General Question

elbanditoroso's avatar

Is America now an authoritarian dictatorship?

Asked by elbanditoroso (30573points) April 14th, 2020

today’s news

Our President, on last night’s news conference, said he has “absolute powers”.

Is this the America we fought for?

How do the Trump apologists explain this away?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

32 Answers

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The ones here will just say you took it out of context.
Others will just deny it.

KNOWITALL's avatar

What’s surprising—and I should probably type this with my fingers crossed—is that so far, the COVID-19 crisis hasn’t yet led to massive new presidential power grabs. Trump’s performance has been appalling in myriad other ways—from his just‐​the‐​flu denialism of a month ago to the Chavezian, “Hello President!” tenor of his daily Coronavirus briefings. But in terms of exploiting the pandemic to radically expand executive power—again, so far—Trump has been a piker next to FDR, George W. Bush, or even Barack Obama.

Harvard Law’s Noah Feldman recently had a provocative piece in Bloomberg making that case: “Coronavirus Response Shows Trump Isn’t a Dictator.” Feldman, you may recall, was a key Democratic witness making the constitutional case for Trump’s impeachment: he’s emphatically not a fan of this president. Still, Feldman argues, during the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump has “pretty consistently done the opposite” of what the would‐​be autocrat’s playbook would call for in terms of amassing power.

Demosthenes's avatar

If it is, then life under a dictatorship is not nearly as oppressive as I imagined it. @KNOWITALL is right. If Trump were to suddenly display dictatorial behavior and make further authoritarian moves, now would be the time to do so and he doesn’t seem to be doing it. It doesn’t matter what he says. He says all kinds of ridiculous things. It’s the behavior that matters.

JLeslie's avatar

This whole thing is getting ridiculous. I have had my own worries about the government taking so much control, but for now I have set that aside in my mind, because we need the population to follow the guidelines, and some people in our society seem unable to be obedient to the requests without being ordered.

First the Democrats and media (like MSNBC) are complaining the president doesn’t put a stay at home order in for the entire country. They wanted him to be omnipresent over the nation. Now, that same group is complaining when Trump says he will put in an order for the whole country. Don’t you see the irony? How it will be seen as hypocrisy? That people only want him to use his power when they are getting what they want.

Mind you, I do see the difference. Putting in a stay at home is to protect people even if their governor and local officials have failed to do what is recommended and necessary. The president can’t order businesses to open, so it is a nothing threat anyway, EXCEPT, that if the president makes a statement saying the whole country should open up, some people and businesses will begin to defy their state orders that are stricter, even though technically the state will still have authority to impose stricter rules for public safety.

This entire time the local order if stricter than the state or federal government is the order the people in that municipality or county must follow. That will not change. Right now the federal government has not done a national stay at home, but my state has, and so I live under that. My state has not done a statewide curfew, but some counties have curfew, and those counties live under the curfew. This is how it is always done for disasters. When we have a hurricane, affected counties live under night time curfews, it is not statewide. This is no different.

I can only hope that if the president makes a statement to start opening things back up, that he will remind the citizenry that each state will still be in a different stage, and to follow the orders given to them at the local level. This will be consistent with what he has said many times, that some places have more cases than others. Of course, no matter what this will be inadequate, because so many Republican governors seem to be unable to interpret scientific data, and too many crush under the pressure of their constituents who listen to the babble that if some people die it is better than a whole nation going into a depression. Honestly, the way some of my Republican acquaintances state it is more offensive than how Trump does. Some Democratic governors were a little slow to act also, but it is several Republican governors who continue to defy all logic to me at this point.

In my opinion the media should inform the public of what it means (according to the law and the constitution) if the president recommends opening up some more businesses and not create more hysteria. We need to be CLEAR. It is their responsibility. I hope they can do it. If the president says ridiculous things like he has all the power to open up all the businesses, that just simply is not so. The reality is, the president was late in preparing the nation. He screwed up having enough test kits, screwed up in helping have enough masks, ventilators, etc, but once he went into mitigation mode he has gone along with distancing, businesses closing, and other measures, and instead of the media reinforcing that so maybe Republican idiot governors would get on board, It was all about the media only cherry picking where the president was being an asshole. I’m so tired of it. The media could have actually had more influence for the good if they had reinforced at least a little back three weeks ago that Trump said to close businesses. Maybe GA and MS would have put in a stay at home order back then.

Trump talks out of both sides of his mouth on a constant basis. It is a bit of brilliance. The crazy part of his base only hears the past they want to, and the “liberal” media hears what they want to. Confirmation bias.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

No, it’s not an authoritarian dictatorship. Trump saying he has absolute power doesn’t actually give him absolute power. That’s why there are so many articles and opinion pieces today explaining why he is wrong. Dictatorial power requires the acquiescence of the other branches of government (and the military).

