The shadows of a continuing crisis
U.S Rep. Liz Cheney in 2019, flanked by then-Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon. (Here, Cheney was visiting a coal mine, though not the one in which she is the canary.)

The shadows of a continuing crisis

We are not immune from autocrats and dictatorship, and we are not protected by our Constitution if it no long holds meaning for those in power

SAXTONS RIVER — It will come as no surprise that Liz Cheney is not on my short list of politicians I admire or wish to see in Congress. But she has done the right thing in calling out the “big lie” and promising to do all she can to keep Donald Trump away from the White House, literally or in terms of his influence over a terribly broken party.

She is a canary in the coal mine. Would that others had the courage to follow suit.

Most sentient beings on the planet breathed a huge sigh of relief last November when Joe Biden won the presidential election. We were even happier when he and his administration immediately began acting robustly on myriad issues.

First came the well-chosen appointments and the flurry of executive orders reversing Trump's perversities. Then came the big bills aimed at health care, infrastructure, economic recovery, climate change, income inequality, child care, and more.

All of which made Republicans in Congress and their QAnon conspiracists cringe and jump into action.

* * *

A majority of states took immediate steps to bring back Jim Crow with hideous voting rights restrictions. Protesters began to be arrested. Gun violence and hate crimes grew by startling percentages while white supremacist cops kept killing Black people.

Arizona decided to hold yet another recount of the election results there, barring journalists from the hanger where counters tried mightily to spot bamboo in the ballots (proof that the party has gone crazy).

Republicans in Congress began their urgent campaign, articulated by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, to stop any legislation proposed by the White House or by Democrats in Congress.

Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, Josh Hawley, and other deranged lawmakers went on various rants grounded in lies and nonsense. Sen. Rand Paul accosted public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of funding dangerous research in China (more proof of crazy). Vaccine conspiracists and anti-masking activists got really crazy.

All of this occurred post–Jan. 6, when the unimaginable happened and an insurrection at the Capitol that day sent the United States a clear message: This country is not out of danger.

* * *

The fact is, the real and growing possibility of living through the destruction of U.S. democracy is not going away, it is growing.

Donald Trump is now viewed as the head of the Republican party as he holds the feet of elected officials to the fire with his fierce, alarming grip on their futures.

A significant number of rank-and-file Republicans continue to embrace the lies, mantras, and inconceivable theories spewed out daily by Fox News.

Insurrectionists crawl out from under their rocks in droves.

The Supreme Court is now a quasi-political body with a 6–3 conservative majority.

All this is terrifying in its implications. Like many others now, I grow more and more anxious by the day - so much so that I actually inquired about getting a British passport, which my husband and children hold. I know that what happened in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Poland, and Hungary can happen here.

We are not immune from autocrats and dictatorship, and we are not protected by our Constitution if it no long holds meaning for those in power.

Our future is riding on the midterm elections next year and the 2024 presidential election.

* * *

If you think I am needlessly hyperventilating, consider this: In 1923, Hitler mounted a failed coup. When he failed, his effort was treated leniently. A decade later, he was Germany's dictator.

In 2021, Donald Trump inspired a failed coup. It, too, has been treated leniently by those who say we “need to move on.” Will he, or an alter ego of the same ilk appointed with his blessing, be our dictator in less than a decade?

In 2019, Ece Temelkuran, a noted Turkish journalist, wrote a book - How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship - in which she explains how Turkey's President ErdoÄŸan came to rule that country.

In the first chapter she writes, “Watching a disaster occur has a sedating effect; like millions of people around the country, I am numb.”

She goes on to draw comparisons between Turkey and what's happening in the U.S. and elsewhere that are chilling: “It doesn't matter if Trump or Erdogan is brought down tomorrow, or if [the U.K.'s] Nigel Farage had never become a leader of public opinion. The millions of people fired up by their message will still be there, and will be ready to act upon the orders of a similar figure.”

“These minions will find you, even in your own personal space, armed with their own set of values and ready to hunt down anyone who doesn't resemble themselves.”

Temelkuran points out that this is not something imposed top down or by the Kremlin. “It also arises from the grassroots,” she writes.

And she says wisely: “For though it appears in a different guise in every country, it is time to recognise that what is occurring affects us all.”

It is time, indeed, for the United States of America to realize what is occurring - and that it will affect us all.

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