What would be best sign of a true dictatorship in this country? Most people would probably say it would be the government’s power to kill you, or lock you away forever in prison, without ever needing clear evidence that you are guilty of any crime, and without ever allowing you a day in court.
It is a sign of the times we live in that this most outrageous assault on the Constitution and all American citizens by President Obama hardly merits comment by the Press, and is totally ignored by most Obama supporters. After all, what’s the problem with a few death squads directed from Washington, so long as they kill the right people?
And who are the right people? Terrorists, of course. Or those who aid and abet terrorists. And how do you define these terrorists? Well, if the government says they are terrorists, then that’s what they are.
So much for that issue, let’s move on to the next. Let’s reelect a president who has tenaciously and so far successfully fought to have this power of passing sentence and executing those he doesn’t like. No big deal, or at least not enough to reject voting for him if you live in a swing state. After all, doesn’t Romney’s support for drone killing and his lack of criticism of Obama’s Kill List indicate that he would support this policy when in office? And given that fact, wouldn’t Obama be an all-round better presidential choice than Romney?
This is the “lesser of two evils” theory, and it seems to work with progressive voters in particular. In truth, this same 4 year theory of change has been widely discussed and defended for the last 28 – count them -years. And now, we have arrived at the point when this “Lesser of Two Evils” has determined that the executive branch of our government has the right to murder whomever it pleases, with no legal restraints at all.
Now let’s consider, in the real world, how this delusional three-decade-old game of tactics currently being advocated by progressives such as Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky, etc, may play out in the future.
1)President Obama is reelected, with the begrudging “crucial” votes of “pragmatic” progressives in swing states, just as they have voted for similar candidates every four years since the Ronald Reagan changed the idea of what is politically acceptable in this country.
2)Sometime after Obama’s reelection, probably sooner than later, the world economy implodes. Keynesian strategies no longer work, as the US and other debt-ridden countries have no more money to spend their way out of such an implosion. The world conditions which offered the US this avenue after WWII, the only time our government had greater levels of per capita debt than now, no longer exist. Ever-rising government and private debt in the US of over $58 trillion, similar levels of debt for most other major industrial powers except China, a lack of viable new markets, rapidly shrinking world natural resources, a life-supporting ecosystem under assault from all directions including global climate change, all in the face of 78 million new people each year, makes a global economic collapse a certainty. The only question is when.
3)After a massive stock market plunge within the near future, which could be triggered by any number of different causes, a fast-growing portion of middle class Americans join the poor. Huge numbers become increasingly angry and desperate. Even now, before such a meltdown, 47 million Americans are on food stamps. The Obama administration, with Congressional support, becomes increasingly repressive in the face of ensuing protests and outright rebellion. The expansion of surveillance and tracking of all citizens continues its relentless expansion under the Hitlerian rubric of “Homeland Security.” US involvement in war overseas, supported by Obama and the Congress in a vain attempt to maintain a crumbling US empire based on military force, results in ever-greater foreign resistance from countries under attack by the US. At home, even without conscription, domestic resistance and anger over these priorities increases. (Relying on a professional military, rather than conscription, is yet another example of superior strategic thinking within far right circles.)
4)Desperate citizens, along with government provocateurs, increasingly lash out with firearms and violence. Peaceful resistance, as usual, is heavily infiltrated by government agents who advocate violence and internal dissension. Hate crimes and violence against Hispanic minorities, in particular, soars. The combination of this explosion of violence is then used as the justification by the corporate-owned media and antigun liberals/progressives in demanding stricter government regulations of firearms. Possibly, government assassins unconnected with Obama might help encourage this unified front by killing a few of the leftists they particularly dislike, while framing others for these murders. (Think the unsolved anthrax murders in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq.) Obama and his congressional supporters then move to disarm the American citizenry, and right wing Republicans, who for years have been quietly trying to figure out the sticky problem of how to accomplish this themselves, “reluctantly” follow Obama’s lead during a declared national emergency.