@JLeslie It’s not ironic (or hypocritical) to say “we’d like you to issue a non-binding order for the whole country, but we don’t want you to assume dictatorial levels of power.”

Zaku's avatar

Unlike a dictatorship, the real power isn’t really in the figurehead. The corporatocracy and their pawns are just using Trump and their pocketed representatives throughout government and political party “leadership” to get what they want, and they have been ramping up those power grabs, e.g. suspending environmental regulations, dumping trillions from the government to corporations (and then removing oversight management from it…), illegalizing protests against the oil industry, trying to eradicate the USPS, delaying Supreme Court hearings on Trump’s taxes and finances while finding time to overturn Wisconsin’s plan to extend absentee voting by one week,

JLeslie's avatar

@JeSuisRickSpringfield You are talking technically. I am talking about how it can be seen by the average person. Plus, Trump so far has not dictated to the states, and suddenly he will start doing it? It’s possible, but so far it has not happened.

It is mostly my Republican friends who are pissed and fearful of the rules being imposed by their states and counties. They keep referring to it as marshal law. I guess they might see Trump making a move to usurp the state authority would be saving the country from marshal law? Also, kind of ironic.

Glambarber's avatar

I think so, yes.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Demosthenes Now it sounds like FDR was almost at that point so I’m not saying it’s completely out of the realm of possibility for Trump to do so. Just that I’m not seeing it yet. National emergencies are tricky.

During his March 1933 inauguration address, Roosevelt enjoyed immense crowd approval when he stated that he was considering seeking sweeping authority equal to what a president might be granted during an invasion:

… in the event that the Congress shall fail to take one of these two courses, and in the event that the national emergency is still critical, I shall not evade the clear course of duty that will then confront me. I shall ask the Congress for the one remaining instrument to meet the crisis—broad Executive power to wage a war against the emergency, as great as the power that would be given to me if we were in fact invaded by a foreign foe.[6]

ragingloli's avatar

Legal, shmegal. I mean, who is going to stop him, really.
As the impeachment trial, and trial is in quotes, demonstrated, republicans will go along with anything he does, so will Fat Slob Barr and his “justice” department, and the supreme court.
Needless to say, the military will “just follow orders”.

Zaku's avatar

@KNOWITALL FDR was intelligent, competent, and had the actual welfare of the people in mind.

LostInParadise's avatar

If Trump were as intelligent and capable as he keep telling us, then he would be very dangerous. Fortunately, that is not the case. He keeps changing positions, telling lies and taking credit for anything good that happens and refusing to acknowledge any mistakes. How can you take him seriously?

Darth_Algar's avatar

I think Trump wants to be an authoritarian dictator. Fortunately he’s too stupid to actually accomplish that.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Zaku That would be a fun Q actually.

FDR stacked the Supreme Court, used religion for his own purposes, and many other things that are eerily similar to Trump’s modus operandi. Such as using radio for his fireside chats and using tv (first President to do so.), Obama and Trump both use social media for politicizing, fundraising, etc…. Even the ‘we have nothing to fear’ quote was not his own, it was added by the speechwriter, reminiscent of Trump using Reagan’s ‘make America great again’ slogan. In fact, during the Great Depression is when FDR said he may exercise his executive powers because to him it was a ‘war’. He is the one who actually signed ‘war powers’ into law in 1941 after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Here’s another fun article if you have time:

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@JLeslie I think the average person can tell the difference between enacting a policy and staging a coup. Unless you’re talking about people who are so deeply and willfully ensconced in narrow media bubbles that they think we’ve always been at war with Eastasia.

jca2's avatar

A friend of mine said she was watching Fox News today and they said Trump is wrong about having absolute power. They said he’s not a king (which is what Cuomo said, too). I told her wow, when Fox News says Trump is wrong, he really looks like an idiot.

JLeslie's avatar

@JeSuisRickSpringfield According to Meghan McCain the people who watch Fox News regularly watch an average of 8 hours a day. A lot of them are in bubbles.

