By: Ian Bassin
“Do not be taken in by small signs of normality,” warns Russian refugee and writer Masha Gessen in her Rules for Surviving Autocracy.
100 days into the Trump presidency, it’s a critical reminder.
We all joined this fight to protect American democracy because a leader who seemed to admire authoritarian regimes and disdain the rule of law posed a unique threat. But as time passes, one of the greatest risks is that people grow complacent; that they begin to accept a “new normal.”
We can’t let that happen.
As a reminder of just how far from normal these first 100 days have been, we’ve already seen the President, his staff, and associates:
- Attack the Judiciary and question its legitimacy
- Suggest the President might ignore a court order
- Hire foreign agents as National Security Advisor and campaign manager
- Baselessly accuse a former President of spying on a campaign and a former National Security Advisor of crimes
- Lie to Congress about contacts with Russia
- Launch military strikes against a foreign country while refusing to tell Congress or the public what the legal basis was or what limits exist on this authority
- Hawk Trump family products, hotels, and private clubs that enrich the President, while he and his family continue to line their pockets with foreign government cash
- Meddle in federal law enforcement – including investigations into the President’s associates
- Routinely lie to the press and public – including from the White House podium and sometimes just for fun
- Bully civil servants and crack down on dissent
- Spread false rumors to sow doubt on the integrity of American elections
- Congratulate authoritarian power grabs overseas and praise brutal dictators from the Oval Office
In the 20th century, authoritarian regimes rolled through the streets in tanks, announcing their arrival. But in the 21st, would-be dictators and autocrats slowly pull at the threads and undermine the rule of law until the fabric of a once-strong democracy is irrevocably changed. We’ve seen it in Hungary and in Poland; in Egypt and in Turkey, where President Erdogan just completed a gradual fifteen-year process of replacing democracy with autocracy.
Thankfully, we’re nowhere near that yet. Our democracy – and the tools we have to defend it – remain strong. But keeping it that way requires our constant vigilance.
We can’t let our friends and neighbors get complacent. Share this post and ask them to join us in our effort.
As history has shown, a public standing united is the best way to protect democracy.
Ian Bassin is Executive Director of Protect Democracy and a former White House Counsel’s Office attorney