By Jacob Vito
There’s a thing that people often forget about Hitler: he was elected. Sure, he didn’t receive a majority, but his party’s popularity and power in parliament made him a front-runner for then-president Hindenburg’s chancellor position. It was only after ascending to power through normal, legal means that he began to dismantle the democratic systems underneath him.
It seems, as with many things, that Donald Trump has learned well from his fascist predecessors.
With many states still without a clear victor and neither candidate holding a majority of electors, the Trump administration has preemptively declared victory and begun a wave of lawsuits. Their language and litigation have been crafted with the intent of invalidating as many mail-in ballots as possible.
Currently, the administration’s focus has been on Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, three states where the margins between candidates remained in the thousands. Trump’s actions now join outside suits from other Republican officials against Pennsylvania and Nevada.
Such lawsuits have been paired with an early declaration of victory by President Trump, who has claimed that votes for his opponent Joe Biden had been cast illegally.
“We are up BIG, but they are trying to STEAL the election,” Trump tweeted Tuesday night. “We will never let them do it. Votes cannot be cast after the Polls are closed!”
In a public statement, the Trump campaign has also called for recounts across multiple states with special access for inspection by the President.
Members of Joe Biden’s campaign have tried to refute the president’s narrative, with Biden himself attempting to publicly defend states from the president’s attacks.
“No one is going to take our democracy away from us,” former Vice President Biden said. “Not now, not ever. America has come too far, fought too many battles, and endured too much to let that happen.”
Yet regardless of how the sides in this issue are framed, make no mistake: Trump’s demand for stopping the vote count doesn’t have much legal footing. It was absolutely expected that such an unprecedented amount of mail-in ballots would take more than one day to count.
What’s more, the president’s thinly veiled excuses for his calls of vote destruction aren’t convincing to anyone who actually wants a democracy. The ballots he is attempting to invalidate are still individual votes made by legal citizens done in a legal way. In theory, they are a perfectly normal and acceptable form of interaction with the government.
However, this leaves only one remaining understanding of the current situation. Trump’s actions are not done in the spirit of democracy. Donald Trump, those who work with him and the citizens who currently support him would rather have an autocratic leader than a democratic one.
Many who already follow Trump’s philosophy have a visible and analyzable distrust of democracy. An analysis from Vox found that support of Donald Trump’s policies directly correlated to autocratic policies and personalities.
To his supporters, Trump has framed himself as the last bastion of American values. In such a worldview, Trump’s opponents would literally destroy the United States if given power, so he must maintain by any means necessary.
In the minds of those who believe Trump, a nation without him is equivalent to the end of the world. This sect will rally with and protest for the president at any cost because to them, there is no alternative.
All this will be true regardless of who inhabits the White House come January. Whether or not Trump actually succeeds in stealing the election does not change the fact that he is currently attempting to. Neither outcome will avoid the political violence spearheaded by his most ardent supporters. Neither outcome will revert his legacy on the American government.
The impact of this whole event will not disappear, regardless of whether or not Trump’s schemes succeed. The damage has already been done; this first swing at American fascism showed promise and now a significant part of the population has been primed with an authoritarian affinity for decades to come.
Don’t be fooled: there is no coming back from Donald Trump. His tactics worked, and so they will likely be used again. Pundits like Tucker Carlson of Fox News fame have already begun to capitalize on his faux populism, and a whole new wave of xenophobic and nationalistic political figures have been vaulted into positions of power over the last few years.
This new movement of fascism in America has grown too large and too powerful to ignore. It has cemented itself in institutions like a tumor, so now it must be actively fought.
The tightness of the election made an outright denial of Trump’s power without backlash impossible. The coming weeks, months, and potentially years will be a struggle for authority in both seats of political power and on the streets.
However, not every fascist wins. Some, like former Bolivian leader Jeanine Áñez, can be removed in a combination of an electoral surge and direct political action. If America’s political institutions can weather this storm, it too may become a success story. Trump and his devotees will not go quietly, so neither should anyone else.
After all, just because Trump rose democratically doesn’t mean he can’t be taken down the same way.