Let me start this article off with the idea that first and foremost, the chances that President-elect Donald Trump becomes a violent dictator are remote at best – similar to the chances that he would be elected in the first place, but it could happen, and where there’s a will, there’s a way. The Tea-Party arm of the Republican party in congress have been hankering for a strong man for years, resisting compromise, obstructing progress and preventing the appointment of Federal Judges. But it could get worse, and the distance we need to travel is not far. Here’s how it goes down.
1. Use unofficial, volunteer violence against political opponents: In Iran, there is a paramilitary group called the Basji, civilian volunteers who, at a moment’s notice, can move into action to fight wars and internal protests. During the 2009 Iranian election protests, they organized and shot, beat and detained protesters with complete impunity. Many wore masks to conceal their identity, and whenever they suspected someone of revolutionary designs, or of violating cultural norms, they would turn them in, and this still happens today. The same thing could happen here, and may already be happening. A nascent stream of hate crimes have erupted throughout the United States, seemingly without consequences or arrests. Should these individuals decide to take the next step towards violence, we are that much closer to having a Basji-like secret civilian police force in the United States, but it will take the complicit assistance of local and national law enforcement to complete the transition. What if Trump tweets that a certain individual or group should apologize, ‘or else’? Would that be such a call to action? It is not out of the question.
2. Turn the police, FBI and military against the opposition: the Blue Lives Matter movement is not just a reaction to the opposition to police brutality. It is a show of solidarity, and Donald Trump has allied himself with police and against those who are against law enforcement abuse. This is a shrewd strategy because should there be illegal opposition deaths and the police decide not to investigate or press charges, the Trump secret civilian police will be able to act with impunity. Considering the FBI has already been branded ‘Trump Land‘, the same could hold true at that organization. While the FBI is investigating the hate crimes taking place across the US, there has already been a politicization of the organization to such an extent that many Clinton supporters blame the law enforcement organization for the results of the election. At what point do the scales tip completely?
3. Create a fake coup, or use a real coup attempt to react violently: This very scenario played out in Turkey earlier this year. An alleged coup (in which some of the soldiers did not even realize that they were in fact attempting to overthrow anyone) took place in Turkey, and the Prime Minister safely out of town, communicated with his supporters by Twitter to defend the Turkish government. After the coup was put down and hundreds died, thousands of opposition members were imprisoned, tortured and disappeared. The fortunate ones simply lost their jobs. The same could happen here, with or without a coup. Trump could encourage his supporters to put pressure on various wings of the opposition in the US, including members of the media and the judiciary. With nobody to come to the rescue of Americans, we would be at the mercy of the new dictator.
Many of the laws supporting a swift move to authoritarianism are already in place in the United States. Some of those laws allow the government to spy on its citizens. Others allow drone strikes on and detention of US citizens without a trial as long as they are labelled ‘unlawful enemy combatants’. What will Democrats do if they find themselves investigated, detained, tortured and possibly even killed? What will the media do? We say it could never happen here, but a wave of terror has already begun. The cities and the coasts – the majority of American voters in fact (at publication time, Hillary Clinton is leading Trump by 1.6 million votes) are at the mercy of a Republican majority congress, senate and President who has already appointed a pro-torture, anti-Muslim hard right attorney general. One can ask, could it really come to this? Are the leftists just acting like the crazy Republicans who thought Bill Clinton was going to invite the United Nations to take over the US with black helicopters, or Barack Obama was going to take away guns, send opponent of globalization to FEMA detention camps and set up an Islamic theocracy in the US? Probably, but then again, the writing is on the Twitter.