I have no idea what Fox has been saying the last 24 hours. Do they think Trump has the power to force states to open their businesses? From what @jca2 wrote they do know better. That’s good. It doesn’t change a lot of Republicans think the mainstream media (that’s what they call it) made too much out of COVID19. They feel it’s unfounded hysteria. They are pissed they can’t go to a state park but can crowd into a supermarket. They don’t like what they perceive as unreasonable restrictions.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Trump is exactly as @Darth Algar put it, too inept to qualify as dictator. He is in fact a parody of a dictator analogous to the character in the Chaplin movie. He is a mockery of authoritarian ambition in his ridiculous imitation of a President, and exudes every trait necessary to demean the gravity and competence which comes with the job. He is as always the tasteless and venal national joke.

kritiper's avatar

Trump is delusional. He believes he is the king. Lucky for us, the other two branches of government will hold him at bay until he gets ousted.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@JLeslie But none of that has anything to do with what we are disagreeing about. First you said that the Democrats shouldn’t complain about Trump’s slow reaction and about his potential overreach because it would come across as hypocritical. Now you’re worried about people who are so stuck in a bubble that they’ll never actually know what the Democrats said. They’ll only know what some third party claims they said, in which case what was actually said is completely irrelevant to how they react (meaning it’s only reasonable to criticize the Democrats if what they said was actually hypocritical, which you agree it was not). We shouldn’t criticize people because someone else might lie about what they said. We should criticize the liars.

JLeslie's avatar

@JeSuisRickSpringfield I basically agree with everything you said, but what I find tiresome is the gotcha questions, and Trump is half the time right when he accuses reporters of that at the press conferences, although his reaction is undignified, his supporters do see that first hand, and the Republicans do see how the Democrats edit to take things out of context.

I’m sure there are lots of people sick of it, and many of them might be independents. Maybe this screw up Trump did with C19 will be enough that they will not vote for Trump at this point, I don’t know. Right now, it looks to me like they could blame China, CDC, WHO, and Fauci if they wanted too, and stick with Trump. I’m pissed at Fauci, Burx, and The Surgeon General myself, but that doesn’t change that I think Trump was incompetent also, and I can’t stand his dog whistles.

I could go on and on with inconsistencies and things that turn me off that the media does in their reporting. Like the whole wearing a mask thing. But most people don’t put two and two together so it doesn’t matter I guess.

You won’t see it like me, because you simply don’t. I see it in my own house with my husband the differences in how we react.

I see that Trump is a double talker, and will lie with no effort, but I see how the media manipulates their message too. Not on every little thing, big enough. There is a portion of the voters who do see it like me, and they might not be as liberal as me on social issues that I can’t vote for Republicans at this time in history.

We’ll see what happens. Most people believe Covid will push the independent voters finally over the edge and guarantee a win for Biden. I don’t know people who are undecided, I don’t know how those people are really thinking. Maybe the only voter the Democrats need to worry about are the Bernie people coming out to vote. A lot of them didn’t even come out for Bernie from what I understand. The young voters who seemed excited about him, but didn’t show up in numbers.

I do think the mail-in voting will help because people like me will make sure ballots get ordered for my in-laws, or I’ll do my best. My husband’s family hates Trump, but they don’t go to vote necessarily. I can’t mail their ballot for them, but I can help it along as much as possible.

stanleybmanly's avatar

But that isn’t a fair description of what the press is doing. It isn’t “got you” journalism. Contrary to @Demosthenes claim it matters a great deal what the dummy says in a crisis, and the press MUST hang on and blare every word of it. It is the duty of the press to notice when “the emperor has no clothes”. The demonstrable truth of this crisis is that in both rhetoric and deed, our President has not a clue about the function of our government or even a simple understanding of the division of those powers defining it. He doesn’t know where his authority begins or ends, the role of our governors, let alone the basic functions of his own office. That’s what the vocal fkups are about. He just doesn’t KNOW—yet chooses to run his mouth interminably. He is compelled by some need to drone endlessly on things he knows nothing about or clearly does not understand. It is the fact that the scope and breadth of these things is so staggering that keeps the press so busy. It is merely our good fortune that this trove of ignorance prevents any dictatorial ambitions from bearing tenable fruit, but the catastrophe of ineptitude is as damaging as any possible tyranny. And NO! The press is not allowed to back off on the assumption that “everybody knows that he says stupid shit. Let’s move past it”. Neither the press nor YOU must be permitted to simply “get used to it”

JLeslie's avatar

@stanleybmanly I’m not advocating for the press to not point out his lies and where he is incorrect about the constitution and his powers. The press is one of the most important things in our country of free speech and individual rights. I always say they are the 4the check on our government’s system of checks and balances.

My argument is they over the line, and then they set themselves up to be discredited. It’s not necessary or worth it, and I think it even is counterproductive at times.

You just won’t see it like I do. Trump does so much that needs to be called out, the manipulations that are done are unnecessary. I’m not saying they should necessarily praise him when he gets one thing right, although, some of that messaging could actually help Democrats, and the country, but their first reaction is to always hate everything Trump says. I understand why.

