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Slouching Toward Autocracy 

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by Roar Bjonnes 

As many as 70 countries are due to go to elections in 2024. In many of these countries, the choice is simple and twofold — voting for more of the same or a right-wing autocrat who denigrates “the others” and promises better wages and a newly revamped, often religious, nationalism. Just think India, Hungary, Russia, Argentina, and soon the USA.

Yes, here in the US, where I live, it looks ominous. The question is now fundamental – will the US survive as a democracy? It has long been hoped that Americans would wake up and realize what is really going on. But over the past eight years, the political outlook has only grown more and more hazy.

Many believed the Republicans would finally come to their senses and firmly reject Trump and his disruptive and conspiratorial MAGA movement, but again and again, they have done the exact opposite. They scream even more supportively now every time he calls Mexican immigrants thieves and rapists. Trump has even started using Nazi slurs, accusing immigrants of spreading “poisonous blood.”

At this point, only political idiots believe that most of Trump’s supporters will realize the truth about their leader. All signs point in the opposite direction: that this nightmarish madness will only increase in intensity.

How did the German Nazis come to power and pass so many disastrous laws and plans?

How did the Rwandans end up in their raging, genocidal chaos?

How did the Israelis come to believe that bombing Gaza back to the Stone Age will pulverize the Palestinian uprising?

How do Putin and Modi manage to both retain their popularity and crush press freedom?

Many of us here in the US have begun to glimpse some of the answers to these important questions. But not enough. Because we now see the same nightmarish tendencies and a corresponding fanaticism here. Trump’s anti-rational ideology has spread like, yes, snake venom into the body politic. As in today’s India, “the world’s largest democracy”, the blame is placed on the “extremists” on the left and on Muslims, while the country embraces Hindu nationalism and political propaganda.

Vladimir Sorokin, the Russian novelist living in exile in Germany, said recently to the Financial Times: “Clever people have had 20 years to figure out who Putin is.” During those years, oil and gas prices rose, living standards improved, and people ignored the growing repression. “They wallowed in luxury,” Sorokin said. “They traded their conscience for material wellbeing. And now they’re reaping the reward.” 

What will it take for the majority to realize that something similar could happen here in the United States in a few years’ time? The Democrats are unfortunately hopelessly naive and mostly discuss whether Joe Biden is too old to run for president or not. What will it take to overcome all this ignorance and denial? Dozens of people shot in hundreds of counter-demonstrations, or for the democratic and state systems to wither away in broad daylight? 

Before mature dictatorships rape and imprison people they don’t like, they sneak up on us almost imperceptibly. If Trump wins this time, Americans can look forward to a confusing life under the thumb of an egotistical narcissistic autocrat and his jubilant followers. What will it take for us “enlightened people” to stop the stealthy movements of these rulers, moguls, and political overlords? 

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