We are moving in that direction. Plenty of ink will be used on this. However, I am going to take this through a place most people will not. We are living on the edge of an open dictatorship. The arguments made by the president’s counsel, especially Allan Dershowitz, are openly fascist. Or if you prefer, a Dictablanda.
Let me explain. Most Americans think of the fascist period in Europe as the natural outcome. Most far-right governments in Europe do practice a form of this even today. Hungary comes to mind. Yet, there is another method to control a population and keep an iron-fisted control over the levers of power. It is just as hard to dislodge as a traditional system, and the US already has many of the necessary elements.
This is the Dictablanda of my youth in Mexico City. They are known as soft dictatorships. It was first described in the United States in Democracy Incorporated. And when I read that book I had chills run down my back. The trial is the last step in many ways towards that system. In particular, because the fig of accountability will be gone.
So what are the elements:
A controlled media: In Mexico Televisa was for all intents a form of state media. While in theory there was freedom of the press, people knew the rails within which they could speak about the government. They had very clear limits.
To this day Televisa is called by many Mexicans Telerisa because none takes their reporting that seriously. They are seen as stenographers that will gladly take dictation. In the United States, we have this channel already. We call it Fox News, and it has been purified from reporters who have any qualms about it and actually try to get off those guard rails.
But we have the New York Times! Yes, but even top media has a few issues they will not touch. And the angle must media takes on certain issues is predictable, and coming from the interest of the powerful and wealthy. There is also a series of stories that most media does not cover in-depth, including things like income inequality, or labor. This is not an accident.
Militarized Police: I remember the Grupo de Granaderos in my youth. They were officers who met any marches and actual resistance with billy clubs and shields. They were as militarized as can be. These days SWAT Teams in the United States are indistinguishable from soldiers on patrol on Kandahar. When we have protests and officers employ tear gas, this is also indistinguishable from images from abroad.
This same militarized police was corrupt. We have evidence that American law enforcement is already down that path. Whether it is increasing over what we have had in the past, or not, is a matter of time.
What is also the case is that the Federal system is under constant attack by the president and his administration. Why? They are likely still saying no to what he commands. The Federales never had any doubts about protecting the system. Nor did the army, as we saw in 1968. It’s a matter of time, and we know the president wants to use the army within the United States.
Imperial Presidential Power: In the Mexico of my birth Congress had the authority to do oversight over the president. These, of course, were in the Constitution. Even the 1917 document had some elements from the American Constitution, which was mostly copied in 1824 from the American version. However, Congress never exercised it.
To be fair, we have been going in this direction since the National Security Act of 1947, but at this point, the Senate is about to give up any right to oversight. This is surrender with not even a pretense to have witnesses. The order from the president to block all oversight was not unexpected, what was the unwillingness of the Senate to assert itself. But the House! I know the argument and there is a small point to it. However, the House is still in the courts with one of the president’s men. They knew that the courts would be used by the president to slow anything. Why? It’s his modus operandi.
The fact that the Senators are willing to ignore this, is what is incredible. They are becoming a branch with no real power. From now on, a president will be able to do whatever they want to do, with no fear of oversight. This matters not from what party. In effect, we will elect dictators every four years.
Controlled Elections? This is the last element of this system. The Republicans have no fear of the voters. And there are two possible reasons. It may be that they are truly in such bubbles that they do not understand that Americans are horrified by their actions. So when they lose in November, they will be very surprised.
The second possibility is that we are now moving to manipulated elections. In my youth, we voted, but we did not pretend it mattered. We knew elections were stolen regularly. As I wrote in an earlier piece, this happened in earlier American history. But when we take all this into account and add all the elements, we are moving to a very dangerous point.
Regardless, you and I need to vote, if only to remain in practice. We need to continue to vent and do so beyond Facebook. This is another tool that those governments did not have. Right now we have social media, and it is where people complain. Yes, we have had millions hit the streets, but why they are ineffective is a good question.
Perhaps the march must be to the White House, and the Hill…and in the millions. What could work, and in the current environment this is a fantasy, is a national strike. However, most of us will continue to grouse on social media, because we have been reduced to this blubbering state. In Mexico, there was a proto-system of this. People complained in social gatherings, and yes, marches happened regularly. To this day they are part of the traffic report.
While in Mexico people finally got rid of the PRI in 2000, Congress has very little ability to hold a president accountable, and as we know that crisis is deep. Are we doing down a similar path?