During the first week of the Trump administration, a lot has happened. So much so that most progressives are outraged over everything, and unable to focus on what the really scary stuff is. The really scary things are the ones that lead us down deeper, darker, crazier places than any other Republican would have. On the other hand, bills proposing withdrawing from the UN have been circulating Congress for decades, and virtually any Republican would be repealing the ACA right now.
I first asked myself if a particular action was something that would have happened if Mitt Romney was President. Then I realized that this was way too high a bar (because most of this insanity wouldn’t have happened with the most boring, white-bread establishment Republican imaginable). So then I lowered it to, “Ok, which things would be too crazy even for Ted Cruz?”
The second criteria for inclusion on this list is that everything here has potential implications for an authoritarian future for the US government. These are the things that are not only abnormal, but dangerous.
Thus, here are some abnormal and dangerous events that hint at some very dark times ahead.
1. “Alternate Facts”
When President Trump ordered Press Secretary Spicer to go out and lie about attendance at the Inauguration, and when Spicer complied, it was absolutely shocking. More shocking still was Kellyanne Conway describing lies as “alternate facts,” and Spicer later telling reporters, “sometimes we can disagree with facts.”
This deliberate attack on reality, and an attempt to cast verifiable facts and reality as unknowable and matters of perception. This is both Orwellian and a deliberate tactic used successfully in Russia by Putin for decades to undermine the power and legitimacy of the press and sow confusion.
2. Republicans Closing Ranks to Support White House Disinformation Campaign
The Chairman of the House Science Committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) doesn’t believe in climate change. He does, however, believe that people should only get their news facts from the White House rather than the media. He said this AFTER Spicer and Conway’s remarks. The fact that Republican leadership is completely OK with state-run media (aka the White House) defining reality for the American public brings us ever closer to our own Ministry of Truth.
Of course we’ve always been at war with Eastasia…
3. Trump urges new invasion of Iraq to steal their oil
When George W. Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, he at least thought we going to go in, get Saddam, set up a government, and get out. There wasn’t an intention to take the oil fields for our own. There wasn’t an intention to make it a US colony. (I was there, I saw the intelligence, you’ll have to trust me on this one.)
Trump stated both before and after the election that he wants to go back in to Iraq, and seize the oil for ourselves. This would unify the world against us, would constitute a war crime, and would embroil us in another punishing ground war against insurgents supported by a hostile populace. It’s also illegal, infeasible, would cost us trillions to occupy the country again, and could be exactly what ISIS wants.
4. Trump spokeswoman calls for him to create his own loyalist security and intelligence apparatus
On Sunday, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway went on ABC’s ‘This Week’ with George Stephanopolous and stated, “And it’s really time for him to put in his own security intelligence community. We really would prefer the intelligence community that is going out the door to be much more respectful toward the president and his vision in moving forward.”
Pause for a moment. Did Conway suggest that Trump should have his own, new, loyalist security and intelligence apparatus? It sounds like it, and it finds historical precedent in many authoritarian regimes.
Even if Conway was only (and that’s still a pretty big only) suggesting that Trump should have the chance to populate the Intelligence Community (IC) with loyalists who defer to him in all matters, this is still only a slightly less terrifying possibility. The potential for abuse here is nearly endless, including the ability to shut down all attempts to determine how the Russian government influenced the election.
5. Removal of data / papers from government websites
The Trump administration has been eliminating public access to government data, papers, and policy research on climate change and LGBT issues across several agencies, including the Department of Labor, USDA, and the EPA. Many of these have been walked back after public outcry (and leaks by federal employees that it was happening), but these acts appear to be a deliberate attempt to hide the government’s own data from the public in order to prevent it from being used to thwart the administration’s anti-scientific agendas.
6. Federal employee gag order
Along with pulling papers and data, the administration has issued gag orders to employees at the USDA and EPA, to include their own personal social media. This almost certainly bumps straight into first amendment issues (seriously, the government limiting its employees’ ability to discuss their unclassified work with the public?) The Administration has tried to walk some of this back, but Trump has a long history of forcing employees and even volunteers to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) with no end date.
