Is this America’s Last Election?
America’s last election? You must be crazy! I hope I’m wrong, and that I am crazy, but I see signs, more and more of them each day. The kind of signs I used to see fifty years ago when I was pulling the swing shift at the Top Secret intel-gathering base known as Ramasun Station in the wilds of northeast Thailand. Our unofficial motto was “In God We Trust. All Others We Monitor.” My job was monitoring Laos and Thailand. Most of the copy I put out was about war, but there were some civil affairs things too, like elections and military coups.
The elections were irregular and always rigged. Rigged using many of the same tactics we see Trump and his minions using today as he grows increasingly desperate in the face of mounting evidence that at least 55% of Americans hate his guts. Which means he can’t win a legitimate election
The fact that most of their people hate their guts has been a standard problem for all the autocratic governments of Southeast Asia so it’s not surprising that Trump would copy them. Attacking peaceful demonstrators who oppose your government. Inciting and praising mobs of pro-government thugs and treating them with kid gloves. Pumping out oceans of lies and misinformation about the opposition. Inciting chaos, then promising to restore order. Creating bizarre third and fourth and fifth parties to confuse the voters and siphon off opposition support. Having their lapdog Electoral Commissions declare opposition candidates to be criminals, or otherwise unfit to run for office.
In Thailand, dictators traditionally write a new Constitution that gives themselves absolute power. In the United States, Trump simply ignores the old one and his simpering lackeys in the Senate rubber stamp him. Thai dictators threaten to kill people who displease them but usually end up throwing them in jail to rot. Trump threatens mayhem, later says he was only joking. But if he had enough power, it would not be a “joke.” He has not got enough yet. The coming election is America’s last chance to see that he does not get it.
But we’ve been having free, and usually fair, elections since 1800. Won’t tradition protect us? Have you noticed what has been happening to tradition since Trump and his piratical crew came to power? How much protective tradition remains in William Barr’s Justice Department? How much separation of powers remains between the Legislative and Executive branches of the government? How much can we trust our police and military to stay out of politics? How much do Americans trust the very electoral process itself these days? And what chance does order and tradition have against a president who openly admits that his program to cripple the U.S. Postal Service is aimed at keeping Democrats from voting in an election that even he is sure he will lose?
If these were otherwise more or less normal times, I wouldn’t be writing this article. I’d say we’ll pull through. I’d say that we’ve survived as bad or worse before. I’d say that if we could survive insipid losers like James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson, we will be able to send Trump packing. But these times are anything but normal.
A “perfect storm” is now upon us. A frightening mixture of pandemic death, economic collapse, and political chaos converging like foul weather fronts on a map. Will voters risk death to cast their ballots? Will they stand in line for hours to vote at the few polling places that may be open? Will Republican governors and Supreme Court judges and legislatures make it impossible or maddeningly difficult to vote in any other way but in person? And if many do get a chance to vote by mail, will their votes end up being thrown out? Will the delays in tabulating the results, which may take days or even weeks, be used to spread lies and propaganda and wild conspiracy theories…and perhaps call out troops to “maintain order”? And finally, will Trump even leave office if beaten? That would be an act befitting a Thai dictator.
And if this perfect storm occurs what will be its aftermath? If Trump crowns himself King, what then? Can he stage a mock election to give himself or a designated member of his depraved “royal family” 16 more years in power like his dear friend Vladimir Putin? Or does he do as Thai dictators do, promise a future election, then keep finding ridiculous reasons for putting it off until he can devise a foolproof way of rigging it? How about that, Donnie Boy?
I don’t even want to think about what might happen if Trump continues in office, either by foreign meddling, rigged election, or coup. All I know is that there would be even more, and bloodier, chaos. And that the America we know, and love, and once were proud of, and fought for, and many of us died for…would no longer exist. Maybe its name will be changed to Trump America. But behind any nameplate and its facade of Democracy and Justice, there will be nothing. America will be a false-fronted movie set of corrupt hollowed-out institutions presided over by a brutal mercurial strongman as mad as the maddest of Russian Czars. It is nearly that now, but if Trump sabotages America’s last attempt at a real election autocracy will reign until it is violently overthrown, likely by a new autocrat.
Real Democracy is more fragile than Dictatorship. It demands openness and tolerance, a true exchange of views among differing parties, compromise that leaves neither side completely satisfied. Rule by decree or Executive Order is the easy way out. The Trump Way. The Mussolini Way. The Hitler Way. The way of absolute power that corrupts…absolutely!