The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy
a book by Brian Klaas
(our site's book review)
The Amazon blurb says that ”A primer on the threat to democracy posed by—and I can’t believe I’m saying this—the current president of the United States.” [Trump is neither the first, nor will he be the last, president to threaten democracy]
—David Litt, New York Times bestselling author
Donald Trump isn’t a despot. But he is increasingly acting like The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, an understudy in authoritarian tactics that threaten to erode American democracy, including:
- Attacking the press (see Media Control, Second Edition: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda to see that Trump's attacks on the press are mostly hot air but Noam Chomsky's criticisms of the press are well grounded and legitimate)
- Threatening rule of law by firing those who investigate his alleged wrongdoings—very Nixonesque
- Using nepotism to staff the White House (which has been legal since January 2017 since he pushed through the change)
- And countless other techniques (e.g., lying and then lying about the lies)
Alhough the Trump administration is no friend of democracy either here or abroad, it should be noted that the U.S. neocons running things in this country have been no friend of democracy for many decades—especially since the end of WWII. See America's Deadliest Export: Democracy - The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, Rogue State: A Guide to the Worlds Only Superpower, The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption, and The Concise Untold History of the United States.
Although what this book asserts is true, what it leaves out is even more striking, as you'll see from reading the above reviews. The author seems not to quite realize that Trump is merely a foolish bit-part player in a larger play that is actually controlled by the sneaky Koch brothers (see Jean Mayer's Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right) and their fascist flunkies.
This short and perceptive look at the country's 'boiling frog' fall into authoritarianism must be read by all who love democracy—we need to reverse this fall before it is too late!
Trump fancies himself a dictator, a powerful tyrant that rids the country of all immigrants to 'purify the race', a leader that lies one day, lies about the lies the next day, and keeps the media focused on himself at all costs
Donald Trump is borrowing tactics from the world’s dictators and despots. Trump’s fascination with the military, his obsession with his own cult of personality, and his deliberate campaign to blur the line between fact and falsehood are nothing new to the world of despots. But they are new to the United States. With each authoritarian tactic or tweet, Trump poses a unique threat to democratic government in the world’s most powerful democracy. And there is no such thing as "alternative facts"!
Trump's bizarre adoration and idolization of despotic strongmen has made him a cheerleader for some of the world’s worst regimes
At the same time, Trump’s apprenticeship has serious consequences beyond the United States. His bizarre adoration and idolization of despotic strongmen—from Russia’s Putin, to Turkey’s Erdogan, or to the Philippines’ Duterte—has transformed American foreign policy into a powerful cheerleader for some of the world’s worst regimes. (See Fake News: How Propaganda Influenced the 2016 Election, A Historical Comparison to 1930's Germany.)
If we ever lose our alternative media websites and publishers, all is lost and fascistic stormtroopers will be goosestepping their way to our door (the last time we saw Trump walk, we detected a bit of a goosestep)
In The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, Klaas, an ex-U.S. campaign advisor who has interviewed the world’s dictators, explains Donald Trump’s increasingly authoritarian tactics and how Trump uniquely threatens American democracy... and how to save it from him. See Democracy—an American Delusion and One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported and Demagoguery and Democracy.
Hitler knew that to unite a people behind a cause, it was important to find an enemy—a villian to hate, a villian to blame their problems on, a scapegoat—like Trump's demonization of immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, etc.
The new ayatollah of the alt-right and white supremacists: the Ayatollah Trumpowski
How can we stop despotism? Demagogues follow predictable patterns in what they say and do to gain power. The key to resisting demagoguery is to name it when you see it—and to know where it leads.
As John W. Whitehead said (while in a very Twilight Zone mood), "We’re hurtling down a one-way road toward the Police State at mind-boggling speeds, the terrain is getting more treacherous by the minute, and we’ve passed all the exit ramps. From this point forward, there is no turning back, and the signpost ahead reads 'Danger.'" (Source: The US Has Become A Worse Police State Than Orwell Could Imagine)
The U.S. has become a worse police state than Orwell could imagine
With surveillance and political corruption skyrocketing and rights plummeting, can the Thought Police be far behind?
The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy is an in-depth study of concerns about Trump which Fox News doesn't cover. Trump tells obvious, easily debunked lies. Trump sows distrust of our media, our courts, our intelligence agencies, our science agencies, and the Congressional Budget Office. Trump shrugs off other countries’ violations of human rights and democracy. Trump indulges in nepotism and he flaunts major conflicts of interest. Trump wearies people with the sheer number of onslaughts “because you can't fight 100 battles all at once,” which is how Klaas states it. Trump sows distrust of long-respected newspapers while legitimizing small, conspiracy-theorist media like Breitbart. This latter charge is true, but paradoxical.
