The first presidential election I fully participated in was in 1980. I spent a fair bit of time watching the evening news, and learning from them that Ronald Reagan was willing, nay eager, to start a nuclear war. Furthermore, he had authoritarian tendencies comparable to those of Adolf Hitler. And yet, he was also incredibly stupid — SO stupid that he was literally unable to read anything above third-grade level.

And then I saw him debate Jimmy Carter, and poof! my media-informed fantasies about who Reagan was vanished as quickly and completely as a snowflake in the summer sun.

I figured that, once the election was over, the news media that hated Reagan would back off and start portraying him more realistically, and drop the caricatures. In fact, it took about two years, which included a presidential assassination attempt (when a suite-mate of mine yelled “Good! I hope he dies!”) before the outrage subsided and the national narrative began to more accurately portray the man who was President of the United States, the man who arguably ended the Cold War.

In subsequent election cycles, it never ceased to amaze me how reliably the Democrats could be predicted to portray the Republican nominee as a war-mongering authoritarian. This had the effect of generating a healthy skepticism in my mind as to their motives. Could it be that this hard-wired belief that most Republicans were authoritarians was in fact a cynical manipulation of the body politic? Could trotting out the Hitler comparison every few years really be just serving to get out certain segments of the Democratic coalition? That seemed plausible enough, so I shrugged and assumed that was just how business as usual worked.

The election of George W. Bush pretty much followed the script to a T. Bush did involve the United States in two foreign wars, but the country had, after all, been attacked. As time went on, though, the portrayal of Bush being an authoritarian Nazi began to gain currency — not because of anything that Bush did that encouraged such a narrative, but because the Democrats sensed blood in the water, and so they brought out the standard Democratic playbook.

Meanwhile, other societal events were beginning to worry me. What used to be called “political correctness,” which had appeared back in the 1990’s but had been fought to a draw, had a resurgence. Issues long ago settled suddenly were not settled anymore. With the election of Barack Obama, which marked the upsurge in these events, we first heard the phrase “white privilege.” Classical liberal ideas like a colorblind society of the kind envisioned by Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy, were now deemed hopelessly racist, and support of this was in many cases enough to get one ostracized from society, or for public personae, picketed and threatened. Occupy Wall Street came out of nowhere to push a socialist/marxist agenda, encouraged by the White House. Black Lives Matter also came out of nowhere, seizing the opportunity of Ferguson, Missouri to claim that law enforcement and the courts were hopelessly unfair, and those that disagreed were called bigots or worse. Reagan was exhumed and declared not only stupid but maleficent, because he believed that a rising tide lifted all boats, and the act of thinking that was a good idea would get you kicked out of the Academy. Supporters of traditional marriage as an institution were attacked, publicly shamed, and fired from their jobs. In short, authoritarianism really has begun to descend on the United States — but from a very different quarter than where we’ve been repeatedly told it will certainly be coming from.

So it was with a great deal of skepticism that I viewed the Left’s portrayal of Donald Trump as an authoritarian in the 2016 election cycle. Not only was it standard Democratic playbook, but it was (at least initially) a transparently partisan caricature. But, as in the Reagan years, the outrage persisted long after the actual election, indeed threatening to break all records. Eighteen months post-election, a certain segment of the population is still convinced that Donald Trump is literally the second coming of Adolph Hitler, despite a year and a half’s worth of evidence to the contrary. Despite pronouncements that stuff that Trump said allow this fear to persist, I can find no evidence of Trump acting in an unconstitutional or authoritarian manner at all — and that’s a direct contrast to his predecessor, who famously used his executive authority to attempt to bypass Congressional approval for appointments (recess appointments), set up new branches of government (the IPAB), write treaties without Congressional approval (the Iran deal), change the legal system by executive fiat, most notably for college students (the famous “Dear Colleague” Title IX letter), and use the excuse of law enforcement priorities to formalize a whole class of immigrants without Congressional agreement (DACA).

The outrage and the disconnect with reality is getting old now. Book reviews, sporting events, conventions, iconic social events, and of course, the standard media, can still pretty much be relied upon to project the “Trump is literally Hitler” narrative. Meanwhile, left-wing authoritarianism continues unabated, and unacknowledged. Apparently, the election of 2016 never really ended.

Karl Wright

About Karl Wright

I am a long-time software engineer, with wide-ranging interests including music, the sciences, politics, economics, and medicine. I've been active for a decade in the open-source community and I work for a major mapping company.


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