When I wrote for generals and policymakers we had a simple phrase for getting information to them quickly in products–Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF). So having wasted that sentence, here is the BLUF for everyone at this key moment in American history:
In the past few days, President Donald Trump and his allies in Congress have taken United States many steps closer to becoming an authoritarian state. Full stop.
The unraveling, rapid fire events since Monday show us a few things. One, Trump is going to do what he says he wants to do. Two, the Republicans in Congress are not only going to allow these acts to happen but they are also going to aid and abet them. Three, Russian President Vladimir Putin played his hand beautifully in creating this political disaster in which we now find ourselves.
Our own Nate Kosted has a post up laying out what happened the past few days and how it eerily similar to the Watergate cover up. The similarity is certainly there but the difference now is that we have a Congress willing to participate because they are just as culpable in the crime too.
Last December I gathered with a group of veterans at a retreat in Pennsylvania where we gamed out potential scenarios for the Trump administration if it turned toward authoritarianism. It was a sober, serious conversation and no one left that retreat feeling especially upbeat. While I have had a few similar moments the past year, today is the most frightened I have been since those few serious days. And it is not just me, it is a lot of smart friends who have studied how authoritarianism spread in other places. For instance, this thread perfectly captures what we are collectively up against:
It may be time to start thinking about how we can effectively push back against authoritarianism once the last of the checks and balances have fallen. https://t.co/WApTzKz8jZ
— G. is back at work (@GWillowWilson) January 30, 2018
The important piece of what Ms. Wilson wrote is that this will not be some military coup or sudden takeover of power. It will evolve slowly with the erosion of institutions we hold dear (legislative, judicial, law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and media). We are seeing Congress become dominated by Trump and courts packed with his allies, which are certainly all things any president wants to accomplish. But add to that his attacks on the intelligence community as it dug into his campaign’s ties to Moscow, his open calls to fire the investigators now digging into those same ties, and a media that is running editorials about his supporters and writing accolades about his Neo Nazi staff. Democracy dies when we stop caring about seeing it happen before our eyes. This is our current moment.
Yes there are important people who are showing us the dangers ahead and that have transpired. Robert Mueller has access to the blueprints of why we are where we are and he almost alone has the power to lay those out. But he will not end this by himself. We have to protect him yet we cannot think that he is our savior. We cannot think that individual senators or representatives are any more powerful than Mueller.
In the end, this is about us. Each of you has to figure out what you will be willing to do to prevent America from becoming the cherry on Moscow’s political cupcake. It demands not only being informed and talking with friends and neighbors but also whether you are willing to join a national sit-in near the White House when Trump cronies fire Mueller (spoiler alert: it is coming), if you will not be silenced or intimidated by being called anti-patriotic when you oppose the “major event” of a war with North Korea meant to boost Trump’s approval at the cost of millions of lives, if you will join in local demonstrations against these authoritarian actions, or if you simply watch Maddow and yell at the television. I will be at events one and two. I will make them happen. I need you all to help. If we whither and die as our nation crumbles then that will be our fate. I did not serve in the military to watch my nation dissolve after I returned from far away wars.
One of Montana’s founding fathers, whose statue features prominently outside the state capitol, fought against the idea of monarchy ruling his country. Thomas Meagher came here as a political prisoner and became an organizer against the discriminatory plans of the south in the Civil War. He became Montana’s first territorial governor and his spirit our guiding force.
Let us then think about what Governor Meager would think about this discriminatory monarchy powered by Russian influence taking over our country. He would not take it sitting down and we should not either. Get ready Montana, the nation needs us. Sabers up.