The Des Moines Register
Opinion: What authoritarianism would look like in America
Jim Chrisinger January 9, 2022
Donald Trump and Republicans are shoving America toward authoritarianism. That’s why many of us are shouting about a threat to democracy.
Many Americans don’t fear a potential slide into authoritarianism because they have no basis for doing so. Our oceans and hegemony have coddled us; we take democracy for granted. But democracy and the rule of law are not the normal state of governments, certainly not historically.
Authoritarianism wouldn’t happen overnight, but authoritarian regimes have shown us a road map. Here’s a picture of what it would look like here.
If Trump and his enablers get their way, how you experience your life would depend on whether you identified — and were identified — as a Trump Republican.
Identified as a Trump Republican by your bumper sticker, you would be more likely to get a warning instead of speeding ticket. You would gain the inside track for government jobs, grants, and needed permits. Decisions about government benefits, like unemployment and disability, would be more likely to go your way. Your children would be more likely to win scholarships and admission to their chosen schools. You would get more favorable loan and mortgage treatment and better access to scarce goods, the best tickets.
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Regulations would be interpreted in your favor, or maybe just ignored. You could rely on the criminal justice and judicial systems to go easy on you, if not help you out.
If, instead, you were perceived as a Democrat, or just an insufficiently Trump Republican, you would experience the reverse of what’s above. Tax auditors would focus on you. You would be more likely to be hassled by police, even jailed if you were too troublesome. Nasty graffiti might appear on your business or home. You would be accused of being un-American, a traitor. You would learn to keep your head down and be careful about what you said to whom.
Science would be interpreted or even suppressed to suit Trump Republican needs. History would be whitewashed to celebrate the regime and its version of events. School curricula and texts would similarly conform.
LBGTQ folks would closet themselves again. Fewer women would lead in government, business, or society. People who want to marginalize and discriminate against people of color, non-Christians, and immigrants would find cover to do so. Abortion and birth control would be illegal. Public education would wither as religious schools claimed more and more public funding. Air and water quality would suffer. Climate change would go unaddressed. The military could be used to put down dissent.
Again, not all of this would happen instantly, and we can’t predict how far the Trump Republicans would go. But this is the path that they are on.
So if you are a Trump Republican, perhaps all this sounds great. Finally, justice for my many grievances. Maybe that’s the country in which you want to live.
I hope and pray that the great majority of Americans will reject it.
Jim Chrisinger is a retired public servant living in Ankeny. He worked for both Republican and Democratic officials at multiple levels of government.