Meanwhile, are we living in a dictatorship? I’d say we are almost in a grey area right now because of COVID19. It’s a bizarre time. It’s not necessarily Trump’s dictatorship, it’s more like governments in general in the US small and large.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Objectively it might be said that Trump has “trained” the press to lie in wait for his fkups like you would reward a dog with treats. That is a sympathetic view and might even appear objective, but it ignores the sheer volume and breadth of the problem. That’s the thing that’s dangerous to me, the inclination in all of us to accept repetitive behavior regardless of how obtrusive as “normal”.

JLeslie's avatar

@stanleybmanly I agree with that. I actually think he is very purposeful and brilliant at the psychology of the whole thing. It’s a nightmare to deal with. He knows people only listen to the parts they want to hear.

jca2's avatar

On the news today, they are saying Trump says it’s going to be up to each state’s governor when and how each state will open things back up. I guess Trump got the memo that he’s not King Trump, he’s President Trump. If he continued with insisting he had the authority to rule each state, he’d look even stupider than he normally does, although I’m betting Trump’s supporters would still defend and justify it.

Pandora's avatar

I say we are a stone throw away from his dictatorship. The Senate and the Judicial Branch already bend to his will. If he should win a he got a Republican majority in the Legislative Branch then, we will become a dictatorship.
@jca2. Trump only took it back because he also said each Governor is responsible for deciding whether to make their citizens stay home or not. And for them to get their own medical stuff. He said it’s not his place to make a national recommendation for businesses to close or remain open. All these things were to be decided by the Governors of each state. Then he goes ahead and says he can mandate for everyone to go back to work. Which would mean that he is indeed responsible for what happens in every state because you either are responsible or not. And we all know he likes the ability to blame someone other than himself.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Pandora Trump finally realized he could be blamed for an increase in infection, and so willing passed it over to the governors.

Yellowdog's avatar

There are a lot of dictatorial governors of individual states who are running their constituents like a police state.

In Michigan, someone was not even permitted to go to an isolated cabin he owned to live by himself, and the governor has dichtated what you are allowed to buy in a grocery store. A family of three was arrested and finned for having a picnic in a park, even though they live together. Members of a church were fined 500 dollars each for meeting in their cars in a church parking lot.

Illustrations could be multiplied, but you get the point. All this amid greatly falling numbers of new cases.

Then there is the factor of what businesses are essential and which ones are not, even though great measures have been taken to stop the spread, and some of the busiest places such as Walmart, big box retailers, grocery stores and drug stores, are open—but small businesses with small clientele are shuttered.

No, the states do not have this authority—perhaps many of you should credit Trump for recognizing your rights, rather than dedicating a whole thread to calling this behavior dichtatorial.

JLeslie's avatar

@Yellowdog The governors and also the mayors and county officials are in a difficult spot. There are too many people doing unsafe behaviors, and so the government puts in stricter rules so there is less room for people to screw up. Some people seem to suck at just simply being prudent and caring about others and themselves.

Some of the rules might be overboard or seem illogical. Do I think a family should be able to go to a park or beach? Yes. But, the problem is the places became crowded, it wasn’t a random family here and there. My governor has closed the beaches, but you can go if you are exercising just like you can go walking on a sidewalk. That seems reasonable to me.

I think the Governor of Michigan was actually too slow to put in orders. Then she finally did and she has part of her state being quite disobedient. There are quite a bit of Michiganders who are libertarian minded, and whoever they listen to is making them afraid. I have friends there like this. They are usually fairly balanced when it comes to politics, but tend to lean more conservative, but when it comes to the government forcing or controlling people they start to freak out.

That is all separate from your point regarding small businesses not being able to be open while crowded supermarkets are open. What I say to that is the CDC was downright negligent! They should have had guidelines for supermarkets that were much much stricter, and there should have been more leadership from Trump or governors regulating supermarkets and shoppers.

I don’t know what is being considered nonessential stores in MI? It would seem better to strictly limit how many in a store at a time, use masks, etc. Some stores where I live don’t allow any customers inside. I feel like the owners are protecting their employees, I think that’s good. All orders are brought out curbside.

I have friends in TN who also are starting to get ansy about churches not being able to congregate and businesses being shut down. The truth is most houses of worship are closed because the clergy have closed the doors. My state did not issue an order, but most churches are still closed. Many little businesses would not be having much of any business right now.

JeSuisRickSpringfield's avatar

@JLeslie “You won’t see it like me, because you simply don’t.”

Actually, I do see a lot of those things. But again, they aren’t what we were talking about. You said it was ironic for the Democrats to say both that they wanted the president to issue a recommendation for the entire country and that they don’t want him to assume powers he doesn’t have. That is neither ironic nor hypocritical, nor is it reasonable to fear people seeing it as ironic or hypocritical. That’s why you keep changing the subject to other complaints you have about the Democrats and the media and pretending that I’m just too stupid to understand you.

JLeslie's avatar

^^I don’t think you are stupid at all.

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