5)As a new 2016 election cycle approaches, the corporate media, which has succeeded in brainwashing so many Americans for so many years, easily channels this widespread public rage against Obama and the “liberal” Democrats. With no viable alternative appearing on their TV sets which makes sense to the majority of voters, the American public falls prey to the demagogy of a new hard right Republican Party. This party saturates the airwaves with pre election ads and in 2016, a truly far right wing Republican president is elected into office.
6)Now the chickens come home to roost, just as they did in Germany after the election of Hitler in 1933 during a deepening depression which began 3 yrs earlier with a global stock market crash. Any serious resistance to the government is labeled by a 2016 Republican administration as supporting terrorism. Alternative web sites and communications between activists are shut down by the government, leaving the corporate media in control of most of what is aired and published. Other forms of protests are met with heavy government repression.
What kind of repression would this be? In all likelihood, the kind of repression which President Obama put into place during his first term: the murder or indefinite detention of US citizens with no due process. Just as the Reagan White House, with support from powerful Democratic groups such as the AFL-CIO under Lane Kirkland was instrumental in ensuring the murder of tens of thousands of unarmed organizers, union members, civil rights leaders, peasants, teachers, students, priests, nuns, etc, in a countries like El Salvador and its Central American neighbors, the new Republican administration will do the same here at home. And just as in many of those cases from the 1980’s under Reagan, state murders in this country will be carried out not through tanks, artillery and jets, which could be broadcast on TV to the horror if its citizens, but through shadowy paramilitary death squads which the government organizes and supports while still maintaining “plausible deniability.” These death squads will be successful in terrorizing the American public into submission, however, only when the civilians they are targeting have first been disarmed. This operation could certainly be a two-stage process between a Democratic and Republican administration. For example, Obama might successfully succeed in enacting gun registration, while a following right wing Republican government could then coordinate a mass confiscation of civilian firearms, when its traditional alliance with a group like the NRA is no longer necessary.
Too far a stretch, even in Oct 2012, to imagine that such a dictatorship could happen here in 2016 after Obama’s second election sets the stage? Let’s consider just one well-known example: the case of Dinesh D’Souza. Many readers know him as the creator of the recent box office hit “documentary” entitled “2016: The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” D’Souza’s history also includes his position as a policy analyst in Reagan’s Cabinet, his affiliation with a number of well-known conservative organizations, and the author of numerous books, many of them on the New York Times best sellers list.
What kind of a role would someone like D’Souza happily play as an advisor under a future right-wing Republican dictatorship? Who would someone like him designate as enemies of our country who need to be murdered or incarcerated forever without trial or evidence, thanks to the tools which the Obama Administration gave him? Consider this passage from his book “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural left and its responsibility for 9/11” (pages 289-90.)
Unlike (Senator Joe) McCarthy…..I intend to name the enemies at home….I offer this roster of people and groups that deserve the label of domestic insurgents.” (These are):
The Congressional Left: Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Boxer, Russ Feingold, Hillary Clinton, Robert Byrd, Patty Murray, Barbara Mikulski, Nancy Pelosi, Charles Rangel, Carl Levin, Tom Lantos, Maxine Waters, Ed Markey, John Conyers, Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Barney Frank, Jim McDermott, and Jack Reed.
