Trump Is Preparing the Ground for a Totalitarian Dictatorship
Trump’s motives at this point are, for want of a better word, sinister. He appears to be using the playbook of Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orban, readying the ground for an election that will have two candidates but only one possible outcome. What we are seeing in Trump’s nightly lies and obfuscations and denunciations of Democrats and the media is the beginnings of a Trumpian totalitarianism.
He has seized control of the political debate using his nightly virus press conferences, which are more frequent and last longer than his political rallies. He is gaining control over the media in his choices of whose questions he accepts, taking questions from friendly outlets and belittling outfits like NBC, CNN and PBS. (The New York Times and The Washington Post have stopped sending reporters to the briefings, covering them from outside the press room.) He has gone against rules agreed to by the White House Correspondents’ Association by allowing the alleged “reporter” from the OANN network to attend every briefing while representatives of other news organizations have to cycle in and out on a schedule set by rules according to social distancing needs.
Trump has put himself in the position of parceling out the key resources needed during the virus outbreak, and there is evidence he is rewarding Republican states with more essential supplies and shorting Democratic states. Like the cheap autocrat with a bad hairdo that he is, Trump demands subservience and praise from political leaders around the country in return for equitable treatment by the federal government.
But perhaps most remarkably, Trump is using the strictures necessary to control the virus as a form of participation in mass passivity. In her classic book, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt pointed to fear of terror as a tool used by totalitarian regimes to control populations.