Trump et al: ‘Believe them the first time’ | Gregory Pitts

By Gregory Pitts ·

Law360 Canada (March 27, 2024, 9:34 AM EDT) --
Greg Pitts
“When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” That quote by Maya Angelou could not be more prescient in today’s American political climate. Like many Americans, during the previous presidential administration, I became accustomed to processing daily insults, scandals, lies and disinformation, all within a 24-hour news cycle. At times, it felt like trying to take a sip of water from a gushing fire hydrant without drowning. American politics has become both alarming and, at times, frightening.

At this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Jack Posobiec, a right-wing political activist, started his introduction with, “Welcome to the end of democracy. We didn’t get all the way there on January 6th, but we will endeavour to get rid of it.” If that statement didn’t grab your attention, you are probably asleep.

Republican stalwarts and right-wing media personalities have a significant presence at CPAC. Over the last three years, Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán has had a featured role at the conferences. After this year’s CPAC, Orbán spent time with former president Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago home. It appears that Hungary’s new “Illiberal Democracy” is the blueprint for what the right has planned for America.

Since 2010, Orbán has rewritten the Hungarian constitution and taken control of print and broadcast media. During the European migrant crisis in 2015, Hungary built a fence along its southern border. Orbán has made it clear that Muslims will not be a part of Hungarian culture. Hungary now defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Hungary also recently passed a law that essentially bans any materials that cover homosexuality or gender issues from their school system.

Today’s Republican party appears to be goose-stepping America toward autocracy and its “bromance” with Orbán, Vladimir Putin and Russia may be more revealing of its future plans for America than meets the eye. Books are being banned in numerous states, African American history is being erased in real time and diversity equity and inclusion programs are disappearing in southern states. Far-right politicians like Mark Robinson, the lieutenant governor of North Carolina, have candidly stated that women do not deserve the right to vote, the Civil Rights movement was communist propaganda and has referred to LGBTQ+ people as “filth.” Despite his incensed rhetoric, he is a legitimate contender for the governorship of North Carolina.

When Trump descended the golden escalator and attacked Mexican migrants as rapists, drug smugglers and violent criminals, parts of America embraced the language that he trumpeted throughout his presidency. He promised to build a wall to address migration on the southern border. He said that the constitution should be suspended at times, and he vowed to be a dictator for one day if re-elected. He has called the American media “the enemy of the people.” One could simply dismiss the similarities between Trump and Orbán or America and Hungary as purely coincidental or merely hyperbole, but I think not.

That Russia helped Trump to get elected in 2016 is factual. Its use of bots, disinformation and micro-targeting undecided voters aided Trump in winning the Electoral College. Konstantin Kilimnik, the Russian and Ukrainian political consultant, received sensitive polling information from convicted felon Paul Manafort, Trump’s previous campaign manager. Incidentally, Kilimnik is also a Russian intelligence officer. The extent of Russia’s success in getting Trump elected is incalculable. In 2016, my 88-year-old mother told me that she was reluctant to vote for Hillary Clinton. The reason she was hesitant was because she read that Hillary Clinton was receiving monies from Planned Parenthood for selling body parts from aborted fetuses. Anecdotal on the surface, it is possible that disinformation shaped my mother’s political views in 2016.

Right-leaning media appears to be courting Russia as much as conservative politicians. Former Fox TV personality Tucker Carlson famously asked, “Why should I hate Vladimir Putin? He has never called me a racist.” Republicans removed Ukrainian support in the form of weapons to fight Russia from their political platform in 2016. Trump threatened to pull the U.S. out of NATO when he was president. Recently, he said that he would allow Putin to invade any NATO ally who hasn’t “paid” its share. Unfortunately, this includes Canada as well.

As America sleepwalks towards authoritarianism or a dictatorship, half of the electorate should heed the words of Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”

Gregory Pitts is a health-care professional with a diverse array of experience in psychiatry, wound care and dialysis. He lives in Chicago.

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