Yesterday Trump did his first dangerous thing as “President-Elect.”
Up until now he has just done stupid things like make threatening tweets to protesters and flag-burners (of which there are none to be seen). Or dishonest things, like go back on every promise he made during the campaign from the wall to deportations to Obamacare. If he tried that in an electronics store on Union Square he’d be prosecuted for bait-and-switch. Or abusive things like appointing millionaire Wall Streeters to important cabinet posts.
But the rally was different. It was his play for a cult of the personality which sets the stage for the banana-republic-ization of the United States. Before a cheering crowd in a county he had lost, he lied that he had won in a landslide. He lied that he had saved 1100 jobs at a Carrier plant in Indiana when he only bought the temporary retention of 800 jobs Carrier had not decided on moving anyway and paid for it with a bribe of about $7 million dollars in Indiana state tax money. (This is the OPM, “other people’s money” he bragged about using during the campaign.) He did not tell them about the 1300 jobs that were going south of the border as planned or that Carrier’s parent company United Technologies was currying the administration’s favor for later defense-related deals. Or that he did not do any of this himself; it was Mike Pence using his power as governor of Indiana to force the deal through without debate or approval of a single Hoosier. Trump did not mention whether he owned United Technologies stock.
He slammed the media for being dishonest, although all they did was point cameras at him and put him on the air as if he were making news, not a political speech.
Then he broke the law by appointing a too-recently retired general as Secretary of Defense, intruding on the civilian control of the military that is the difference between us and Cuba.
The fans ate it up. They chanted “Lock her up” even though there isn’t a “her” anymore. The media covered it. The truth died quietly among the empty cups and used napkins under the stands.
Trump doesn’t plan to be dictator. He doesn’t plan what he’s having for dinner. But he’s laying the groundwork for dictatorship. The cult of the personality. The abuse of the truth. The distrust of the media. Us against them. And a cabinet of bankers and generals to make the switch from rule of law to state of emergency seamless. And what is a dictator but someone who craves the roar of the crowd and will say anything that will make it roar? He doesn’t need plans or policies. He’s got people for that.