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CONTRIBUTORS

OP-ED: What are the 15 signs of authoritarianism? We’ve seen them

Ann McFeatters
Tribune News Service (TNS)
President Donald Trump smiles at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Friday, July 3, 2020, near Keystone, S.D. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

You probably are asking yourself, about now, “What are 15 signs my country is sliding into authoritarianism?”

1. The president refuses to commit to abiding by how Americans vote in the November election until he sees what happens. Check. Donald Trump in a Fox News interview would not say he will be bound by voters’ wishes.

2. Soldiers in unmarked uniforms and no identifying insignia swoop in as the president’s personal militia to arrest peacefully protesting pedestrians in the middle of the night, throw them into unmarked vans and streak away. Check. (Happening in Portland, Oregon, and Trump promises it will happen in other cities. Trump is of German descent but apparently never heard about the feared secret police and the Gestapo.)

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3. People are denied the right to vote until they pay all costs any courts say they owe, whether or not they are allowed to dispute them. Check. Happening in Florida.

4. Data about a pandemic are hidden from the public so that the president can control who sees such information as the number of available hospital beds. Check. Trump ordered that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no longer gets the data, hence the public can’t see it.

5. The president is recognized around the world as someone who does not keep his word, acts capriciously and does not tell the truth. Check. Leaders of other democracies will no longer deal with Trump. Multiple organizations have clocked Trump at telling more than 20,000 lies or misstatements in 3 1/2 years.

6. The president courts dictators known for violating human rights. Check. Trump openly admires Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan and others.

7. The president seeks to divert spending on public health in favor of public monuments, such as a new FBI building. Check. Trump is fighting the most conservative Republicans as he tries to cut funding for fighting COVID-19.

8. Children are separated from parents and imprisoned without adequate medical attention or basic compassion. Check. Thousands may never see their parents again, and hundreds still languish in COVID-19-infested camps.

9. Borders are sealed, and people are not permitted in or out. Check. Even before COVID-19 struck, Trump enacted bans on people coming and going, including scientists considered vital to American research.

10. Racism and sexism are openly encouraged and fostered by the leader. Check. Trump is stressing division and racial anger as he campaigns for reelection.

11. The public display of evil symbols is enthusiastically endorsed. Check. Trump says Confederate battle flags, which were carried by traitors to the U.S., should fly when supported by white supremacists because it’s free speech, although he says protesters do not have the same right to protest racism. Would he say the same about Nazi swastikas over a public building in the U.S.?

12. Enemies are punished and friends are rewarded. Check. Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen is in jail not just for doing Trump’s bidding but for telling Congress and law enforcement about it. Roger Stone was convicted of felony offenses by a jury and is free because he lied to Congress and the FBI to benefit Trump.

13. Millions of people are declared non-persons. Check. Trump has ordered that more than 11 million undocumented people not be counted when congressional district lines are redrawn even if they have been in the U.S. for decades. This hurts cities or states with large immigrant populations because they won’t be federally compensated fairly and such districts will get less voting representation.

14. Science is routinely denied. Check. A thousand people die every day because the lessons of science and history were ignored and months passed with no national planned response to the novel coronavirus even as Trump demanded schools be opened this fall or lose federal funding.

15. The power of the presidency is used for personal gain. Check. Foreign diplomats curry favor by enriching Trump’s hotels and golf courses. Large campaign donations are given and rewarded by White House endorsement of commercial products. Trump tried to get the British Open held at his golf resort in Scotland and then fired the nonpartisan inspector general who wrote a report about it and had the report marked classified.

But you be the judge. In November.

— Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at amcfeatters@nationalpress.com.