Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Some Americans Long For A Dictator

Trump continues to talk like a dictator. Jailing his opponent? Who does that? Tin pot dictators do. Putin does that and worse. Journalists and political opponents and garden variety critics in Russia are disappeared fairly routinely.

There are a lot of Americans who want a dictator and they seem to have the weird idea that this dictator would take dictation from them personally.

Maine's embarrassing bigoted governor said this week that America needs Trump to assert some "authoritarian power." Find the story here, via USAToday. Governor LePage longs for a bully boss, a mob-enforcer-in-chief, a dictator. The same people who shout the loudest about enforcing the Constitution shout even louder demanding we tear it up.

Americans are unfamiliar with what dictators do, because we’ve never had one here.

Actually, we have. I think the people (white, male, angry, Southern and rural predominantly) who long for a dictator may base their longing upon the experience of local dictatorships, local sheriffs for instance, who they’ve never felt the hard, sharp edge of, never suffered from, because they’re white and they’ve been chummy with these little rural dictators. These weren't the sweet, gentle Southern sheriffs played by Andy Griffith.

There may be some in urban areas who miss the old city bosses in once corrupt cities like KC and Chicago and points east. You can bet that Trump's supporters in those places are nostalgic for the days when their political boss meted out vengeance on the other party's followers when he won.

Trump's most rabid supporters don't mind the idea of dictatorship here because they were never the ones who suffered when it occurred. They were the ones favored by these corrupt bosses and tinpot sheriffs. They received the benefit of harm done and confiscations targeted at various minority groups.

If it sounds familiar in another way, this was the way Nazi Germany financed its economy during the thirties, by confiscating the property and businesses and land owned by the Jews. In the Jim Crow South sheriffs routinely swept up black laborers returning home from work, charged them with loitering, and sent them as unpaid laborers to the timber and mining operators; they also financed their county budgets out of the fees these industries paid them for the slave labor, and out of the fines the laborers were charged for "loitering." An excellent and disturbing film was recently made about this and broadcast on PBS.

This tin-pot caricature is a familiar one from movies and novels about the South and Jim Crow. African Americans remember its ugly side even if most Americans have never learned about this sorry legacy. Women suffered too. Abused women who tried to get justice over sexual assault know this good ol’ boy clubbishness and how it invalidated their full citizenship. The authorities dismissed any complaint a woman might make the same way Senator Jeff Sessions dismissed the outrage over Trump's sexual assault boasting.

The dictator figure has been very real and a problem in the parts of America where Trump’s fan base lives.

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