Some years ago, my wife and I visited our daughter in Moscow, where she was studying the Russian language. The Soviet Union had recently been dismantled, and the people were being rapidly introduced to the corruption and gangsterism that would become standard operating procedure for their government and their economy. With their incomes slashed while the bullying few seized massive fortunes, women stood in long lines selling their most valued possessions just to get food to survive. The thugs ruled the streets, even taking over the Bolshoi Ballet ticket office. As the years have gone by, those thugs have succeeded in taking power as a matter of policy. Elections are fixed, the media are controlled by the state, people who oppose the dictatorship are imprisoned or assassinated, and the rich have become dizzyingly rich while the average working person struggles more and more with low wages and decreasing benefits such as health care and retirement benefits.
As Republicans take over Congress and the Trump crowd begins to reveal its direction and plans, we begin to get some sense of the atmosphere in which we are about to be living. The Republicans passed the first step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act, although absolutely nothing has been done to replace it. The president-elect has ignored and even denounced America’s intelligence community for giving the American people information that might damage him. His appointees have made it clear that they will dismantle the country’s efforts to save the environment, they will slash the workers’ rights to organize, they will cut funding to public schools, they will drastically cut supervision of financial industries, and they will, in general, pursue a government of, by and for the wealthy.
Then, yesterday, something happened that was strange and unexplained. C-Span, the channel that airs government hearings, was airing a discussion by a senator about current issues. When the senator began to speak about Russia’s attempts to affect our election process, C-span’s coverage was interrupted and replaced with, of all things, state-controlled RT Russian television. After some time, C-Span’s coverage was restored, and no explanation was given for this unthinkable switch.
Maybe it was an accident. Or, maybe someone was sending a message. A few things, however, are undeniably clear. First, truth has become disposable. The intelligence community made an airtight case that the Russians had acted to affect the election in favor of Trump, but it made no investigation or judgment about Russia’s success in promoting him. Trump first denounced and denied the intelligence community’s conclusions, and then, when his position was finally untenable, he mischaracterized its report, saying that it had found that there was absolutely no effect on the election.
Second, whatever may be the intentions of Trump and his gang, their main motivation has nothing to do with the good of the people. If they accomplish their proposals, health care will cost more and cover fewer, public education will see drastic monetary cuts, workers will see reductions in wages, benefits and safety, and banks and other financial institutions, including most of all Wall Street, will be given the kind of free rein they used to collapse the American economy in the ’90’s and again during the Bush administration.
All this might seem impossible in America. If it were even half accomplished, the American people would rise up and throw the rascals out. The public outrage would eliminate the possibility of Republican hegemony for decades. Trump would be a lame duck president before his second year was over.
Unless. The one thing that has prevented such skullduggery from succeeding in the United States has always been the very first right the founders placed in the Constitution — freedom of the press. It was the press that finally ended Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror. It was the press that finally revealed the truth that Nixon fought so hard to suppress. And it was the press that, despite vigorous attempts to suppress its work, revealed to the public that Russia had hacked and weaseled its way into the American election process.
It is that very freedom of the press against which Trump has announced open war. He has, everywhere he has gone, demonized the press as entirely dishonest, this while ignoring and denying blatant facts. He has refused the press access to him, and, when he finally does appear before them, he mocks and derides them, refusing to acknowledge undeniable facts and blathering on without a hint of substance. As inconceivable as it might have been a few months ago, it is now a distinct possibility that Trump could succeed in suppressing that one thing that stands between us and tyranny.
I have come to understand how 60 million people could vote for this man. They were sick of being ignored, and they were ignored. They are good people, and they are the very backbone of America. They work their butts off, and their tax dollars fuel this government. They want the benefits for which they work so hard and which they so richly deserve. If, however, those assuming power succeed in the policies they seem to be pursuing, it will be these good people who will suffer the most. If Trump and his gang succeed at suppressing the people’s right to know, and succeed also in stripping their supporters of their rights, there will be only one recourse — violent revolution. Until today, I would have said that violent revolution in the U.S. was impossible. But then, I would have also denied that a president would be a habitual liar.