If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water, he will immediately jump out, but not if the water is tepid. And If you turn on the heat and increase the temperature incrementally, the frog will remain unconcerned until it is too late, and then he croaks.
Today, American democracy is that frog.
Almost every day, another fragment of democracy is stolen from us. While the media report it, there seems no concern in Congress. And a significant portion of citizens not only don’t care, but, astonishingly, cheer on the heist. How is this possible?
History tells us that tyrants are often legally elected, but soon afterward try to assume imperial control. First is domination of the media to dumb down the public with propaganda that is exclusively positive to the despot.
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Second, they proclaim any news that is not favorable as fake news. Then, they find a popular news outlet that they can compromise either through flattery or by intimidation. And that news source blasts out half-truths, exaggerations and lies about the tyrant’s successes and condemns his enemies, protecting him with a caustic persistence.
Then comes the Big Lie that was perfected by the master spin doctor Joseph Goebbels in Nazi Germany. Tell a lie over and over until a significant portion of the public believes it. These techniques may seem familiar.
It started before Donald Trump became president, when he conjured up the notion that Barack Obama was not a U.S. citizen. He kept up his campaign even after Obama’s long-form birth certificate was made available. A recent Economist/YouGov poll showed that 42 percent of self-identified Republicans still believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. The Big Lie worked.
According to The Washington Post, Trump has, on average, said 6.5 things that are not true each day since he became President. In spite of the indictment of 12 Russians, Trump continues to call the investigation as to whether there was Russian meddling in our election a witch hunt.
Incredibly, a significant portion of voters believe him because he has denied it over and over, so many times that, again, the Big Lie has worked.
While the news media represent a most important protection of our civil rights, Trump has convinced millions of Americans that newspapers and TV stations that criticize him are the enemy of the people and that Fox News, which strenuously defends his lies and misstatements, is to be believed. In another attempt to deny the public the truth, Trump has begun to ban reporters who ask tough or embarrassing questions from news conferences.
Trump has announced that he will no longer reveal the contents of discussions with foreign leaders. The clamping down on information that the public has the right to know has extended to even disallowing U.S. senators from entrance to immigrant internment camps to see conditions under which these children are being held.
It is predictable that Trump has voiced sentiment straight out of George Orwell’s 1984: “What you see and what you have been reading is not what is happening.”
In other words, who do you believe — your lying eyes or me? As David Leonhardt of the New York Times put it, Trump is out to monopolize the news.
Finally, Trump stands by, watching Russian hackers attempt to break into our voting machines without the slightest concern. His Republican co-conspirators have even prevented Congress from helping shore up state voting security, because Trump and the Republicans know that if Russians can manipulate our elections, it will only help them.
Where in the world has patriotism gone? Are there any Republicans running for re-election who care more about our country than being re-elected? Where is our country headed?
We must somehow get our democracy out of the kitchen before it is boiled away. We can’t allow our democracy to croak. And we can’t allow a power-hungry, narcissistic megalomaniac to kill it.
Marty Solomon is a retired University of Kentucky professor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org