How the Trump Presidency Will Turn Anti-Establishment Sentiment Into a New Authoritarianism
Article first appeared at The Free Thought Project.
The dread was visible on the faces of mainstream media news anchors Tuesday night as they read the projected outcome of a Trump win. Hillary had sustained their sense of security in the establishment as Praetorian Guard, dutifully echoing the government’s line in exchange for access to the inner circle.
While “conservative” talking heads such as Sean Hannity will once again demonstrate their loyalty to big government – as long as it suits their agenda – Trump cheerleaders in the “alt-right” such as Alex Jones will be leading their followers into the welcoming arms of the State.
True alternative media is a great thing, but if it amounts to undying, unquestioning loyalty to a party candidate, what is really alternative about it?
The election was many things, including a rebuke of the establishment in both parties. Bernie Sanders, railing against Wall St., posed a threat to Democratic elitists – and he was efficiently neutralized.
Donald Trump’s words, on the surface, posed a threat to the Republican establishment, and he proceeded to gain wild popularity through fear-mongering bigotry. Considering Trump’s poor record at telling the truth, it’s difficult to know how much of that anti-establishment rhetoric will become reality.
We’ve already reported on the Goldman Sachs and George Soros insiders, including Steven Mnuchin, he will be appointing to his administration. For Trump, who has multimillion dollar developments in New York and around the country, to suggest that he is somehow removed from Wall St. may be the biggest joke of his campaign.
Several long-time Republican figures could make up the Trump cabinet, including Sen. Jeff Sessions for defense secretary and RNC finance chair Lew Eisenberg for commerce secretary. John Bolton, who was a key member of the Bush neocons pushing the invasion of Iraq, will probably be the U.N. ambassador.
Trump has plainly said he intends to wield executive orders to the fullest extent possible. Some of these promised unilateral actions — the should make any true conservative cringe — include:
- Increasing taxes on “carried interest”
- Taking control of Western Union and PayPal transactions to pay for a border wall
- Forcing wage increases on certain foreign workers to deter companies from hiring them
- Making traffic offenses a trigger for mandatory deportation of undocumented immigrants, instantly causing the need for 200,000 detention beds per day
- Increasing the military presence in the East and South China Seas to escalate tensions with China
One of the more disturbing things Trump said on the campaign trail had to do with “closing that internet up.”
“We’re losing a lot of people because of the Internet,” Trump said. “We have to go see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening. We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that Internet up in some way. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people. We have a lot of foolish people.”
Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, will bring bureaucratic experience that Trump is lacking. During his time as Indiana governor, Pence found “innovative ways for the state to impose conservative Christian moral views on everyone else.” This has prepared him well to put the moral authoritarianism back into federal government.
With the help of the so-called “alt-right” – and the Democrats’ horrible choice of Hillary Clinton – Trump managed to convince enough people that he will bring change to the establishment.
Whatever degree that turns out to be true, it is overshadowed by the reality that the Trump/Pence team is set to bring a new authoritarianism to the U.S.
This brand of authoritarianism is fueled by aggression toward “outgroups” such as immigrants, minorities or certain religious types, and conventionalism or required adherence to traditions and social norms. Trump and Pence fulfill these qualities and use them to attract followers.
Law and Order
When we look under the surface of Trump’s campaign slogan “law and order,” we see he is already primed to ramp up the police state, with increasing militarization and incarceration. The private prison industry has already experienced a surge in the stock market.
Trump has been vocal about expanding domestic surveillance and using military-style drones in the homeland — a threat made all the more dangerous with rapidly increasing technology.
Part of the strategy in Trump’s “law and order” campaign would likely include rolling back the small progress federal government has made in reducing jail time for drug possession.
“Trump’s victory may be fatal to the unusually bipartisan campaign to reduce prison sentences, invest in rehabilitation, and otherwise render the federal justice system more humane and effective…
In general, Trump’s law-and-order entourage — Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke and others — constitutes a virtual counter-reform movement, favoring longer sentences, fuller prisons and militarized policing. His natural allies on Capitol Hill are men like Sens. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who this year blocked even the most incremental reforms.”
Law enforcement has been a huge supporter of Trump. At a time when the brutality of the American police state is being exposed on a constant basis, Trump represents a lifeline. His fabrications about the crime rate and a violent dystopia match perfectly with the false narrative of a “war on cops.”
And now, law enforcement will be rewarded.
“Trump has promised law enforcement unions that he will accelerate the flow of military equipment to police departments, jumpstarting a 1997 program that drew sharp criticism when armored and assault-rifle armed police officers appeared at protests of police shootings. He has promised to undo President Barack Obama’s executive order that limited the program.”
Trump said he will put more cops on the street and bring back stop-and-frisk to keep guns away from “bad people,” a term which could be used in completely arbitrary fashion. According to studies, stop-and-frisk and increasing police presence actually make crime worse.
Giuliani, of course, believes stop-and-frisk “helped to change New York City from the crime capital of America to the safest large city in the country.” It was ruled unconstitutional in 2013, and New York City homicides actually went down after the program was stopped.
The “law and order” mantra is borrowed from Richard Nixon, who had a personal vendetta against those he perceived as politically or culturally opposed to him.
“Historians largely regard that strategy as stoking white resentment against African American and other minority protest movements.
“‘Law and order,’ that’s been a dog-whistling phrase of the right wing for decades now,” said Sean Blackman, 28, an organizer for Stop Police Terror Project DC. “When Nixon said ‘law and order’ he meant specifically cracking down on brown people, red people, yellow people.”
This stoking of race-based fear came back with a vengeance in Trump, propelling him to the presidency. And it brings us back to that pillar of authoritarianism – aggression toward outgroups. Several historical figures have used it successfully to enact mass murder and military conquest.
Mike Pence’s religious fervor and Donald Trump’s aggression toward “others” will easily lead their millions of loyalists to accept the third pillar of authoritarianism – “a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate.” This blind allegiance is a prerequisite for the kind of violence that threatens the fragile fabric of society.
Trump is already borrowing Nixon’s “law and order” tag line, and he may resemble the vindictive former president more and more as time goes on, exercising little restraint in going after political opponents.
Judging by his incessant public ridicule of those who he perceived as offending him – and his unabashed call for increased police militarization and domestic surveillance – a Trump presidency could be truly threatening to those who dare dissent.