By Dr David Laing Dawson
At the very beginning of the Trump presidency I wrote a (I had hoped, satirical) set of instructions for undermining democracy. Nine months later some news items have prodded me to reread my instructions. Those news items were: 1. Justice department asking Facebook for information on people who “liked” an anti-administration protest page. 2. ICE agents arrest over 450 illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities. 3. Trump stokes racial division through the NFL. 4. Tax proposal to dramatically shift more wealth to the top 1%, including Trump himself. 5. A bill before the senate to loosen gun restrictions. (I didn’t think they could be looser until reading the specifics, which include ending restrictions on selling silencers, concealed carry, and armor piercing ammunition).
It is time to revisit my instruction manual and see how Donald and America are progressing.
1. Make frequent reference to the utter failure of all previous administrations. Take credit for anything good that happened during the most recent administration. Done
2. Promote a cult of personality. Suggest the new leader has God-like powers, such as controlling the rain, and solving complex and intractable problems with forceful statements. Done
3. Paint a bleak picture of the current state of affairs and grossly exaggerate the risk, the dangers posed by outsiders and nonbelievers. Done
4. Promote law and order and military power as the only forces that can keep us safe. Done
5. Incrementally reduce voting rights by insisting on regulations that favor your supporters and disenfranchise others. Do this by claiming you are controlling corruption and fraud. Done
6. Choose an enemy or two, give them names, and promise to eradicate them. Use emotionally inspiring words such as evil, kill, wipe them out, get rid of them once and for all. Done
7. Exaggerate the size of your support and the crowds attending your rallies. Refer to this as a movement. Done
8. Lie frequently and often. Use big, bold lies. This is a form of desensitization. More and more will believe your lies. The remaining citizens will stop caring. Done
9. Undermine the Fourth Estate. Seed distrust of news and information. Call all reporters and truth tellers liars. It will be difficult to fully control the media (this is not Russia) but consider using licensing bodies, libel laws and the courts to tie their hands. Done
10. Promote the idea that the people of your nation, your followers, are superior human beings, exceptional, and deserve to live better than others. American Exceptionalism. Or is that “Uber Alles”? Done
11. You will need the armed forces and intelligence agencies so flatter them frequently, while you replace their leaders with your own men. Done
12. You will need cabinet members and spokespeople who will unabashedly promote you and your statements and policies no matter how unpalatable or ludicrous they become. Some will be willing to do this for money, others for power and glory of their own, and others because of their own anger and resentment from earlier grievances. Unfortunately such people abound. But remember, it is not loyalty that binds them to you, but self-interest. Reward them generously; always be prepared to kill them. Done
13. Quickly disparage and render impotent any leader who opposes you. Memorable name-calling and disinformation will suffice. Done
14. Create a language of code words for anything that remains unacceptable for most citizens. For example: “alternative facts” for lies, “violence in the inner cities” for racial profiling. Done
15. Use hyperbole at all times. A person or event is either “great”, “fantastic”, “amazing”, or “a disaster”, “evil”, “total failure”. This fosters a dichotomous view of the world and will help dehumanize victims when the time comes to purge. Done
16. Find some allies in other countries by directly or tacitly supporting their extreme views. Examples might include Putin, Marine Penn and Netanyahu. Be unpredictable for the others. Keep them on edge. Done
17. In the meantime cater to the dominant political force in the democratic body by quickly implementing all their pet projects (e.g anti-abortion legislation), and by canceling all social and medical initiatives started by that upstart negro president . Done
18. Build monuments to yourself. Oops. I forgot. You already have. Good. Build more. Start with the Trump Great Southern Wall. Done
19. Throughout this process continue to emphasize that you are working for the people. Use the words “people”, “working people” and “democracy” frequently. As you usurp power explain that you are protecting democracy. Done
20. Have patience. Others may deliver you the crisis and fear that will allow an incremental or bold increase in power. When you assume new powers present yourself as reluctant to do so. Done
21. Use as much pomp and circumstance as possible. People love ceremonies. Emphasize the sacred trust your office embodies. Done
22. Visit a religious leader (televised of course). Ensure him and the American Public that you understand the enormity of your office and the need for God’s guidance. Try not to sneer or chuckle doing this. It is not wise to compare yourself to God, but you can hint that He favors you in some way. Done
23. Don’t worry about the physical quirks the cartoonists seize upon, the little black mustache for example, or the blonde comb over. Ultimately these will confer upon you icon status. Done
24. There will be protests and marches against you. Be gracious in your response to those that remain peaceful. Come down very hard on those that become violent. Emphasize these, and use them to accrue more power. But, be assured that any large gathering of people can become violent with a little help from your friends. Done
25. Toady up to the leaders of organized religion, the church. With few exceptions these religious leaders will see you as a means of helping them achieve their long-term goals. They will not stand against you for fear of losing their own power. Done
26. Allow others to live vicariously through you. This is a fine balance. While allowing the people to view your sumptuous life style use colloquial language, talk as they do. Remind them you work tirelessly for them. Pretend that one day they can all live as you do. Done
27. Women are tricky. Have one or two around you but not many. They tend to have empathy for others, children, small animals. They tend to prefer compromise and cooperation. Reference your own dear mother frequently, and say how much you respect women. But subtly denigrate them by your own actions, and limit their voices and rights through reproductive and child-care legislation. Done
28. Gain increasing control of your population. You can start this by controlling all immigration and visitation to your country. Then pick the minority group most feared or misunderstood by your followers and order a registration process. This will appear harmless, like getting a driver’s license. Then incrementally increase the strength of this process, include more identifiable groupings, until all citizens must carry “papers” with them and submit to police checks. This will instill fear. In progress
29. Finally, incrementally increase your power and authority until you can accurately call yourself “president-for-life” or “Supreme Leader”. This will take time. At some point you will need a crisis at home (Terrorist attack for e.g.) or you will need to provoke a crisis abroad and at home (Palestinian response to moving embassy to Jerusalem for e.g.). This will justify your transfer of a specific power from a democratic body (congress/senate/) to your own office. This can be done on the grounds that only you know all the facts, and quick decisions are required. It is also more acceptable if the democratic bodies are perceived as ineffective or too partisan. Your people can ensure the latter condition is met. Coming soon via N Korea or Iran.
Carl Jung spoke of Hitler embodying the collective unconscious of the German people. We needn’t be as fanciful as Jung to see that a leader can personify and, by example, embolden the worst impulses of us humans, those impulses that may have had evolutionary utility when we fought over a watering hole and a hunting ground, those impulses that stand ready today to lead us down a dark path.