“The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane.”

Marcus Aurelius

In 1935, during the depth of the Depression Sinclair Lewis published a novel in which the average American’s political ignorance and complacency resulted in a populist/autocrat winning the 1936 presidential election.

As in Europe, Fascism was on the rise in America where millions were seduced by conspiracy theories and assurances a national income not requiring work and curbing fundamental freedoms would result in a promised prosperity.  The book’s new Fascist president forcibly gained control of Congress and the Supreme Court and, with the aid of his personal paramilitary storm troopers, transformed the United States into a totalitarian state.

To those who glibly discounted such a scenario, “But, it can’t happen here,” Lewis’ book responded; “Oh yes, it can!”

Fast forward eighty-one years, America elects an amoral populist who campaigned by appealing to irrational fears of economic catastrophes; immigrants, Democrats; encroaching socialism; LGBTQ acceptance; reproductive rights; our country becoming less white, less Christian and more ethnically, racially and religiously diverse; and promises of returning the country to a post-WWII utopian greatness (which, in reality, never existed for many)

A master of the “big lie”, whether about his personal life, the threat COVID posed or his 2020 election loss, Trump cultivated a personality cult whose followers were hostile to democracy and liberalism and ranged from those who saw him as the “second coming” to an array of paramilitary groups, 21st century reincarnations of the German Sturmabteilung (SA) and Italian BlackShirts.

His willingness to ignore the Constitution throughout his presidency was never more evidenced than his orchestrated effort to remain in office after losing what has been credibly described as “The most secure election in American history.”  An American Nero, Trump watched as a mob stormed the Capital on January 6th 2021, after which he told the insurrectionists, “We love you”, and later stated, if elected in 2024, he would pardon those convicted for their participation in the insurrection. 

More frightening, he’d likely surround himself with the likes of Steve Banon and Michael Flynn, dangerous surrogates for Goebbels and Himmler, for whom Constitutions are an impediment.

His chief Republican rival, Florida Governor DeSantis’ record is punctuated by censorship, intolerance and vindictiveness, targeting reading materials, lifestyles, individuals and companies whose beliefs and/or actions run counter to or take issue with his autocratic tendencies, Christian Nationalist ideology or virulent anti-Woke philosophy. 

Under the guise of encouraging parental involvement in their children’s education, he incited state legislators, local school boards and even irate and often unhinged parents to restrict what can and cannot be taught.  Among their favorite targets are so-called critical race theory (even though not taught in K-12 schools), sex education, LGBTQ recognition, the history of slavery, the Holocaust, evolution and vaccine efficacy. 

Whereas the majority of the Weimar Republic’s population, simply looking for quick and easy solutions to their personal problems and fears, mistakenly refused to believe Hitler would govern as ruthlessly as his writings and speeches suggested … it would be a tragic mistake for Americans to ignore the autocratic words and actions made by presidential wannabees, particularly when they conflict with the rule of law, limits on governmental power or threaten individual liberties enshrined in the Constitution.