by Ali Minai
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!
—Robert Burns, “To a Mouse”
On January 24, 2017 – four days after Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States – I sat down at my computer and wrote out an 8-point plan by which I feared he and his party could change forever the nature of American democracy. Now, as we approach another presidential election, it is interesting to look back and take stock.
Here was the plan – reproduced verbatim without any change except a small typo correction:
Step 1: Delegitimize all authoritative sources of information – mainstream media, scientists, economists, historians, other experts.
Step 2: Use control of government resources to foment conspiracy theories and generate fake information (including fake data) to delegitimize popular predecessor.
Step 3. Use the judiciary and the legislature to criminalize criticism and dissent.
Step 4 Stop keeping track of data that would quantify inconvenient facts about climate change, economic inequality, social problems, civil rights problems, gun violence, police brutality, corporate greed, foreign wars, etc.
Step 5: Use control of government institutions to revise previous data and generate new false data to shape perceptions of prior dysfunction and current progress.
Step 6: Divide the opposition by tangling them in internal feuds on issues such as trade, race, political correctness, Israel, etc.
Step 7: Pack the bureaucracy and judiciary as far as possible with compliant functionaries who support the program.
Step 8: Use government institutions to ensure single-party electoral dominance for the foreseeable future, thus removing all fear of public accountability.
I would now like to pose two questions:
- Was all this possible in January 2017?
- Did it come to pass, and if not, why not?
To answer the first question, yes, it was certainly possible. The mechanisms were all there. Trump had come in with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. The party dominated governorships and state legislatures across the country. The judiciary had already been packed well by previous Republican administrations, and the reversal of this packing stymied by Republican obstruction during the Obama years. The Right-Wing propaganda machine, led by Fox News and Talk Radio, was humming on all cylinders. Read more »