Our U.S. media has a truth filter applied to it— except for the alternative media websites and ebooks
The lies they printed and are still printed about U.S. supporting democracies when they do the opposite are as blatant as the lies they tell about our not supporting death squads or torture camps when it is the U.S. that trained them—these are insulting to our intelligence. Yet the long-respected newspapers of the mainstream media lied about all of this in the 1980s and 1990s and 21st century. Only "alternative media" like Alternet.org published the truth. When the truth was finally revealed about any of this, it was in Noam Chomsky's ebooks or alternative websites like Alternet.org or The Big Answer, BUT NEVER THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA SELLOUTS!
The reason we call the charge that Trump sows distrust of long-respected newspapers while legitimizing small, conspiracy-theorist media true but paradoxical is that he is right to sow this distrust, BUT NOT ABOUT TRUMP HIMSELF, WHICH THEY MOSTLY REPORT ACCURATELY. The mainstream media are not to be trusted as we showed above, so Trump saying not to trust them is legitimate. What is not legitimate is Trump saying not to trust them about Trump, which they report with a high degree of accuracy. That is the stuff to trust the mainstream media about—the opposite of what Trump asserts.
Klaas's previous book was called The Despot's Accomplice. It was an insightful and hard-hitting wake-up call to the retreat of democracy around the world and the West's growing apathy as well as complicity. In The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, Klaas makes a direct and persuasive connection between this failure to protect and maintain the basic foundations of democracy and the new constitutional crisis at home. The U.S.'s complicity in the retreat of democracy has been discussed above.
Brian Klaas reminds us that whatever may come to pass, Trump is not YET a despot, and also that there is a pathway to restore sanity. Read The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy—and resist! The author encourages the reader to become involved in an effort to counter Trump's dictatorial tendencies in order to save our democracy now.
Read The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy—and resist!
Tweet storm by tweet storm, we have seen our political landscape become a wasteland of scandals any one of which would have ended the career of a veteran politician just a few decades ago; but Trump just keeps on truckin'
Trump not only didn't drain the swamp, he polluted it from a stew of corruption to a dungheap of dastardly, degenerate, despicable toxicity that works against good, the environment, the middle and lower class, our future, our children, our immigrants, all nonwhites, women, democracy, and the national interest
Trump, while telling us he is Making America Great, is actually turning our futures into crap sandwiches—except for the 1%, each of whom will be issued golden castles at government expense
The 1% will not get crap sandwiches; they will be issued golden castles at government expense
The United States strives to dominate the world, for which end it is prepared to use any means necessary. Once one understands that, much of the apparent confusion, contradiction, and ambiguity surrounding Washington’s policies fades away. To express this striving for dominance numerically, one can consider that since the end of World War II the United States has
- endeavored to overthrow more than 50 foreign governments, most of which were democratically elected
- grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries
- attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders
- dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries
- attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries
U.S.'s imperialistic reign of terror has been going on for decades and yet U.S. media manipulation has kept it unknown to the public
" . . . Klaas describes Trump as 'systematically stoking religious and racial divides in the United States as he demonizes minority groups in the eyes of an intolerant segment of the white population.' . . . He recalls Trump's racist attack during the 2016 campaign on the Mexican-American judge overseeing the civil lawsuit against the blatantly bogus Trump University. Once in office, Trump continued to attack federal judges after a succession of rulings that partially blocked his Muslim travel ban. . . . Trump's seemingly uncontrollable habit of lying also mimics democracy-destroying oppressors going back to Adolf Hitler. Klaas likens Trump's critique of 'FAKE NEWS' . . . to Hitler's attacks on Lugenpresse, or the lying press.
"'To erode democracy, you must first erode truth,' the author writes, 'and this is precisely what Donald Trump is doing in America.' . . . Trump's "normalized dishonesty" falls short of the double-think of the Orwellian Big Brother of 1984, but it is still having an impact: Nearly half of Republican voters believe Trump actually won the popular vote in 2016, an example of what Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway calls 'alternative facts.' . . . In dystopian fashion, Klaas envisions the possible emergence of a true American authoritarian after some catastrophic terrorist attack deadlier, by far, than 9/11. . . . Democracy can be saved, Klaas concludes, but the future rests with Americans ourselves. Trump reminds us, he writes, of 'the most important duties of patriots: to dissent and oppose.'" (Source: The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy, Kenneth Jost, Washington Independent Review of Books)
We need to quit looking to social engineering superheroes or political saviors. Our political system is far too degenerate for any such strategies to gain traction
Wall Street Protest: Occupy Wall Street—Copyright © 2011 by Louis Lanzano
What changed after the heartfelt, sincere Occupy Wall Street protests where we were telling the powers-that-be that their transference of wealth from the 99% to the 1% was getting sickeningly unfair? Nothing. Who listened? Only others of us 99%ers. Not a single 1%er even bothered to glance in the protesters direction. But it's the duty of patriots to dissent and oppose, so the protesting patriots did the right thing.
