By editorial board • 

Reject false prophets and the deceptions they peddle

Indulge us for a moment while we imagine a terrifying takeover of the U.S. government without thought of political philosophy. Visualize a political firebrand from the far right or the leftist fringe, but focus only on the means of rebellion.

Our hypothetical leader is a man whose ego, drive and will tend to overcome all who cross his path, friend or foe. When he announces his candidacy for president, political insiders dismiss his chances, regarding him as little more than a publicity-seeking lightweight.

He openly rejects every hallowed tradition, sacred convention, constitutional roadblock and moral, ethical or legal constraint in his pursuit of power. If elected, he promises to trample them at every turn in his messianic conviction that he has cornered the market on truth and right.

His raw, unvarnished authoritarianism proves to hold surprising appeal to those sharing his convictions about tearing down what has gone before and building something vaguely grand and beautiful in its place. He urges them to invest their faith and trust in him as the source of all true information, rejecting that pouring forth from government, science, media, academia and other respected vestiges of institutional America.

Shockingly, his legions grow to the point where he first wins the nomination, then the presidency.

Having vanquished the establishment, he proceeds to forsake our traditional alliances, embrace foreign dictators, isolate us behind walls, foster a ruinous trade war, downplay a raging pandemic, boost his family fortune, engage in raw nepotism, and value subservience over expertise in populating his administration.

His populist positions strike a passionate chord with political fans, some deservedly so. But they ignore his many great transgressions, to the point that as he boldly proclaims, his followers wouldn’t flinch if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.

When his foes rally to deny him a second term, he falls back on a long-cultivated theme: The voting was rigged against him, so the outcome must be overturned.

Never mind that ballots in contested states are counted and recounted, by machine and by hand, then subjected to rounds of auditing and signature verification. Never mind that down-ticket members of his party have fared surprisingly well in the same election overseen by the same officials, based on ballots counted by the same machines and same hands.

Unable to strong-arm legislative, executive and judicial branch officials into overturning the election after the fact, despite bald attempts bordering on the criminal, he summons a rag-tag army of armed, indoctrinated backers to Washington, D.C, and exhorts them to march on the Capitol.

They proceed to stage a clumsy coup attempt on national TV, as he looks on from the safety of the White House, and it finally proves a bridge too far. Only then does his support begin to collapse.

Our point? This orchestrated attempt to subvert American democracy must be measured without regard to any particular political philosophy.

Around the world, we’ve seen power seized by authoritarians on both ends of the political spectrum, from Fascist to Bolshevik. And quite often, as was the case with current Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, it was: 1) Initially achieved via election; and 2) Maintained with the aid of enablers who knew better, but couldn’t resist the siren call of raw political power.

We see one central commonality — the deliberate undermining of traditionally trusted common sources of news, fact, research and information, permitting allegiance to an egocentric authoritarian unrestrained by long-accepted social and legal conventions.

Sadly, while Donald Trump’s trail of carnage appears to have finally run its course, the malignant anti-democratic movement he captured, captivated and nurtured lives on. And it continues to infect various niches of state and federal government, even in Oregon.

Elements of government, politics, business, law enforcement and social media have all been spurred into counter-action by the shocking assault on our Capitol. While that will deter to some extent the army of disaffected dissidents emboldened during Trump’s rein, it’s certainly not going to drive that army out of business.

If we can come together on nothing else in the wake of this debacle, let it be to reject authoritarians on both ends of the spectrum and embrace accurate information from honest, impartial brokers. That would do more than anything to inoculate us against future threats to our world-renowned democracy.


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