pocket, but if it did, look out.”

The second is “Stacking the Supreme Court.” Again, Walt commented: “Trump will likely get the opportunity to appoint several Supreme Court justices, and the choices he makes will be revealing. Does he pick people who are personally loyal and beholden to him or opt for jurors with independent standing and stellar qualifications? Does he pick people whose views on hot-button issues such as abortion, gay marriage, and campaign financing comport with his party’s, or does he go for people who have an established view on the expansiveness of executive power and are more likely to look the other way if he takes some of the other steps I’ve already mentioned? And if it is the latter, would the Senate find the spine to say no?” to date, Trump has already three justices he appointed in the Supreme Court.

“The bottom line,” Walt commented, “I am by no means predicting the collapse of democracy in the United States under a President Donald J. Trump. What I am saying is that it is not impossible, and there are some clear warning signs to watch out for. Now, as always, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Or to use a more modern formulation: If you see something, say something.”

Is Trump moving towards an authoritarian direction? Your guess is as good as mine!

ELPIDIO R. ESTIOKO was a veteran journalist in the Philippines and an award-winning journalist here in the US. For feedbacks, comments… please email the author at estiokoelpidio@gmail.com.


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