'You know, Archibald, my bladder is a tad too full—do these windows open? I'd like to send my regards to those pesky OWS protesters' (this Wall Streeter was about to spontaneously re-invent Trickle-Down Economics)
Kenneth Jost is right—as is Klaas: the most important duties of patriots are to dissent and oppose in a dysfunctional and/or corrupt nation. And the future rests with Americans ourselves, not some political superhero who will come and "save us." There is no chance that our corrupt political system will allow such a person to get elected to any high office. We haven't had a true statesman since FDR, and there is zero chance of a person of real character and values getting elected to the presidency in the 21st century. Politicians are selected by skimming scum off the top of the bucket, not cream—they're selected by oligarchs, not the people, and their eligibility criteria centers on willingness to sell out to the elite, to support the rich and screw over the regular people.
Politicians are selected by skimming scum off the top of the bucket, not cream, and their eligibility criteria centers on willingness to sell out to the elite, to support the rich and screw over the regular people
Read all the reviews about Dubya and Obama on this site and you'll see what we mean. Amazon has books that show that Reagan, Bush#1, and Clinton are cut from the same cloth as Dubya and Obama. Trump is the first cut from demagogic cloth, which makes us wonder if we've gone from the frying pan to the fire—we'll see. One thing for sure: if we avoid the fire, it will not be because of what Trump does, but because of what we stop him from doing. See Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite, Democracy—an American Delusion, Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer—and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power and Politics and Government.
Klaas says that "The Trump waves are the most serious threat to American democracy in modern history. Most of the main pillars upon which democracy stands firm — the press, rule of law, ethics guidelines, voting rights, election integrity, respect for independent institutions, and even a shared sense of what is true and what is false — are under attack. Trump is behind those attacks, using tried and true authoritarian tactics that are familiar to those who live under despots and dictators but not to citizens of the United States. . . . Living in [despotisms] countries for extended periods was a crash course in the tactics and methods of despots.
"I saw how they manipulate the truth, using lies as tools of control. I saw how despots abuse or destroy the press, silencing any independent sources of information that could undercut their lies. I saw how despots jail their opponents and pardon their allies. I saw how despots scheme to rig elections to ensure their own victories. I saw how despots scapegoat unpopular minorities, deflecting blame for their own failures. I saw how despots make a mockery of government ethics and indulge in kleptocracy, a government of corrupt thieves who use political power to line their own pockets." (Or in Trump's case, change tax laws so rich oligarchs like him pay little while the nonrich foot the bill.)
After reading The Despot's Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy, it is obvious that Trump would choose to be a torture-using tyrant tomorrow if he could get away with it. There is nothing in Trump himself that would stop such an evil occurrence. History has suffered through—and still is suffering through—dozens of tyrants who are brutish, narcissistic, demagogic, often ignorant or deeply disturbed liars who people were foolish enough to give power to. Trump has neither democratic values nor human compassion values. He values two things: winning and Donald Trump.
This makes him extremely dangerous because the impulse control we expect in normal people just isn't there, as thousands have remarked upon. What motivates him is striving for "whatever he can get away with." Like a toddler. It is easy to understand him. What does he want? Anything he can get. Who would he smash to get what he wants? Anyone who gets in his way. What would he do to win? Anything. When a man has a personality cult full of brutal tyrants from Hitler to Putin and he wants to be elected to this Hall of Shame (which to him is a Hall of Greatness), he will do what he can to attain such a goal. There is no moral or value that guides, slows, or stops him, as there is with most people. If this doesn't scare you, your brain is dead. See Matthews: Trump has no moral authority.
As a nation fractures, it creates an opening that an opportunistic, self-interested demagogue can exploit. That opening now exists in America. Donald Trump is starting to exploit it, and since our kids are more open to authoritarianism than ever, it's time for us to wake up!
The failure to value democracy—manifested by our young—is easy to understand given the fact that our democracy is a pretense that has been usurped by warmongering neocons and transformed into a corrupt oligarchy whose main effect is the concoction of successful strategies to effect massive wealth transference from the 99% to the 1%.
Here is a good way to end this book review: According to Klaas, "The Founding Fathers of the United States anticipated that this moment would arrive. They designed a system built to withstand a divisive demagogue. They put checks and balances in place. They carved out a separation of powers that makes it difficult to consolidate power in a single person. But their enduring genius is being tested in ways they could not have anticipated. Americans are split, and despots are most likely to emerge when the political or economic system — or both — fractures. As a nation fractures, it creates an opening that an opportunistic, self-interested demagogue can exploit. That opening now exists in America. Donald Trump is starting to exploit it." (Source: Of course it can happen here: Trump’s no despot — but he’s no friend to democracy, Brian Klaas, Salon)
The U.S. is anything but 'the United States'—it's fractured into 3 countries: Bubbaland, East Liberalland, and West Liberalland. It would solve a lot of problems if this devolution was made official