The Intellectual Left: Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Edward Said, Richard Rorty, Martha Nussbaum, Rashid Khalidi, Eric Hobsbawm, Cornel West, Sean Wilentz, Paul Starr, Robert Reich, Eric Foner, Lauence Tribe, Henry Louis Gates, Tony Judt, Thomas Frank, and Garry Wills
The Hollywood left” Martin Sheen , Barbra Streisand, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Harry Belafonte, Rob Reiner, Rosie O’Donnell, Oliver Stone, Danny Golver, Jane Fonda, Spike Lee, Alec Baldwin, Norman Lear, Cameron Diaz, Sharon Stone, Ed Asner and Janeane Garofalo
The Activist Left: Howard Dean, Michael Morre, George Soros, Cindy Sheehan, Ramsey Clark, Nicholas De Genova, Markos Moulitsas, Nan Aron, Ralph Neas, Paul Begala, Amy Goodman, Ward Churchill, Jim Wallis, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Gary Kamiya, and Arundhati Roy
The Foreign Policy Left: Chalmers Johnson, Robert Fisk, David Cole, Gore Vidal, Jonathan Schell, William Blum, James Carroll, Seymour Hersh, Jimmy Carter, Bob Herbert, George Galloway, Mark Danner, Robert Scheer, Juan Cole, Anthony Lewis, and Richard Falk
The Cultural Left: Frank Rich, Al Franken, Maureen Dowd, Salman Rushdie, Tony Kushner, Toni Morrison, Jane Smiley, Arianna Huffington, Eve Ensler, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Katha Pollitt, Eric Alterman, Karen Armstrong, Bill Moyers, Ellen Willis, Barbara Ehrenreich, Molly Ivins, Mari Matsuda, Thomas Frank, Joe Conason and Wendy Kaminer
Leftist Organizations: Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER,) United for Peace and Justice, Peaceful Tomorrow, Open Society Institute, National Lawyers Guild, Human Rights Watch, Center for Constitutional Rights, Amnesty International, Ford Foundation, Code Pink, Planned Parenthood, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Aortion Rights Action League (NARAL,) People for the American Way, and moveon.org”
Keep in mind that someone like D’Souza is hardly unique, and that his take on the “enemy at home” in 2007 will hardly become less extreme during a period of much greater domestic crisis. Certainly, our government will have no lack of human resources when in comes to enlisting people like Mr. D’Souza in dealing with “domestic insurgents.” I have included his entire list so that one can appreciate the breadth of the groups a tyrannical right wing government, using the tools given it by President Obama, might consider to be enemies of the state. Consider, also, that this particular list was compiled before the 2008 mortgage crisis, during a relatively stable economy, and that this list is one which the author had no compunction about sharing with anyone.
Now, consider what would be the alternative if Mitt Romney were to win, who also supports Obama’s claim that the government is entitled to murder or incarcerate American citizens without due process. Here, the probable short term results have been well-aired in pro-Obama circles. However, in some critical areas, such as the Supreme Court, it is really the Congress and Senate which matter more than the president. Either president would be offering nominees which they hope will uphold their concept of absolute tyranny, so the difference in this respect is minimal. Moreover, a Romney presidency also means that in one very important case concerning freedom in this country from government tyranny – his position of somewhat freeing public schools from centralized government control – the Republican platform is actually more progressive, in the sense of liberty, than that of the Democrats.
Romney’s authoritarian vision of this country in general, of course, clearly exceeds that of Obama’s, and certainly Romney would pursue a much stronger course of repression during his 2012 term than Obama would, very probably including gun control. However, the point is that Romney’s attempt to confront our current economic problems through tax cuts for the rich and large corporations will also fall victim to the same economic collapse which would happen under Obama’s watch. And if this doesn’t happen in his next four years (highly unlikely given his position on Iran alone,) then almost certainly it will happen during Romney’s second term. And as a new election cycle approaches, it will thus be the right wing Republican party which is identified as the target in the mind of average voters, despite all the twisted and desperate alternative theories put forth by the corporate media to convince them otherwise. Thus, a Romney presidency in 2012 will provide one more chance for real change in 2016, assuming that the progression of future events as outlined here is at least somewhat accurate, and assuming that Romney is unable to assume the role of dictator for life during his first 4 yrs.
Obama supporters, whether they are enthusiastic followers or just calculating strategists, can say whatever they like, but the truth is simple. For over a quarter of a century, it has been a fundamental lack of principles among most Democratic candidates, chosen by their party mainly because they were deemed “electable,” who share a major responsibility for where we are now. And now we have finally arrived at the bizarre date in US history when educated and sophisticated progressives – not even avowed Democratic party members – are advising voters in swing states to vote for a president who, for the first time in US history, has established a policy of government murder or lifetime incarceration of American citizens with no due process at all.
One can only say this to these reluctant Obama supporters: Unlike the innocent civilians in other countries whom this Administration is murdering, you will unfortunately be more deserving of your own fate when the time comes, even if you were holding your nose while encouraging others to reelect him.f
Amos Burritt is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin.