Democracy or autocracy. Freedom or oligarchy. Liberty or tyranny. Violence or the rule of law. (Photo: Chuck Burton / Associated Press)

If the GOP Gets Its Way, Today Could Be the Beginning of the End for US Democracy

The GOP wants to install their very own version of Putin, Duterte, or Orban in the White House in two years, regardless of what the majority of Americans want. VOTE!

There are only two ways that independent nations can be governed: by the people themselves through free and fair elections with maximum participation, or by an elite group that is only acting for its own benefit.

Trump and virtually the entire GOP have chosen autocracy, going all-in on voter intimidation, throwing people off voter rolls or preventing their votes from being counted, and trying to rig future elections.

Democracy or autocracy. Freedom or oligarchy. Liberty or tyranny. Violence or the rule of law.

Trump and virtually the entire GOP have chosen autocracy, going all-in on voter intimidation, throwing people off voter rolls or preventing their votes from being counted, and trying to rig future elections.

And they're getting a big assist from other countries that have already been taken over by autocrats like Trump aspires to become. Countries that are trying to take down democracies all over the world.

Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau held a press conference and announced yesterday that China is actively interfering with Canada's democracy.

A recent newspaper report disclosed that at least 11 candidates for federal office in Canada had been directly funded by the Chinese government, and there are concerns this is just the tip of the iceberg.

In a press conference Monday Trudeau said:

"We have taken significant measures to strengthen the integrity of our elections processes and our systems, and we'll continue to invest in the fight against election interference, against foreign interference of our democracy and institutions. Unfortunately, we're seeing countries, state actors from around the world, whether it's China or others, are continuing to play aggressive games with our institutions, with our democracies."

Dan Stanton, a former Canadian intelligence official, told the Canadian news site Global News:

"The sophistication of the threat: it is not the guy with the fedora and black coat, like the old days with the KGB. The whole point of influence networks is that anyone can be used by a foreign state as a co-optee, or agent, or source."

In Russia, Yevgeny Prigozhin--the founder of the Wagner Group, Russia's equivalent of Blackwater, and a close associate of Putin--bragged on social media that Russia had been and would continue to interfere in American elections.

"Gentlemen," he wrote, "we have interfered, are interfering and will interfere. Carefully, precisely, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do."

When I was a child in 1956, Soviet Premiere Khrushchev famously told a group of western nations visiting Moscow:

"Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you!"

His statement led representatives from 12 NATO nations and Israel to walk out of the meeting.

The subsequent Cold War that I lived through was explicitly a battle between democracy and autocracy, between the free nations of the west and the brutal fist of the Soviet Union that President Putin speaks of so nostalgically.

The democracies of the world banded together to both defend themselves against the "communist" autocracies; at the same time, the autocracies banded together to support and reinforce each other's power over their own people.

The Soviet Union is gone and China is now a major semi-capitalist power, but Russia and China are still autocracies. In this, they're joined by all of the Middle Eastern kingdoms and over a hundred autocratic governments on three continents.

And, tragically, that group of iron-fisted oligarchs have been embraced by Trump and are now a role model for today's Republican Party here in the US.

One of them, Viktor Orban--the autocrat who runs Hungary, has handed the media over to his oligarch buddies, completely packed the courts, and rigs every election--was invited to speak at CPAC and applauded by numerous elected Republicans. Tucker Carlson broadcast his show with Orban from Budapest.

Most Americans are unaware of how close we came to becoming an outright police state during the final year of the Trump presidency, a period the GOP is trying to revive if they can rig a Republican into the White House in 2024.

A report from the office of the Secretary of Homeland Security, recently declassified and shared by Senator Ron Wyden, lays out in stunning detail how Trump pulled together multiple federal police agencies and threw them at one American city in what appears to be an attempt to provide the rationale for a nationwide crackdown on Democratic and progressive activists.

I believe it was to be the initial serious test of a grand strategy that could be used, if this experiment turned out successfully, in much larger cities in the future. We are only beginning to learn the full depth of it.

Under the direction of Donald Trump's illegally acting secretary of homeland security, Chad Wolf, and his acting deputy, Ken Cuccinell (who held that position illegally, too), hundreds of federal officers were sent into Portland, Oregon to harass, assault, arrest, humiliate, photograph, fingerprint, and secretly compile derogatory information about Black Lives Matter protestors in that city.

In a whistleblower complaint by Brian Murphy, the former head of DHS' Intelligence Branch, The New York Times reported in July of last year that Murphy "said in the complaint that he was ordered this spring by Chad F. Wolf, the acting secretary of the department, to stop producing assessments on Russian interference..."

Instead, Trump's DHS sent over 700 federal officers--many without visible identification--into Portland as unrest in the city was dying down. Their apparent goal was to stir things back up, produce good footage for nightly rightwing media reports, practice illegal snatch-and-grab policing that Trump would OK after the coup, and compile secret police "intelligence" on Portland's protestors.

Senator Ron Wyden tweeted about the situation on July 16, 2020:

The domestic terror campaign, called Operation Diligent Valor, was launched by Trump's criminally-serving DHS heads and was authorized by a blatantly unconstitutional June 26, 2020 Executive Order 13933 that had a title including the phrase "Combatting Recent Criminal Violence."

Around 2 am on the night of July 15th, after that day's BLM protests had died down in Portland, Mark Pettibone and his friend Connor O'Shea were walking home. As Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) reported the next day:

"They had barely made it half a block when an unmarked minivan pulled up in front of them.

