Author and expert on authoritarian regimes Sarah Kendzior said in a new essay for the Toronto Globe and Mail that the key to halting the autocratic ambitions of President Donald Trump is to remain vigilant and keep fighting because nothing about the next three months will be easy.
Kendzior began by pointing out the irony that on Apr. 27, Trump issued a White House memo congratulating himself on his "100 Days of Accountability" and informing the public that he has put in place "tough ethical standards to ensure his administration works for the American people and not itself."
Less than 48 hours earlier, however, "Mr. Trump had sent out a text asking 'the forgotten people' to bid on 'five incredible photographs of our massive inauguration.' For the low price of one dollar, and total disregard for the emoluments clause, you too could have a slice of history from the Grifter-in-Chief!"
This particularly seedy bit of graft got lost in the week's noise about Trump's failed attempt to spur Congress into a second "Trumpcare" vote, his hastily-written, completely vague "tax plan" and news about the egregious sums taxpayers are handing over to the first executive every time he leaves Washington for a weekend at his private club.
"In return for funding this budding dynasty of kleptocrats," Kendzior wrote, "the Trump administration promises to take away the public's health insurance, national parks, public schools, environmental protections, civil rights and most social programs benefiting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Under President Trump, the American Dream is a going-out-of-business sale."
The only thing keeping the former reality TV game show host from completely inflicting his autocratic agenda on the public, she wrote, is the widespread refusal of Americans to accept it.
"His first 100 days were a test of checks and balances and citizen commitment to holding officials accountable. Most of the administration's policy initiatives failed only because of the efforts of judges, representatives and citizens who objected and struck them down. Their actions were a rejection of Mr. Trump, and more importantly, a rejection of complacency," wrote Kendzior.
She called it an "absurd misconception" on some people's part that Trump's ineffective first days mean that he's going to ultimately be "a run-of-the-mill bad president." Trump poses a unique threat to Democracy.
"Some of Mr. Trump's advisers are under FBI investigation for their relationship with Russia; one had to resign after being revealed to be a foreign agent. When his press secretary isn't rambling about 'Holocaust centers,' his administration is passing initiatives such as VOICE, which has been compared with Nazi protocols. This is an enormous departure from any predecessor," she said.
And while it has been mentally and physically exhausting for many Americans, the people resisting Trump's government, organizing and protesting, Kendzior said, comprise Trump's main obstacle to implementing his agenda.
For now he remains an autocratic leader stuck with a democratic society and "what's left of a democratic government," she said, but "a serious crisis such as a terrorist attack or an economic crash" could provide Trump with the impetus he needs "to strip citizens of their rights."
Many of Trump's critics, she said, hope that maybe he will grow and adapt to the demands of his office. Others hope that the so-called "deep state" will oust Trump from office by revealing the extent of his collusion with foreign governments like Russia to gain office.
The first of these hopes, Kendzior said, is utter folly. The latter is a tenuous possibility given the extent to which Trump has already dismantled many of the governmental mechanisms that could bring him to heel. There is, she wrote, "no guarantee" that the process will work.
She concluded, "A new translation of Dante's The Inferno bears the lines: 'Forget your hopes. They were what brought you here.' This is good advice for those living in Mr. Trump's special hell. The era of hope and change is over. The era of resistance and resolve is now."