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‘It’s Inevitable’: Trump Will Try To Stage a Coup And Overthrow Democracy, Historian Says


‘It’s Inevitable’: Trump Will Try To Stage a Coup And Overthrow Democracy, Historian Says

Let’s face it: American democracy is in crisis. The shocking election of Donald Trump feels like a constant state of emergency and many experts are sounding the alarm that it may get worse soon.

Timothy Snyder, Yale historian and author of the new book “On Tyranny” says we may have one year left to save American democracy.

President Trump has threatened violence against his political enemies. He has made clear he does not believe in the norms and traditions of American democracy — unless they serve his interests.

Trump and his advisers consider a free press to be enemies of his regime. Trump repeatedly lies and has a profoundly estranged relationship with empirical reality. He uses obvious and naked racism, nativism and bigotry to mobilize his voters and to disparage entire groups of people such as Latinos and Muslims.

Trump is threatening to eliminate an independent judiciary and wants to punish judges who dare to stand against his illegal and unconstitutional mandates. In a clear violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump is using the office of the presidency to enrich himself, his family and his inner circle by peddling influence and access to corporations, foreign countries and wealthy individuals. Trump and his representatives also believe that he is above the law and cannot be prosecuted for any crimes while in office.

What can the American people do to resist Donald Trump? What lessons can history teach about the rise of authoritarianism and fascism and how democracies collapse? Are there ways that individuals can fight back on a daily basis and in their own personal lives against the political and cultural forces that gave rise to Donald Trump?

In an effort to answer these questions, Salon’s Chauncey Devega spoke with Timothy Snyder, a professor of history at Yale University and award-winning author of numerous books including the recent “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning” and “Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin.”

Snyder’s new book, “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” explores how the American people can fight back against Donald Trump’s incipient authoritarian regime.

“Look, we all know that this isn’t really a democracy anymore,” Snyder told Devegas. “We all know this is really an oligarchy, so let me be your oligarch.” Although it’s nonsense and of course he’s a con man and will betray everyone, it makes sense only in this climate of inequality.”

Snyder described Donald Trump as  a “dictator” and an “authoritarian.” He’s “Hitler,” we just toss these words around, he added.

“Whether he realizes it or not is a different question, but that’s what fascists did. They said, ‘Don’t worry about the facts; don’t worry about logic. Think instead in terms of mystical unities and direct connections between the mystical leader and the people.’ That’s fascism. Whether we see it or not, whether we like it or not, whether we forget, that is fascism.'”

“Another thing that’s clearly fascist about Trump were the rallies. The way that he used the language, the blunt repetitions, the naming of the enemies, the physical removal of opponents from rallies, that was really, without exaggeration, just like the 1920s and the 1930s. And Mr. Steve Bannon’s preoccupation with the 1930s and his kind of wishful reclamation of Italian and other fascists speaks for itself.”

Asked why is Trump not being held accountable for all of his failures, scandals and incompetence, Mr. Snyder said:

“Mr. Trump is primarily a television personality. As such, he is judged by that standard. This means that a scandal does not call forth a response; it calls forth the desire for a bigger scandal. It just whets the appetite for a bigger scandal because a television serial has to work on that logic. It’s almost as though he has to produce these outrageous things because what else would he be doing?

I think another part of it has to do with attention span. It’s not so much a lack of outrage; people are in fact outraged. But in order for a scandal to have political logic, the outrage has to be followed by the research. It has to be followed by the investigation. It has to be followed by an official finding.”

You can read the entire interview at

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