By Robert A. Vella
In my dystopian science fiction novel The Martian Patriarch, I told the story of a villainous tyrant who conquered the world. Janus Franz Krichek was an Austrian émigré who grew-up in Texas and embraced the sociopathic ideology of fascism. The character was intellectually limited, but possessed a brutal obsession for power to serve his narcissistic desires. Krichek’s classic megalomania both drove him to great heights and eventually caused his unpleasant downfall. Ironically, Krichek’s fate was sealed when his closest supporters suddenly turned on him after a series of costly failures in moments of crisis.
That was a fictional character created nearly a quarter of a century ago. At the time, I had no way of knowing how prescient it might be in real life; and, I had no inkling that such a despot would rise to power in my lifetime – not in the United States, anyway.
But, it did happen almost exactly twenty years later when Donald Trump “won” the 2016 election. The parallels between Krichek and Trump are uncanny. Both were raised in immigrant families from central Europe. The culture of both families were rooted in stern discipline, aggressive ambition, social hierarchy, and – yes – ethnic, racial, and religious bigotry. My fictional character was not inspired from clairvoyance, nor was it purely coincidental. Rather, it evolved from my long-studied understanding of history, politics, and sociology. In 1996, when I conceived of Janus Krichek, the world economy was booming under the neoliberal leadership of western democracies (e.g. President Bill Clinton in the U.S. and Prime Minister John Major in the U.K.) and the emerging manufacturing juggernaut of China. Boris Yeltsin was Russia’s first president after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Tony Blair’s political fortunes were rising in Britain, and the supposedly ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin was just an obscure bureaucrat in St. Petersburg.
So, if the world was in pretty good shape back then, what did I see that could plunge it into the darkness of authoritarianism? First, I realized that neoliberalism would produce economic and political inequalities which would eventually destabilize civil society and lead to ideological extremism. Second, I recognized that this was already happening when congressional Republicans under Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich jumped into the abyss of right-wing fanaticism. It triggered a chain of events – marked by the 9/11 attacks, the fraudulent Iraq War, and the Tea Party wave of 2010 – which have transpired at an increasing rate ever since.
On this Sunday in late August, 72 days ahead of the U.S. 2020 election, I ask readers to contemplate the portrait of a president seeking reelection as well as the upcoming day of reckoning for a nation now teetering on the edge of tyranny.
Here’s today’s news:
The Democratic-led House on Saturday passed legislation preventing U.S. Postal Service cutbacks at least through January and providing it with $25 billion in additional funding, reflecting Democrats’ concerns that delivery delays affecting basic mail service would spill over into an election being held during the coronavirus pandemic.
In a rare Saturday session held during August recess, the bill passed 257-150, with the support of 231 Democrats and 26 Republicans.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said Saturday he would not bring up a separate Postal Service funding bill without a broader deal on coronavirus relief.
Many of the Republicans who voted for the bill on Saturday face competitive re-elections and want to show support for the Postal Service.
American elections tend to swing on a pendulum. No one party usually holds power for too long. Since 1952, for example, only once has a party won the presidency three elections in a row.
Yet, partially through a little bit of bad luck and two electoral college-popular vote splits, the Republican Party looks like it could be on the way to an unpleasant distinction.
If President Donald Trump, in fact, loses the popular vote in 2020, it will be the first time since the founding of the Democratic Party in 1828 that either the Democratic or Republican Party has lost the popular vote this many times in a span of eight elections.
Obviously, we don’t know what the November result will be. There’s still a little over two months to go and things can change.
That said, pretty much none of the nonpartisan analysts I know expect Trump to win the popular vote. Today, former Vice President Joe Biden leads the national polls by somewhere around 8 to 10 points nationally. A high number of Trump’s paths to a second term revolve around him pulling off a win in the electoral college, while losing the popular vote, just as he did in 2016.
A loss by Trump this year would mean the Republicans have lost the popular vote 7 out of the last 8 elections since 1992.