This article by Fintan O’Toole in The Irish Times is a few weeks old now, but I keep thinking about it.
Fascism doesn’t arise suddenly in an existing democracy. It is not easy to get people to give up their ideas of freedom and civility. You have to do trial runs that, if they are done well, serve two purposes. They get people used to something they may initially recoil from; and they allow you to refine and calibrate. This is what is happening now and we would be fools not to see it.
Mr. O’Toole lays out a simple and convincing argument outlining ideas that I have been mulling over in my head, but not writing much about, since Trump’s election on November 8, 2016. What has happened—at an accelerating pace, I think, since last year—is that the bounds of what is considered normal have been stretched so far into what was previously outrageous that I fear there is no going back. If Trump and the Republican Party are proving that the U.S. president is above the law, and that much of what governed the government was merely tradition, which is disposable for political expediency, then what, if anything, will constrain the power and the actions of future U.S. presidents?