Trumpism is not normal. And yet we must constantly remind ourselves of that. Apart from the kleptocracy and other disturbing things that are already happening, here are some things in particular to be on guard about in the near future. And these should be bipartisan concerns (I'm not talking about the elimination of Obamacare or abortion rights here, for example):
- Attacks on the press. I'm not talking about "This publication said mean thing. They suck. Their subscriptions are going down" tweets, though those are certainly horrible. I'm talking about denying critical information to some press while giving it only to the press that reports positively about him, his family, or Russia. I'm talking about siccing his followers to harass reporters or issue death threats to them. Doing practical things to discredit legitimate news sources. Fully expect Trump and his followers to increasingly misapply the term "fake news" to actual real news.
- A horrible event leading to increased executive power. Trump might allow a terrible event to happen as an excuse to grab more power—something like Pearl Harbor or 9/11. Watch out particularly for anything that allows him to "temporarily" be subject to far fewer checks and balances than he already is. Not needing congress to declare war. Postponing a 2020 presidential election. Proposals or even hints at eliminating presidential term limits. He may even be so bold as to "jokingly" rename his title to "emperor" or "king" instead of president.
- Limitations on free speech. Right now most of you can speak out against the president without government retaliation. Sure, if you issue a credible death threat, the secret service will be after you, but if you said "Obama sucks!" recently or said "W. is a moron" ten years ago, nothing probably happened to you. You didn't fear for losing your job in almost all circumstances. Nothing would happen to your family. If you find yourself self-censoring criticism of Trump for fear of death, imprisonment, loss of a job, etc., then you know we are officially in an authoritarian regime.
- Limitations on movement. Sure, it's difficult to emigrate, much as people often joke during presidential elections about moving to Canada. Lots of paperwork and hoops to jump through. But we can still freely travel, for the most part. If you have a passport and some money, you can fly to another country or drive across the border to Canada. Once American citizens feel they cannot leave the country, you know we are officially in an authoritarian regime.
- Erasure of the past. George Orwell was not wrong about this. She who controls the past controls the future, and she who controls the present controls the past. If you start seeing information disappear or become less available that shows the illegitimacy of the Trump regime or you see indications that what is now "normal" has always been this way, you know we are officially in an authoritarian regime.
- Racial regress. We're already starting to see this with the rise of the neo-Nazis and white supremacists rebranded in puff pieces as the "dapper" alt-right. But it might get worse. There might be proposals to not make Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a holiday. There might be proposals that segregation is not such a bad thing, really. You might start to see these ideas not just at the fringes but in "mainstream" media coverage.
This is not an exhaustive list. Just some key points I wanted to highlight.
Some of you reading this now may be thinking "Come on. You're being alarmist. Everything is going to be okay. We're still the United States." Fine. I'm not predicting these things will definitely 100% happen, even though we've had lots of early indicators they should be real concerns. What I'm saying is I really, really, really, really hope they won't happen, but we both know now as you're reading this how alarming these would be if they did happen. So remember that if they seem to be alarming now, they should also be alarming to you in the future—those values of what's alarming or unacceptable should not change. I would love to be wrong about this, believe me.