In short, this administration is using federal employees like Trump employees, attacking the first amendment, and going after government transparency from day one.
7. Federal government functions employees are actively defying the administration.
Trump has appointed a slew of Cabinet Members who are actively hostile to the core functions of their own organizations, and have in the past advocated for those agencies to be shut down. Others, like Carson and DeVos, have few qualifications to lead their agencies. Congress revived the Holman rule, which allows the House to slash any specific federal employee’s salary to one dollar. Then there is the matter of the federal hiring freeze (which is disruptive in itself), along with the aforementioned removal of federal data and the gag order.
The result is that less than 3 working days into his Presidency, employees at federal agencies are forming resistance cells from NASA, to the EPA, to the Park Service, announcing their defiance, and tweeting it to the world. The result is likely to be a federal government that is increasingly dysfunctional. How it is resolved is an open question. Will the resistance die down? Will there be mass invocations of the Holman rule? (Purges of the federal government are a common authoritarian tactic.) How badly will federal functions be degraded?
In any event, this sort of disruption is unprecedented.
8. Trump pushing allegations of voter fraud
There’s no evidence of the massive voter fraud Trump is alleging, earning a “Pants on Fire” fact check. Politifact also rated Spicer’s defense of Trump’s allegations “False”. Even Senators McCain and Graham have called this out as a falsehood. However, Trump has been repeating this claim since before the election, and Trump’s base believes these claims despite the lack of evidence. Part of this is simply ego; it galls him that he might have lost the popular vote. The other reason is far more insidious.
Trump is discussing issuing an executive order calling for an investigation into voter fraud, while pressing to make the White House the sole source of news to most Americans, and stacking federal agencies with loyalists. Voter suppression was very effective this year, and would be even more so with a targeted purge of specific rolls.
An investigation written by cronies would substantiate his claims, justifying purging voter rolls of people unlikely to vote Republican, and ensure that Republicans continue to control all three branches of the federal government and expand state control even further. The end result would be de facto one party rule at all levels of government for years to come.
9. Trump requires the Department of Homeland Security to publicly report all crimes committed in US by undocumented persons
During the campaign, Trump falsely claimed Mexicans are “rapists” and criminals, responsible for a crime wave across the US. He was roundly criticized for this, but seems determined to prove that he is right despite the evidence. In his executive order on immigration, he included a requirement for the Department of Homeland Security to publish a list of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants every week.
This is incredibly disturbing. It is effectively using a US government agency to race bait, and justify hatred and discrimination. This is very similar to the “Black Crime” section of Breitbart designed to convince the public that black people are criminals and a danger to society. It also closely mirrors the function of “Der Stürmer,” an anti-Semitic Nazi publication which published, “any scandal or crime that could be alleged… Particularly tales of crimes against Aryan women and girls…”
A key difference is Der Stürmer was a privately owned publication, while Trump’s executive order makes it a federal function.
10. Planting supporters in press conferences and speeches to cheer for him
Trump routinely cites the fact that people cheer for him in his speeches as proof that he is supported and adored by his audiences. The problem is, he seeds the audience with supporters and staffers to cheer, applaud, and give standing ovations to give the appearance of support. He did this when he rolled out his campaign, at his first presser, and at his wildly inappropriate speech in front of the Wall of Heroes at the CIA.
This sort of tactic is completely abnormal in modern US politics. It is however, a favored tactic of tin-pot dictators and autocrats like Vladimir Putin. One Russian journalist described Putin’s annual press conference that highlights how Trump’s speeches and pressers are similar:
“All of this, of course, has been choreographed well in advance. Some of these people really love him and will meet his every answer with enthusiastic applause. There will be people from publications that exist for no other reason than heaping fawning praise on him and attacking his enemies.”
All in all, Americans need to take a step back, and realize just how scary, and abnormal this really is. None of these things are stuff that even a firebrand radical like Ted Cruz would do. And yet, it’s only day 5 of the administration
Originally published at