Our president, vice president, Supreme Court justices, and all members of Congress must pledge an oath of office before assuming their duties. In doing so, these leaders swear to support our democracy and uphold the Constitution. I wonder, now that ex-president Trump and his followers have chosen to reject our democracy, if they have any pangs of guilt about this. Do any of these folks really prefer an autocractic/dictatorial government with Trump, or others like him, at the helm over free democracy?

Let’s realistically examine what life would be like under a dictator. We can use Trump’s behavior as president as a guide to this type of leadership. 

While in office, Trump had some restrictions placed on his actions by our laws and the Constitution. If he or another like-minded leader ruled in a dictatorship, there would be no such restrictions.

Since we are living in the midst of a terrible pandemic, it’s important to remind ourselves of the way in which ex-President Trump handled this challenge. Early in 2020, when we first learned of COVID-19, he tried to make light of the warnings he was given, with little regard for medical or scientific recommendations. Trump did not promote physical distancing or mask-wearing. Indeed, he deemed those who wore masks to be weak and fearful. He even suggested using substitute “treatments,” such as ingesting cleaning fluids rather using science-based remedies. These solutions had only harmful effects, while the virus mounted its fury causing more suffering and loss of life. We will never know how many lives might have been saved had there been an early emphasis on physical distancing, mask-wearing, and using approved medications. We also may never know why Trump was so insistent against following scientific and medical suggestions. 

Ex-president Trump’s negative attitudes extended to people whom he did not favor — immigrants, people of color, Muslims, Native Americans, Jews, and Latinos. His racist actions were somewhat curtailed by laws, but as a dictator, he and others like him, could restrict the lives of these folks and discriminate against them without restraint. As it was, we witnessed Trump’s draconian “zero-tolerance” policy which was used to separate children from their immigrant parents. What a cruel method to discourage immigration! 

Trump wanted to isolate our nation in an attempt to make it the “stronghold” of the world, similar to how he viewed Russia and North Korea. If he or others like him were authoritarian chieftains, there would be complete control over television, press, all media, schools, libraries, as well as censorship regarding what is taught and read … or not read. All opposition would be squelched and punished severely. This mindset was on full display at Trump rallies and via his adoring support of despots. 

Trump’s decisions to disassociate our nation from our allies was an example of his “stronghold” isolationist view. Ending the United States’ participation in the Iran Nuclear Agreement left our nation less secure. We need our allies, but his disdain for alliances left us without their benefit. Our allies also offered us cooperative help in addressing environmental problems and the effects of global warming. Trump had no concern for environmental crises. He even tried to institute a revival of the coal industry — one of our country’s former great polluters. Also, the oil companies desired to use our open lands and take over Native American reservations. Trump would have allowed this were it not for our present-day restrictions and staunch protests. Our beautiful natural lands could have been further plundered under his authoritarian regime.

An autocratic government would discount the value of public use and public needs. The general public would not be considered in the decision-making process in a dictatorship. Health services, financial assistance for the poor, feeding the hungry, housing for the homeless, and public education would no longer be offered. I can’t imagine what lies and propaganda Trump would assert if he or others like him, had full control of the press, the media, and public information distribution. 

Free and fair elections are a basic tenet of democracy which would be eliminated in a dictatorship. If any voting were to take place, opposition votes would not be accepted. Free speech, a free press, freedom of peaceable assembly, and freedom of religion would no longer exist. Further employed would be Trump’s policy toward policing, which is that brutality is a good means by which to control crime, political unrest, and violence … lawful or otherwise. In effect, he promotes using violence to control violence. What a perversion of justice!

Justice and our courts would be under the control of a dictator. As it is, Trump appointed an unprecedented number of Republican federal judges and three Supreme Court justices in hopes of making sure that even under present laws, his nefarious activities and unconstitutional behavior would be judged in his favor. We are already experiencing the effect of political influence on the Supreme Court in some of their recent decisions. His plan was to divert justice to weaken our democracy. He even took to violence for his purposes on January 6th

At the present time here in the U.S., there is a great deal of discourse concerning policing and our justice systems. Discussions of this nature would not exist in a dictatorship. We are sometimes guilty of not honoring our own democracy or practicing equality under the law, which is constitutionally mandated. We are criticized that we have two sets of laws, one for whites and the wealthy and the other for non-whites and the poor. 

Although we cannot deny this criticism, under our legal system we can and must change this practice. This would not happen in a dictatorship. White supremacists, bullies, and those who seek scapegoats in the miscarriage of justice, thrive in a dictatorship. Under our Constitution, we must approach all we do with truth. In a dictatorship, truth is a threat to its survival. Trump’s many lies have been tallied and documented. His lies enable him to do much to destroy our democracy.

To the Trumpers: Is a dictatorship really what you desire for the future of our country? I hope not! Let’s wake up our true Republicans and our asleep-at-the-switch Democrats to these frightening threats to our democracy. Let us all fight to save our freedoms. Let us bombard our legislators with emails, phone calls, our presence at town hall meetings, and written letters, making them aware of our urgent concerns. 

Let us all pledge an oath to save our democracy. Isn’t it worth our effort?

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