"'I see guys in camo,' O'Shea said. 'Four or five of them pop out, open the door and it was just like, "Oh shit. I don't know who you are or what you want with us."'"

The feds were driving around the city simply abducting--and shooting at-- people, refusing to identify themselves, dragging folks off for intimidation and interrogation.

Just like in Pinochet's Chile after the September 11, 1973 coup, only in Portland in 2020 they hadn't yet started seriously torturing and killing. This was, after all, an experiment.

Many of the people abducted weren't even in the vicinity of the contested Federal Building.

OPB reported:

"'I am basically tossed into the van,' Pettibone said. 'And I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn't see and they held my hands over my head.'

"Pettibone and O'Shea both said they couldn't think of anything they might have done to end up targeted by law enforcement. They attend protests regularly but they said they aren't 'instigators.' They don't spray paint buildings, shine laser pointers at officers or do anything else other than attend protests, which law enforcement have regularly deemed 'unlawful assemblies.'

"Blinded by his hat, in an unmarked minivan full of armed people dressed in camouflage and body armor who hadn't identified themselves, Pettibone said he was driven around downtown before being unloaded inside a building. He wouldn't learn until after his release that he had been inside the federal courthouse.

"'It was basically a process of facing many walls and corners as they patted me down and took my picture and rummaged through my belongings,' Pettibone said. ...

"Pettibone said he was put into a cell. Soon after, two officers came in to read him his Miranda rights. They didn't tell him why he was being arrested. He said they asked him if he wanted to waive his rights and answer some questions, but Pettibone declined and said he wanted a lawyer. The interview was terminated, and about 90 minutes later he was released. He said he did not receive any paperwork, citation or record of his arrest."

This is not how nations that respect the rule of law operate, which is why Senator Wyden released the report. But it is perfectly normal in Hungary, Russia, Belarus, Turkey, China, Saudi Arabia, and dozens of other autocratic nations.

We read novels by Franz Kafka in high school and assume, "Well, of course, that could never happen here."

But it did. And he'll do it again if he becomes president again. In a heartbeat. He's already talking, at his rallies, about the various people he wants to see imprisoned. His list is now much longer than only Hillary.

In just the past week, he's added Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and a reporter for the Reuters news agency.

Yesterday, at a rally in Ohio, Trump told the crowd--to raucous cheers--that if he becomes president again he'll have drug dealers shot "within two hours" of being arrested and the bullet used to kill them sent to their families. No booking, no due process, no court or judge or jury: just an execution. And the people attending his rally loved it.

OPB quoted attorney Juan Chavez, director of the civil rights project at the Oregon Justice Resource Center, as saying of Trump's 2020 attack on Portland, "It's like stop and frisk meets Guantanamo Bay."

I rarely speculate, but this seems fairly clear: like Watergate unraveled, we will probably soon learn that in 2020 Trump and his people were both testing strategy and looking for justification for a nationwide crackdown, using the rubric of "antifa-motivated terrorism." Wolf had come to Portland personally to supervise the abduction and kidnap operation.

That now-declassified DHS report on the events during Trump's presidency tells how the invading federal officers "directed reports regarding Portland to use 'Violent Antifa Anarchists Inspired' (VAAI) as a term of reference."

If they could find even the faintest shred of association between the various people they had abducted, vandalism at the federal building, and some sort of conspiracy called "Antifa" then they would have their excuse to go national.

At the same time Trump was attacking Portland, openly denigrating the European Union, trying to gut NATO, and withholding military aid from Ukraine, he was also sucking up to anti-democratic dictators around the world.

His embrace of the dictator of Saudi Arabia earned his family at least $2 billion; his support of China's President Xi (his belligerent rhetoric notwithstanding) got his daughter valuable patents; and his longstanding relationship with Putin set up today's genocide in Ukraine. He even sent "love letters" to North Korea's murderous tyrant Kim Jong-un.

Then he attacked America on January 6th, injuring over 140 capitol police and killing one officer, Brian Sicknick, in an attempt to end the counting of electoral votes and impose a state of martial law. Apparently some in on the plot believed this would best be accomplished using the murder of Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi as an excuse.

A series of lucky coincidences and brave actions by the Capitol Police and Pence himself prevented those killings, the gallows Trump's people had erected notwithstanding, and thus prevented him from imposing the state of emergency and martial law, suspending democracy, that Michael Flynn was begging him to initiate.

So probably this week we find out where we go from here.

From the Democrats' point of view today's election will determine:

If America can continue to get to the bottom of Trump's conspiracy to overturn our form of government.

If America can truly serve the majority of its own people rather than a tiny slice of the morbidly rich.

If Social Security, Medicare, the minimum wage, the right to unionize, Obamacare, and regulatory agencies like the EPA cannot just survive the GOP onslaught but do even better by America and her citizens.

For Republicans it's an opportunity to test how far they can push grotesque and even untrue slasher campaigns against both Democrats and democracy before the backlash outweighs the benefits.

To learn if the Party's funding billionaires can continue to pour hundreds of millions of dollars a day into television advertising nationwide and the national media will continue to avoid mentioning its impact on "tightening the polls."

To see if requiring mail-in voters to include a photocopy of their drivers' license, as Georgia's new voter suppression law demands, will crush the Democratic mail-in vote in that state so the scheme can be tried in other states (it appears to be working: Greg Palast reports mail-in votes have dropped by over a million in that state).

And, of course, republicans see today's election as their opportunity to set up the end of democracy in 2024 and install their very own version of Putin, Duterte, or Orban in the White House in two years, regardless of what the majority of American voters want.


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