Autocracy in the making

By all indications, Trump desires absolute power

Donald Trump ran his businesses like a dictator. He expected everyone to bow to his demands and was ruthless in attaining what he wanted. He cheated vendors out of money he owed them through threats of lawsuits. He kept an enemies list of those who would dare to oppose him. Trump’s thuggery worked, for the most part.

And now, fellow Americans, he’s on a mission to run the country the same way. It’s called an autocracy, and if you don’t believe he’s bent on having absolute power, you’re not paying attention. Just look at the evidence.

For starters, Trump respects some of the world’s most dangerous authoritarian figures. He’s repeatedly expressed admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative who led the annexation of Crimea and is upping the clash between Russian-backed troops and Ukrainian soldiers in light of Trump’s ascension to the White House. His right-hand man, Steve Bannon, is a far-right propagandist and avowed Leninist who wants to destroy both major parties. Over the weekend, Trump gave him a seat on the National Security Council. And Trump has long denigrated the media, a classic move in the autocratic playbook.

Most of Trump’s picks are incompetents (think Betsy DeVos for education secretary), chosen because they are wealthy and manipulable. Even respected Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis caved to Trump’s bungled executive order banning Muslims from entering the United States. Moments after signing it, Trump handed Mattis his pen, as if to assure the public he was within his rights. Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence stood by, clapping, despite tweeting a little more than a year ago that calls for such a ban were “offensive and unconstitutional.”

With the GOP controlling both houses, a lack of leadership from moderate Republicans to oppose executive overreach, and a cabinet of sycophants, the only thing stopping Trump from becoming a despot is pressure from the public. While polls show he’s the least popular incoming president of the last four decades, Trump’s populist rhetoric continues to appeal to his base. Until those Americans feel the squeeze, until they figure out that this man cares only to enrich himself and his ilk, this nation and the world are in for a bumpy ride.