Donald Trump’s accusations of election rigging by and his castigations of intellectuals, political-elites, immigrants, journalists, and religious figures seems shocking to many following the current US presidential campaign, but has significant precedence in the not-to-distant political history of Western Civilization.
One wouldn’t have to dig too far to find examples of this type incendiary and dangerous rhetoric employed by leaders of such repute as Stalin, Mussolini, Moa, and Videla… just to name a few.
Of course, the marked difference between Trump and these other infamous rulers is that Trump has only incited through words, where the others executed the murder of thousands.
Yet, examining the narrative he is creating, compared to the correlations of the autocratic leaders of the past, may provide insight into the dim future of the US if he were to be elected.
While Trump is properly renowned for his bellicose remarks on immigrants and race, they do not eclipse his efforts to demonize the other facets of society that sustain a functioning democratic and humane government. These efforts foreshadow a society where these individuals, who are the most likely to challenge his rule, will be extracted.
Like the other leaders who followed his method of usurping power, the rhetoric is not surprising. What is, has always been, and always will be a source of bewilderment and disturbance is the ability of these leaders to influence a large portion of society to inhabit these beliefs.
As Trump’s campaign spirals into failure, we hear more and more of his accusations steered towards a biased media. Before we heard the castigation of establishment elites, intellectuals, and even his attack on Pope Francis. These are claims we’d expect from an individual who cannot except that what he says has little relevance to a majority of people. The divisive commentary only becomes a vicious cycle of blame and antipathy.
But, what he has been able to do, as other leaders have done before, is latch on to the sourceless, innate notion of disenfranchisement. It is the simplest of equations that marks the ascendance of dangerous belief: the ones who know most about the functions of government are the ones who have corrupted it.
While there are viable examples of intellectuals, journalists, religious figures, and politicians using their positions to exercise their own advantage, there are even more examples of these same individuals being the only people who can make effective change and hold those in positions in power accountable.
The notion that someone else who has more power has created the position of disenfranchisement is not an invalid belief. Yet, it is fallible argument, and one that has catastrophic consequences if embraced.
While Soviet Russia under Stalin was at its peak, the first to go were always the intellectuals, activists, oppositional party leaders, journalists and religious figures. This was the same under Mussolini’s reign, in Argentina’s Dirty War, and during Franco’s dictatorship. We condemned it from our television screens as we watched the student stand before the tank in Tiananmen Square. We hear about it daily, as academics and journalists are never to be seen again in Mexico. In Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and other Soviet satellite nations, journalist’s, activists, and political figures walls would be tapped and eventually they’d vanish without explanation. In many countries we hear of the one media channel run by the government. All other sources of news are banned.
By the thousands, the brightest and humane individuals would be removed from these societies, not just because of a rulers request, but because of the permission and reticence of his or her populace.
It is easy, and in many ways justifiable, to become fed up with direction of a current system. When a greater portion of a society struggles to survive and live a satisfactory life, there is a change needed to be made.
But, these times of struggle are continually the seed for a dangerous leader to rise to power. In these times people want someone to tell them who to blame, they want someone to tell them who created this mess, they want belief in security, and they want someone to say they’ll do it alone.
The bitter irony is that there can never any one individual that will cure the ills of society. It is the combination of intellectuals, political-elites, immigrants, journalists, religious figures, and people of all other facets of society that are responsible.
To become imbibed by a rhetoric that disallows expression, knowledge, and acceptance is a dangerous path that has never lead to a better functioning government.
And, perhaps if Trump were to win the presidency, a scenario like this would never occur. Still, it is important to consider what might happen, by what has happened, when a leader employs such beliefs and when their followers agree.