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As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

  • Exaggerate their mandate to govern — claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.
  • Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.
  • Call anyone who opposes them "enemies."
  • Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them "deceitful" and "scum."
  • Hold few press conferences, preferring to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements.
  • Tell the public big lies, causing them to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants' goals.
  • Blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and even violence against them.
  • Attribute acts of domestic violence to "enemies within," and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.
  • Threaten mass deportations, registries of a religious minority, and the banning of refugees with particular religious beliefs.
  • Seek to eliminate or reduce the influence of competing centers of power, such as labor unions and opposition parties.
  • Appoint family members to high positions of authority and power.
  • Surround themselves with their own personal security force rather than a security detail accountable to the public.
  • Put generals into top civilian posts.
  • Make personal alliances with foreign dictators.
  • Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

These warning signs should be of concern to everyone, regardless of political party. In fact, historically, conservatives have been especially vigilant against potential threats to our constitutional rights.

All Americans must join together to protect American democracy against tyranny.

Consider yourself warned.

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley and the author of "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future." He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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