Saturday, July 18, 2020

Portland, OR incident defines Trump's meaning of law and order that should scare those believing in democracy

Blog column July 18, 2020
Per media reports July 17, Trump ordered federal agents to Portland, OR, battle gear bedecked like figures in computerized war games. They were  "reportedly pulling protestors into unmarked vehicles" and firing rubber bullets into crowds of protestors

If Trump is planning to hitch his campaign wagon to his law and order plank, claiming under Biden there will be more strife on the urban streets because of defunding police, he will have a major handicap: Not only do people know Biden for his track record of service over 40 years, he was the first to come out opposing defunding police when the phrase "defunding police" was uttered by some on the left. If anything, Biden has come under fire from the more radical elements of the Democratic Party for supporting some law and order legislation in the past.

 In fact, to make the point Trump's advertising tries to highlight, that there is anarchy in the urban streets, as he calls peaceful protesters exercising their first amendment rights, he has drawn on film footage that has taken place under his own administration. One ad even drew three-year-old footage of pro-democracy protesters in Ukraine.  His proposal to deal with demonstrating opposition is to flood streets with thousands of his secret police troops armed for battle in Afghanistan,  just as he did in Portland.  His proposal to snuff out peaceful demonstrations with Gestapo like action would end democracy as we know it. His love of the tactics of dictators should set up alarm bells. Among his bag of tricks are some actions he already supports,  including suppression of minority voting, using his power of licensing and intimidation to destroy freedom of the press. He would be .turning  us into an authoritarian dictatorship aping the fascists of yore and modern dictators like Putin and Erdogan. "The president is deploying the kind of performative authoritarianism that Vladimir Putin pioneered."


Once again, Trump defines his meaning of law and order by giving a visual example what we can expect if he gets a second term. It should scare the heck out of those who still believe in democracy.
July 22, 2020: Welcome to Germany early 1930's. The same tactic Hitler used to rise to power. Create and stage the street protests to scare the crap out of the less than sophisticated citizens as his campaign ads feature his federal agents confronting Portland peaceful demonstrators. .
However,, Ad Week reports that the picture used to illustrate the out of control Portland was 6 years old taken in Ukraine.

Democracy as I define it is a specific kind:  We have seen before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the dictatorships and totalitarian control by those from the extreme left, the Communists following at worst the Stalinist model.  They were likewise as damaging to humanity and human rights as were the fascists that rose in the 1930s and met their demise in World War II.  Fascism and Communist dictators are not the only alternatives to governance. , There is a form of democracy embraced by the founders of America and post World War II Europe that provides the third way of humane governance we have enjoyed until now.  Most attempts at our kind of democracy have met totalitarianism and dictatorships and the supporters of democracy failed to stop their takeover, by forms of totalitarianism and dictatorships, kings, and tyrants from early Greece and Rome to more modern eras. Our democracy is 250 years old, and only with the grace of those dedicated to democracy of both political parties stand in the way of its demise. Small d democracy calls for allegiance to the rule of law instead of the rule of a person, with the law formed by a freely elected representative government, protecting freedom of the press, the right to peacefully assemble to present grievances, and other  protections included  among  all those civil rights  addressed in the First Amendment

Additional comment: July 21, 2020: The first act I took after the election of Donald Trump was to become a monthly contributor to the ACLU. I feared what I saw of him during the campaign that he had no respect for freedom of the press or the right to peacefully assemble and protest. His intimidation of journalists who asked the hard questions and his use of his private army of paramilitary to dominate the streets and suppress peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square and Portland, his racism, and praise of armed militia and neo-Nazis, have more than justified my action. His action and words in these three and a half years have validated my fears that civil liberties would be his prime target to get around, ignore, and damage, the most endangered species in .our democracy.

Continuation of the July 18 blog column:
 In Portland Trump duplicated the same kinds of forces and techniques that he used to clear Lafayette Square in Washington, DC, of peaceful demonstrators. In face of generals refusing to allow the active military to clear the streets in the George Floyd demonstrations,  he tried another end-run around them using unbadged military types trained and pulled from various federal agencies picked to do his bidding. In this Portland incident, he used his authority under the legalistic guise of "protecting federal property".  Since some of these troops were positioned away from federal property, it appeared they were also there to intimidate the protestors. A young white man armed with a boom box held high was shot in the head by a rubber bullet cracking his skull. The victim was nowhere near federal property...nor was he a threat. His weapon was a boom box amplified broadcast,  ye gads. It was all caught on cell phone video, including snatching demonstrators and whisking them away in rented unmarked vehicles.  Nearly every civil rights and a couple of laws you could name, or the restraints courts had ordered local police to observe,  were violated by these military-style and trained Federales (a term I applied to federal police used by tin-pot Latin American dictators to quell the masses), but the best term more applicable came from the mouth of Sen.Ron Wyden (Dem, OR): "storm troopers".   That one has roots in Hitler's rise to power and similar techniques he used to consolidate his power.  Kidnapping, holding without charges, and manhandling have been used in recent times by Putin in Russia and China., particularly recently in Hong Kong. Using federally ordered thugs in military gear and secret police are common techniques used by historical and modern dictators to subdue opposition.   What was peculiar about this incident in Portland, the intimidating actions by stormtroopers, was that it was apparently staged for the benefit of FOX and covered only by Trump's loyal first,..but several days later, July 17, the outrage of the Oregon governor and the Portland Mayor and the emergence of videos of weapons firing seriously injuring someone and military types throwing demonstrators into unmarked cars brought it to mainstream media.  Both state and local officials had worked hard to keep the demonstrations peaceful and their concern was that such action would only bring more hardcore protestors to the scene, ready themselves to do violent battle with the stormtroopers.

The purpose of this exercise was political, it appears since the incident coverage was engineered by  Trump media.  This is an indication that the purpose was to keep the favor of the cult-like followers of Trump, to whom the concept of democracy and civil rights seems to be considered a barrier to Trump's power rather than as some ideal worthy to protect. Trump was faced with polling showing his approval ratings had dropped to the high 30%  due to his inept handling of the pandemic and the George Floyd protests. Raising the issue of "law and order" certainly served as a diversion of attention from his tanking poll numbers. That he still maintains support for his economic policies,  seems strange, given conditions that echo the Great Depression. For others less devoted to him and disapproving of his handling of the pandemic and race relations, it was the reminder of a tradeoff:. "If you don't like me or what I do in other matters, I will at least keep you safe from those you fear and hate". 

This kind of military action certainly appeals to the core of the only group of followers who still had the majority of their demographics favoring him: white men with no college education, per recent polling, and followers of the ideology of some of Trump's ardent advisors: dominate the streets with military and suppress demonstrators, peaceful or not.   It was meant to send a message that Trump's law and Trump's techniques to force order would rule,  but the message it sent to the majority of voters who are now not supportive of him was democracy has no place in Trumpland nor did any respect for civil rights or the rule of law. It was what we could expect in a Trump second term.(For more go to the May 29, 2020 posting: Trump fans the flames of violence, yet calls himself the champion of law and order)

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