In response to Donald Trump's overly-amplified declaration that "I alone can fix this," Bernie Sanders tweeted, "Is this guy running for president or dictator?"
The answer to Bernie's question is obviously "dictator." Definitely dictator.
For the past year, since Trump declared his candidacy, I've been hesitant to trample all over Godwin's Law by emphatically comparing Trump to a dictator, or even Hitler, but as I watched Trump screaming at the world in lieu of an actual acceptance speech, I couldn't help but to recall that, historically, this is how tyrants rise to power.
This is exactly how it happens: an eccentric loud-mouth with a knack for pandering to the whimsy of the people, ranting for what seems like hours and using an over-modulated tone about how he alone can implement law and order.
I hasten to qualify the following by noting that it's not meant as a compliment. Nevertheless, Trump's speech was a truly masterful convergence of populist outrage and tyrannical ranting unlike anything we've ever seen in a major party convention speech. That's because even despots like George W. Bush or Richard Nixon stopped short of tossing aside decorum and going full Third-World-Strongman as Trump did Thursday night in Cleveland.
Yes, of course Trump lied a lot, despite his early declaration that his speech wouldn't contain any lies -- "believe me!" The lies weren't the most horrifying aspects of the speech. Trump, with way too much ease, expertly dovetailed a laundry list of horror stories with lofty promises about how he plans to fix literally everything, and he did it all by shouting and gesticulating wildly as if he just stepped out of a How To Become A Dictator In Three Easy Moves seminar. It was a textbook performance that included loudness patented by Hitler, who used electronic amplification and feedback to stir his throngs of sycophants into googly-eyed, white-faced frenzies.
One of my conservative friends, Tom Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College, five-time Jeopardy! champion and proud Trump critic, tweeted perhaps the most salient reaction to Trump's address: "To use the precise political science terminology, that will go down as one of the most deeply fucked up speeches in US history."
Indeed. All things being equal, Trump's speech ought to have unified the world against the GOP nominee. Republicans, Democrats, Bernie-or-Busters, Libertarians and all points in between should be, today, standing in unison against this clown dictator based solely on the tone and content of that speech. Objectively speaking, it was inadvertent political satire. It was a cautionary tale about how a clown rises to become a dictator.
And it should've terrified everyone, Republican and Democrat alike. Everyone.
Mistakenly and foolishly, I expected the cable news people to describe it with at least a hint of alarm -- perhaps a tone of shocked trepidation. But the post-speech analysis on cable news treated the speech as if it was politics-as-usual. Again, this is how everything goes to hell: Third-world strongman delivers populist speech pledging law and order, and the complicit mass media fails to stand against what ought to be obvious -- even though said third-world strongman has already declared war on journalists from The Washington Post to Univision, and even abusing a former Breitbart reporter.
Astonishingly, MSNBC, the alleged liberal network, was the worst offender. Conservative radio talker and newly minted MS pundit, Hugh Hewitt, who somehow wormed his way into television, calmly graded the speech as an "A-minus or a B-plus." Chris Matthews ranked it as a "strong" speech. And even Michael Beschloss, a respected presidential historian, soft-pedaled his analysis with Brian Williams by predicting that the Friday morning headlines will be, "No pivot?" Yes, one of the most renown historians in existence today thought the papers would focus primarily on the fact that Trump failed to pivot to a more "presidential" tone -- again, as if it was just another political address.
I know I shouldn't have expected it, but if there was ever a time for the cable news talkers to ignore their marching orders for artificial "balance," last night was it. And they failed. Subsequently, there's a stronger likelihood that viewers will begin to rationalize Trump and his rise to power as being that of just another political leader. The consequences are more terrifying than Trump's speech by a factor of millions.