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Est. April 5, 2002
July 25, 2019 - Issue 799

When Autocrats Speak

"The nation is now run by the few and democracy, what's left of it,
is slowly circling the drain.  Trump is the symptom, not the cause,
but he is dangerous to the concept of democracy, since he would
rule like an autocrat if he were able.  A dictionary definition of autocrat is 'ruler who has absolute power,' but the second
 definition describes Trump's take on business and government,
as well as the society at large:  'someone who insists on complete obedience from others; an imperious or domineering person.'"

In an authoritarian nation when an autocrat publicly denounces an individual who might have offended the autocrat or his government, the offending individual may not be long for this world.

It's like a death sentence without any semblance of judicial process. The individual who is denounced lives in fear or lives in hiding and thus is taken out of the struggle for democracy and freedom, which was usually the fight taken up against the autocrat and his authoritarian ways. This has been true historically in such nations, but that couldn't happen here. Or could it?

The U.S. has an authoritarian-leaning president who is consolidating his power among a significant proportion of the U.S. electorate and he has just denounced four Democratic representatives for their views on the nation and its policies. He has relentlessly pursued a course of criticism and denouncement of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), who have been told by President Donald Trump to “go back” where they came from, even though three of the four are American by birth and the fourth, Omar, is American by naturalization. Of critics of U.S. policy, he declared, “If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it.”

Is denouncement by a proto-authoritarian president enough to put opposition party members in mortal danger? Even in a nation in which democratic principles are still in place for some of its citizens, it could happen. On Sunday, a short few days after Trump went on his racist rant against the new representatives, the story broke that a Louisiana deputy went on a rant of his own, saying that Ocasio-Cortez “...needs a round...and not the kind she used to serve (as a bartender).” The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported earlier this week: “A Gretna police officer posted a comment on his Facebook page this past week calling U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a 'vile idiot' who 'needs a round...”

Charlie Rispoli, the threat poster, has been on the Gretna (a city just outside New Orleans) police force since 2005. His chief, Arthur Lawson, reportedly called the post “disturbing” and said that he would fully investigate the threat. Chief Lawson reportedly said: “I’m not going to take this lightly and this will be dealt with on our end. It’s not something we want someone that’s affiliated with our department to make these types of statements. That’s not going to happen.”

While he may investigate this one instance, there have been other cases in which law enforcement officers have posted on social media their animus toward “the other,” including the recent revelation that Border Patrol agents have freely expressed their contempt, possibly hatred, of those coming from the south seeking asylum. These few examples are not anomalies. They are the direct results of the atmosphere created by the Republicans in Congress and the “leader of the free world,” Trump. He can take credit for much, if not all, of the seething hatred of millions of Americans against those who are not perceived as white, like Trump, and themselves.

The language Trump uses says much about what's in his heart. “These are people that hate our country,” he told reporters at the White House on Monday, glibly ignoring the negative things he said about the U.S. as a candidate for the GOP nomination. For example, in a campaign speech in which he attempted to garner black votes, he noted that things were so bad in Black America that they should vote for him, because, “What have you got to lose?” Typical Trump, erratic, often nonsensical.

In his campaign for the nomination, he painted a picture of a broken America: the economy, the national defense, manufacturing flight, bad trade deals, a flailing military and defense, and the list goes on, essentially describing a Third World country. Only he, said the candidate, could fix it and “make America great again.” So far, however, he has broken the country more than it was broken when he and his minions took over the White House.

For all of the greatly touted economy, only Wall Street seems to have done well (as usual), while the average working person is working more and more to stay in place. As it has been for the past 40 years, families have 2-3 jobs to make ends meet, and that doesn't make for a healthy family life. The statistics on joblessness, as usual, are skewed, because those who have stopped looking for work are not counted and they could number in the millions. He and his cultish Republicans in Congress are salivating over the prospect that, if he wins a second term, they can start slashing and burning Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And, that's just for starters. There isn't a social program that they won't cut to make room in the budget for more military and defense spending and more tax cuts for the rich and corporations.

Two things at the top of his destroy-list are health care and the environment. He and his right-wing friends and compatriots want government programs and agencies privatized to make way for profit-taking, instead of service to the people and that includes Medicare-for-all (M4A), which would cut the cost for covering everyone, instead of the for-profit system that now leaves millions without access to health care. They talk about rationing in “socialized” systems, but the current profit system just cuts millions off the rolls without a thought, often to an early death. On the environment, Trump cares nothing about the planet that people live on. The environmental regulations that have been painstakingly won over decades, to provide for healthier living and a sustainable Earth, are seen by Trump as impediments to profit-taking by Corporate America. He says nothing about asthma among America's children and the environmental racism that has become a trademark of politicians like Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and many others in power. As well, they say nothing about the general poverty that is reaching crisis proportions in the U.S.

One thing he won't cut is spending on the military and defense budgets, which now eat up more than half of the federal budget's discretionary spending. It has been said by many, over decades, that you can have democracy or you can have a government run by the few, the oligarchs, but you can't have both. The nation is now run by the few and democracy, what's left of it, is slowly circling the drain. Trump is the symptom, not the cause, but he is dangerous to the concept of democracy, since he would rule like an autocrat if he were able. A dictionary definition of autocrat is “ruler who has absolute power,” but the second definition describes Trump's take on business and government, as well as the society at large: “someone who insists on complete obedience from others; an imperious or domineering person.”

His insistence on being the sole decision-maker in all things likely is the primary factor that has caused the White House to be in constant turmoil, which some have described as “chaotic.” Trump believes himself to be the expert in most things, including the military, international trade, agriculture, foreign policy, diplomacy, politics, global heating, and more. He overrides those who are experts on most issues and says he “goes with his gut,” which he trusts more than science or diplomatic skills. Singlehandedly, he has made the U.S. the laughingstock of the world and very few trust the word of Trump or the nation. The president is going to make race a primary issue in the 2020 campaign, because it plays well with his base. It was said, half jokingly, early in his political life that MAGA, make America great again was more “make America white again.” He may have picked “the Squad” to launch his campaign, but he means any of us who are not lily white. And, he doesn't spare the children. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

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