Democracies don’t end overnight — tyranny is a slow roll of systematically wearing people down so that each new small change does not seem too much to stomach — not too much from the status quo. This is laid out in books such as On Tyranny, On Fascism, The Origins of Totalitarianism, How Democracies Die and countless other histories of authoritarian rule.
This administration has certainly worn us down. The agencies are now led by their industry’s most unapologetic lobbyists, who have gutted rules to inflate their pockets at the expense of your food, water, and security. Loyalists run the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security and pressure our law enforcement agencies to function to protect the President and not the rule of law. White supremacists are emboldened and empowered, “standing back and standing by” at his order, increasingly armed and violent. Armed with lies and propaganda, those who are still stand with him have abandoned their civil ethos and expectations for good governance.
In the past one year alone:
- The US President attempted to blackmail a foreign government to help his re-election bid, was exposed by a whistleblower whose testimony was corroborated by under-oath testimonies of dozens of high-level non-partisan government officials, obstructed justice for that investigation, and his political party had the power to help him avoid all legal accountability. We do not know how many other nations have been influenced in this manner.
- Hundreds of top military brass, including many Republicans and an unprecedented number of former members of his the President’s own Administration have come out to explicitly state that his Presidency is a threat to US National Security. This list includes Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Ash Carter and William Cohen; former national intelligence director James Clapper; former CIA director Michael Hayden; and former Navy secretaries Sean O’Keefe, Ray Mabus and Richard Danzig, retired General Merrill McPeak, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Marine Corp General John Allen, and William McRaven.
- The US President ordered the US military to use force to clear peaceful protesters outside the White House so that he could get a photo with a Bible to manipulate his religious supporters, an act that retired 4-star Marine Corp General John Allen said “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”
- The United States has accumulated ~230,000 of the 1.2 million worldwide COVID deaths — 20% of the global death toll, even though our national population comprises 4.3% of the world’s population and a disproportionate share of ICU beds. The US death rate is more than twice as bad as Canadas, a rate made tangible by an excess 100,000+ American deaths. Contributing to that astronomical death rate: The President gutted CDC funds for pandemic response teams in the 2019 and 2020 budgets. The President ignored warnings in January and took no action during the first critical 6 weeks of community spread. The President lied to the public about the danger of the virus, telling his supporters that it was a hoax created by Democrats. The President encouraged armed opposition to temporary lockdown safety measures. The President mocked and dismissed mask-wearing, politicizing the most basic and necessary protection measures. The President racialized the virus to deflect blame away from his administration towards China. The President continues to fail to execute on a national testing strategy, national tracing strategy, or production measures to address ongoing shortages in PPE. The President lied about the existence of miracle cures as well as the severity of COVID, directly contradicting the best known public health information, muddling the informed popular consensus required to slow the pandemic.
- The US President created and reinforced conspiracy theories about wildfires in the West that are in fact caused by changing climate that requires urgent action and leadership from the United States. Within the next 5 years, there will be no more permanent ice in the Arctic. Without urgent action, entire ecosystems and civil societies will collapse within our lifetimes.
- The US President signed a budget projected to increase the annual US structural deficit to an unprecedented $1 Trillion despite booming stock market and low unemployment, leaving no fiscal leverage for a potential economic crisis. The financial crisis resulting from COVID will now drive that projected deficit to $3.3 Trillion, threatening the strength and future of our currency.
- The US President nominated Supreme Court Justices who will solidify his power to eliminate the Affordable Care Act and associated protections, will gut our land, air and water protections, will reduce access to birth control and abortion for poor women, and will ensure that Citizens United decision prevents legislatures from reducing the influence of corporations and big money on our elections and who could be a deciding loyalist vote if this election is contestable.
- The US President fabricated stories about the integrity of the US election system, including mail-in-ballots, encouraging his supporters to undermine the system by attempting to vote twice, laying public relations groundwork to challenge electoral results and stopping ballot counts in states where the election is close.
- The US President suggested that he will not accept a peaceful transition of power, should he experience electoral defeat, laying the groundwork for his supporters to commit violence on his behalf and for him to use US Military Force to quell dissent.
This is just the past one year.
Decisions are moral and intellectual forks; making them alters you. CS Lewis wrote “Every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before.” The decision to support Donald Trump — manifest either by voting for him, abstaining from voting, or voting for a third party — is no different.
To support Donald Trump, you must either agree with his words or argue that words in leadership are a triviality. Neither argument is tenable. To argue that “I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” is acceptable is to argue that a man taking pride in sexually assaulting a woman is acceptable. It is an irrevocable statement what you consider moral and good in private conversations among men. To argue that responding “Proud Boys stand back and stand by” is an acceptable response to the invitation to denounce white supremacy is to argue that open encouragement of white supremacy is acceptable. This is an irrevocable statement of what you consider moral and good in leadership.
To support Donald Trump, you must either argue that the worst COVID death rate in the world, skyrocketing debt, uninsurance, inequality, mass social unrest, unprecedented social division, are good results, or that results in leadership are irrelevant. Neither argument is tenable.
To continue to follow a leader into morally and intellectually untenable arguments is to degrade oneself morally and intellectually. Asking his supporters to defend his words and record makes this clear. We are no longer shocked to hear his supporters justify the separation of children from immigrant parents, the holding of immigrants in cages without flu vaccinations or dental hygiene, the references to immigrants as vermin, the use of weapons to chase down and kill black people protesting police brutality or native people protesting pipeline construction.
None of this can be sustained for long in a Republic without that Republic falling into tyranny and ruin, as so many that preceded it have. I am voting out corruption, incompetence, nepotism, crony capitalism, propaganda, racism, the politics of division, the exploitation of religion, the scapegoating of the powerless, voter disenfranchisement, and a dangerously ideological and uneconomic misunderstanding of market capitalism.
I am voting for Joe Biden. I am voting for data-backed decisions, merit-based leadership, the separation of powers, accountability to the press’s questions and people’s votes, climate action, mass voter enfranchisement, big investments in people and infrastructure, racial justice, the sanctification of women’s moral rights, sensible regulation, and healthcare for every person. But most of all I am voting for the hope that the Democratic Party can turn this tragic misdirected ship back around, the way it did in 2008, before it is too late.