Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies regime change in authoritarian societies, warns that the American people now have “about a year” to defend democracy in the United States from the threat posed by the Trump administration.
“If you want to preserve – I’m very serious now – if you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press. And without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators get started,” he said in a recent interview on NBC.
Timothy Snyder, a Yale scholar and an authority on European political history, has spent decades studying the rise of fascist movements. With the ascension of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Snyder sees echoes from history, and warns that the time to save America from autocracy is in short supply.
When Trump commingles racist nationalism with what sounds like socialism by promising a wall to keep out Mexican rapists, a cornucopia of jobs, and full healthcare for Americans, we might recall that “Nazi” was an acronym for National Socialism.
The far left has become politically inert, preferring fiery speeches over voting for less-than-perfect Democrats. The far right is bonkers. A centrist coalition is the greatest hope for saving the country from Trump. And to maintain it, the members must keep their politics neat and tidy.
Shock upon shock, insult upon insult, falsehood upon falsehood, Trump has been a daily deluge of the unbelievable and the unthinkable until you don’t even know what to respond to first. The danger is that it comes to seem normal, that you stop seeing how truly bizarre it is.
Donald Trump is fulfilling the role of an authoritarian demagogue so thoroughly that if this whole disaster were a movie, it would be criticized for being formulaic and cliched. His frequently expressed hostility toward the media comes right out of a well-worn copy of the Dictator’s Playbook, and he has repeatedly revealed himself to be an enemy of a free press.
In his most pointed public comments about Trump since the Nov. 8 presidential election, Kerry also suggested that the president-elect’s Cabinet nominees were getting a free pass from Congress for failing to submit tax returns and other documentation before their Senate confirmation hearings.
Yes, news media must strive to be fair, to hold all sides to rigorous account, to offer a balanced view. But occasionally, there comes a point when pretending to moral equivalence between those sides is a lie, an act of journalistic malpractice. No one ever had to remind Cronkite or Murrow of the need to speak the truth when the truth was plain and the moral imperative clear. No one should have to remind this generation of journalists either.