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Authoritarian regimes in developed countries usually arise through a slow, insidious process rather than a drastic armed conflict. We currently are witnessing this devolution in our own country with the power struggle between the Trump administration and Democrat-controlled House of Representatives.

The first step towards authoritarianism is the undermining of the free press. Once the people internalize the constant repetition of “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” they will more and more turn to the political party wielding the most power as their main source of information.

We were warned about this long ago by George Orwell in the novel “1984.” The typical Trump rally revolves around an hour-long equivalent of “the two minute hate” focusing anger at the enemies du jour who ostensibly are existential threats to the U.S., just as Orwell’s Emmanuel Goldstein and “The Brotherhood” were the existential threat to the totalitarian government of Oceania. The myopic reliance on their “fearless leader” and the endless stream of propaganda from Fox News and right-wing radio ensures that Trump’s base will mindlessly believe whatever they are told.

In “1984”, it was “Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.” One example in Trump’s America is his secretary of the interior telling the CPAC convention that U.S. gas prices had dropped by 40 percent while the truth, reported by the mainstream media, was that gas prices actually had risen by 10 percent.

Donald Trump makes no secret of his desire to fully control the narrative, and his base believes every word, even though he clearly is a pathological liar who has as much regard for the truth as he does for the sanctity of his marriages. Not long ago, he actually said to those gathered for the VFW annual convention, “Stick with us. Don’t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news. ... What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening.”

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The next step down the dark road to dictatorship is to obviate any balance of power that might rein in the administration. Trump has completely disregarded the powers of the co-equal congressional branch of government by refusing to comply with established law and ignoring subpoenas and demands to appear before House oversight committees. Congressional power of oversight of the executive branch is written into laws and embedded through more than 200 years of precedent and accepted interpretation of implied powers in the Constitution. Donald Trump, though, believes the laws of this nation do not apply to him. He learned well from his mentor, the mob lawyer Roy Cohn. His entire life has been an exercise in skirting the law and manipulating the judicial system to his advantage, and he has carried that with him into the presidency.

The final step is to take control of the judiciary and render impotent any law enforcement against the leader. Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., persistently refusing to allow the nomination of Merrik Garland to the Supreme Court and the stalling of other Obama judicial nominees; Trump packing the courts with the most partisan judges available; and the appointment of William Barr as attorney general have erased any semblance of independence and equity from our judicial branch and law enforcement arm of the executive branch.

I hear repeatedly that we’re on the verge of a constitutional crisis. I hate to break it to you, folks, but we’ve been in a constitutional crisis since intervention by a hostile foreign government inflicted an unqualified con man on the American people.

Dictatorships do not spontaneously appear in a governmental big-bang, but through a methodical process. So we’d better do something drastic about it now or our children and grandchildren will grow up in a country vastly different from anything the U.S. has known before.

Elliot Namay is the owner

of PC Specialist Inc., in Charleston.

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