Leading up to the 2024 election, there are a number of pressing issues Americans will consider — rampant illegal immigration, skyrocketing inflation and price of living, violent crime marring cities — but those issues are now against the backdrop of a palpable shift toward authoritarianism. And a vote for Trump in 2024 will be a vote of defiance.
This is not the personal endorsement of the author, but a statement of what the author believes to be a fact for countless voters.
The American people have been watching over years as the government’s authoritarian tendencies have been revealed, first through coronavirus lockdowns and vaccine mandates, then the vast and coordinated censorship of the New York Post‘s “Laptop from Hell” reporting, and now multiple indictments against former President Donald Trump, with the jarring image of his mugshot being released to the public Thursday.
At the beginning of 2020, purportedly free people were told they weren’t allowed to go to work, that they couldn’t go to church, and that their children weren’t allowed to go to school and were going to be barred from playing outside in parks, because the “experts” claimed those activities were too dangerous for American citizens, based on to dubious and incomplete data. American citizens were made to cover their faces in public, a universal symbol of submission, even though there was no health-related justification for that edict other than particular, rare masks in particular cases. American citizens had their movements tracked and their health information put in databases, measures that could have been lifted from any dystopian fiction. Corporate interests and power centers thrived, while normal people suffered. But people, for the most part, kept their heads down and waited for the moment to pass. There are now indications that some, or all, of these measures will be reinstated come autumn.
The same year, the American people, who ostensibly have free speech rights, were prevented from reading a series of news reports that were immediately relevant to their upcoming presidential election, describing an apparent scheme to peddle influence by one of the candidates. They would later learn that their government, in coordination with some of their largest and most influential media and communications companies, worked together to ensure that information would be censored in order to ensure the outcome of that election. Data would emerge that the goal was achieved; that censorship of those stories did secure the election and that votes were cast under false pretenses because of efforts of intelligence agencies. And, again, corporate interests and power centers thrived, while normal people suffered. But still, people, for the most part, kept their heads down and waited for the moment to pass.
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Every time one of these incidents occurred, we lamented about how unprecedented the event was, but still went about our lives and waited for the moment to pass. This time, however, feels different, as the American people watch an escalation, with the leader of the political opposition being hounded and threatened with jail, and the death penalty.
The escalation is indicating to the American public that going about our lives and waiting for the moment to pass isn’t going to work. It signals that every time we put our heads down, those in power see an opportunity to seize more power. The bureaucratic establishment, the corporate establishment, and the political establishment, while Trump was president and since, has been in a sustained effort to undermine him, attack us, and grow its power. And now Trump is emerging as the (if just symbolic) mechanism to counter that effort.
Voting for Trump over other Republicans, or over Biden, won’t necessarily be because of his policies — that will be the last thing on some voters’ minds — it will be an act of defiance against our government and institutions that are openly oppressing people and information they deem threatening to their self-interest and self-preservation.
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In the release of Trump’s mugshot — a photo that will go down in infamy — the election has been turned into a referendum on authoritarianism. The opposition started as being about closing the border and lowering inflation, to alleviate the pressure on the working and middle class caused by the recklessness of elites. But now, the mandate has shifted, and has become more general; to restore freedom by decimating the establishment, and the bureaucracy, and the “experts.”
The release of that photo on Thursday was evocative of flag burning; it was a visual assault on everything we know this country to be and a desecration of everything this country stands for. And it also transmitted a signal to the nation: this game is going to be zero-sum.