John Colson: On the road to authoritarianism |

John Colson: On the road to authoritarianism

John Colson
Hit & Run

Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we are blessed with relatively competent, honest and in some cases progressive elected leaders, which is a pretty lucky thing.

Although I most often identify with the Democrats in the political arena, and currently am registered as a member of that party, I have been known to switch to other affiliations, even voting in a Republican primary one year because I was so distressed by the possible election of an absolute idiot (he won, by the way).

In general, however, I align myself with the goals of the Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that declares on its website home page: “We believe that working people should run both the economy and society democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few.”


In addition, the DSA openly acknowledges, “We are a political and activist organization, not a party,” which means you do not necessarily join the DSA, but you may support it and use its information-gathering, political activism and other resources to get involved in politics on your own.

At times, it seems we might just find ways to wrench control of our country and world from the selfish, the power-grabbing corporate elite and others who are determined to corrupt our national body politic in pursuit of their own greedy ends.

Nationally, though, this country is skating perilously close to authoritarianism and its more violent cousin, fascism, at the behest of those who want the U.S. to remain locked in the socially unhealthy, anti-democratic whirlwind inaccurately described as “populism” but really little more than strong-arm control of the economy, the politics and the social framework that is the United States of America.

Our notionally elected “leader,” President Donald J. Trump, is a prime architect of this overarching trend toward authoritarian control by the monied elite. He makes this more clear every day.

For example, he consistently works to undermine our democratic norms. All one needs to do is read the headlines any given week to see it.

Why else would he, along with a Republican Party that has lost all sense of decency and democratic propriety, be doing everything they can to block efforts to safeguard our national elections?

How else could Trump have openly and brazenly called for continued interference in our electoral process by operatives from other countries?

How else could U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Republican-controlled upper branch of Congress, cynically block any consideration of legislation aimed at boosting the security of the 2020 election, as he did last week?

McConnell, acting as Trump’s partisan hatchet man in the Senate, dismissed proposed election-security legislation as a “Democratic politician protection act.” He and Trump choose to ignore the fact that our national intelligence agencies have almost universally condemned Russia for meddling in the 2016 election on Trump’s behalf.

The legislation, aimed at electoral ethics as well as election security, was passed by the House of Representatives but now is doomed to never even be discussed in the Senate. Among other provisions, it would require campaigns to report to the FBI any contacts by operatives from other nations; would tighten loopholes in campaign finance laws to bring greater transparency to the process; require that states (which essentially run the election machinery) employ paper ballots to prevent tampering with electronic voting systems; tap independent commissions to redraw electoral maps and end gerrymandering for political advantage; and close “foreign money loopholes” in election financing.

Trump, McConnell and the Republican Party don’t really want any such security. They want elections to be controlled by Republican party hacks and open to tampering by hostile foreign governments such as Vladimir Putin’s Russia, because they know it somehow helped push Trump into the White House despite having lost the popular election by some three million votes.

And they obviously think that such tampering in future elections will benefit their political fortunes at the expense of open political debate.

We can see what this kind of corrupt politicking has done for other countries.

In China, President Xi Jinping has stifled dissent and declared himself president for life, a move that Trump at one point openly admired as something he might want to do, too. Right now, democratically minded protesters are in the streets of Hong Kong every day to prevent passage of laws that could open up the former British colony to the targeting of political dissidents and others not to the liking of the repressive regime in Beijing.

In Russia, Putin has been openly dismissive of U.S. attempts to learn about Russian interference in our election, and Trump has taken Putin’s side in the debate on numerous occasions. And just in case you’ve forgotten, Putin sent soldiers to invade the Ukraine, a former puppet state in the old USSR that has bucked Putin’s dictatorial regime on occasion, and annexed much of the eastern parts of that country with basically no objection from Trump.

In the Middle East, Africa, South America and other places, dictators have waged war on their own people in order to hang onto power and thwart budding democratic movements.

In Thailand, Turkey, the Philippines, dictators have grabbed power and solidified their rule by force and violence, and the list goes on.

Oh, but nothing like those egregious, undemocratic outcomes can happen here, right?


We have twice seen elections decided by undemocratic means — in 2000, when a compliant U.S. Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush, and in 2016, when Trump (helped by his buddy, Putin) captured the White House despite not winning the election by the vote count.

Our president has ridiculed the rule of law, and has labeled our free press as “the enemy of the people” in his effort to cripple free speech and get rid of pesky journalists who report things he would rather not see reported.

He has sent our military to our southern border after manufacturing a “crisis” that he may well have created as a political distraction to keep us from examining his presidency too closely. Many, myself included, feel this is a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act forbidding the use of the military in domestic law enforcement.

Obviously, Trump cares nothing for laws that get in his way, considering himself above the laws of the land.

And there is little evidence that he would balk at using force to bring this country to heel beneath his own version of “A Brave New World,” a world in which democracy becomes a thing of the past.

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