Our greatest intellectual Achilles heel is that we tend not to believe something that hasn’t happened to us.
Most people reading this have never lived under authoritarianism. We just can’t imagine it: and so we disbelieve this threat, in spite of the abundance of cold, hard evidence, and the abundance of academics and other experts who have been warning us about Trump’s authoritarian take-over for years. (I have provided a summary of this material below.) Ultimately, it is not Trump that puts us at grave risk: it is our lack of imagination to comprehend the danger ahead of us that he presents.
In the weeks before I became the only candidate to legally withdraw from the Ward 2 special election, I made a discovery that rocked my fundamental understanding of the world around us — and hence compelled me to focus exclusively on scouring through as much academic research as possible on the issue.
That discovery was this: Firstly, the election in November will not save us from Trump.
Trump will steal the election and will refuse to leave the White House; Congress will not act; the Supreme Court does not have jurisdiction to act; the military cannot act; and (to paraphrase Amherst Law professor Lawrence Douglas), there is a black hole in the Constitution — it has no provision for this scenario. In other words, there is precisely nothing to save us from Trump’s authoritarian takeover, except us – you and me, we, the people (as authoritarianism scholar Dr. Sarah Kendzior and other authoritarian academics repeatedly point out.).
The second part of this discovery was this: We are living through an authoritarian takeover by Trump, right now. I first stumbled upon this view in Dr Sarah Kendzior’s work. Then I found that numerous other authoritarian experts and academics fully agree with Kendzior — including New York University Professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Yale professors Tim Snyder and Jason Stanley. (I cite Democrat-oriented experts to be mindful of most Ward 2 voters’ political persuasion.)
Events over the last few weeks in Portland, Oregon, insightfully commented on by retired General Mark Hertling, NYU Law Brennan Center’s professors Ryan Goodman and Steve Vladeck among others, make clear that the stakes are elevating each week.
And so I implore you all to do the following, now:
Realize that Trump has utilized the power of shock to consistently stay ahead of us at every turn for the last five years. Realize that we need to get ahead of him for once, by pre-empting his next shocking action and acting before he does.
Yes, we must work our hardest to get Joe Biden a truly historic landslide. Although a landslide will not be enough to stop Trump stealing the election, it will make it far harder for him to do so.
But just as critically, we must now dramatically step up and demonstrate our other form of citizen power — mass, pre-emptive protest and demonstration, with group statements and public displays, everywhere. We must give Trump a visual, loud and clear message now, that we will not allow him to turn this country into an authoritarian state. We must clearly articulate this threat: if we don’t have the guts even to use these words, “authoritarianism,” and call it out, then we stand no chance of defeating it.
Former Democrat senator Timothy Wirth and MSNBC founder Tom Rogers were absolutely correct in urging us all that “there needs to be an outpouring at all levels of society that this will not be tolerated. The president has to know there will be overwhelming resistance to any post-election chaos to undermine our constitutional order.”
There can be no by-standers. Each of us must be involved: unless we all are, we will not prevail in our quest to save democracy, our republic, our Constitution. I urge every reader to get every organization that you are affiliated with, to issue group statements, standing up to and calling out Trump’s clear, blatant authoritarian takeover.
Understanding and talking about this threat is not enough: each one of us is obliged to act. In light of the staggering events in Portland, we must all realize that America now is the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and we are all called to stand up in the spirit of John Lewis. Any embarrassment or fear at standing up to do the right thing is a negligible price to pay for something so infinitely precious — all of our safety, our lives, our dignity and our shared humanity.
Katherine Venice is the Republican candidate for the Ward 2 District Council seat.
Here is my conversation with Tim Snyder at @MidtownScholar , from six weeks or so ago, when the paperback of How Fascism Works was published. It is, I believe, sadly still relevant https://t.co/i5Vo4JuNDV
— Jason Stanley (@jasonintrator) July 14, 2020