Experts in authoritarianism advise to keep a list of things
subtly changing around you, so you’ll remember.
November 03, 2018
In normal times, after shootings and assassination attempts, our country would expect our head of state to calm things and seek unity. Instead, this week Trump did the exact opposite, fanning the flames of hate with a manufactured crisis to gin up his base ahead of midterms. Trump announced he will send an additional 5,200 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, then upped it to 15,000, despite the migrants being weeks away and possibly never arriving. He and his allies and conservative media branded the migrants as carrying diseases, and being MS-13 gang members, child molesters, and violent young men.
October 27, 2018
This was a heartbreaking week in America, after several domestic attacks left the country shaken, frightened, and on edge. On Monday, an explosive device mailed in a package to the home of George Soros was discovered. Then starting Wednesday, one by one, 13 more packages addressed to high profile Democrats, all of whom were Trump critics and people Trump had publicly and repeatedly attacked, were found. There was a deadly shooting of two Black Americans in a supermarket in Kentucky, minutes after the shooter was unable to gain access to a predominantly black church in Jeffersontown. Then, the week closed with mass shooting during Shabbat services at Pittsburgh’s oldest Jewish congregation, killing 11 and injuring 6, likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history, which was charged as a hate crime.
October 20, 2018
With midterms approaching, the country is electrified and on edge. This week Trump recycled themes from his 2016 campaign to help boost Republican messaging: stoking fear of “the others” (a caravan of immigrants), accusing Democrats of being the party of open borders and crime and claiming the left is encouraging violence (“the mob”). Journalists and watchdog groups in several states continued to report and document overt efforts by the Republican Party to suppress the votes of people of color.
October 14, 2018
This week as Republicans celebrated the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, polling told a different story: more Americans disapprove of the confirmation, are concerned about Kavanaugh politicizing the court and believe there should be further Congressional investigation. Under Mitch McConnell’s Senate leadership, a record number of Trump judicial nominees have been pushed through, including restacking 15 percent of circuit court judges.
October 06, 2018
This was all predictable. The descent to authoritarianism follows a predictable path in history. Masha Gessen, one of the “experts in authoritarianism” I read before starting the project of making the weekly list, wrote this in a New York Review of Books article on November 10, 2016, “There is little doubt that Trump will appoint someone who will cause the Court to veer to the right; there is also the risk that it might be someone who will wreak havoc with the very culture of the high court.” Prescient indeed.
September 29, 2018
This week our country was riveted as new allegations of sexual assault surfaced against Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. On Thursday, 20 million Americans tuned in to the watch the Kavanaugh hearings. Despite Dr. Christine Blasey Ford coming across as poised and credible, while a belligerent Kavanaugh delivered testimony riddled with inaccuracies, Republicans planned to push forward for a confirmation vote on Friday. In a stunning turn, the power of the #MeToo movement and protests changed a key senator’s vote early Friday, pushing off Kavanaugh’s confirmation and forcing Trump to open a one-week FBI investigation into the sexual assault allegations against his nominee.
September 22, 2018
This week the news was dominated by accusations of sexual assault against Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh, as the accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford came forward. Trump restrained himself from attacking Dr. Ford until Friday, but Republican senators and GOP operatives were out in full force all week. Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch called Dr. Ford, “mixed up,” while conservative legal commentator Ed Whalen tried to pin the blame for the assault on Kavanaugh’s classmate.
September 15, 2018
Increasingly, Trump stands alone. Reporting indicates his sense of betrayal from current and former officials speaking out in Bob Woodward’s book and in the anonymous Times op-ed has left Trump outraged and paranoid — canceling meetings, and trusting a shrinking circle of his family and Stephen Miller. The sense of a pending coup from the “deep state” was further exacerbated by the stunning news that Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, is cooperating fully in the Mueller probe.
September 08, 2018
This week, the country watched the contentious Senate hearings for Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh. Senator Patrick Leahy called it the “most incomplete, most partisan, least transparent” vetting of a Supreme Court nominee in his forty-four years in the senate. As hearings wrapped up, questions linger about whether Kavanaugh has lied under oath in this and past judicial hearings, as well as whether Trump had selected Kavanaugh, who was not on his 2016 campaign list, in order to protect himself from the Mueller probe.
September 01, 2018
This week the death of Senator John McCain loomed large. McCain’s military and public service, and his statesmanship stood in sharp contrast to Trump, who acted like a petulant child, refusing to issue a statement of praise or keep the White House flag at half-staff. As the week ended, and virtually every official in D.C. attended a nationally televised farewell for McCain, Trump busied himself tweeting false statements, before heading to a Trump golf course in Virginia.