Public Indifference Is Trump’s Asset on the Path to Autocracy

Public Indifference Is Trump’s Asset on the Path to Autocracy


What happens in the next four years is up to you. This moment of danger can be your finest hour as a citizen and as an American. Americans have a few fundamental expectations about the presidency and their government. We expect Congress to check the President’s powers yet the Republican majority in Congress burns to enact an agenda that lacks public support. Whether it’s allegations of Russian hacking or self-enrichment by the Trump family, Republicans in Congress will act as Donald Trump’s ethical bodyguard, not a check on his power. We expect as citizens that our voices can be heard. Including by means of peaceful protest. Trump actively goads protesters to burn flags and challenge police. Civil unrest will not be a problem for the Trump presidency It will be a resource. Immigration protesters marching with Mexican flags Black Lives Matter demonstrators bearing anti-police slogans these are the images of the opposition that Donald Trump will wish his supporters to see. We expect the free press to inform voters of the actions of government. And we expect elected officials to offer reasonable cooperation to media acting in the public interest. But Trump has made clear that he regards independent media as his most dangerous enemy. He and his allies are developing a counter-media stretching from Fox to Breitbart to Infowars to fill the information space with disinformation and defamation. We expect presidents to want to avoid even the faintest imputation of corruption. That is why, dating back to Jimmy Carter, they have all voluntarily released their income tax returns. Donald Trump won’t. Instead, he and his family, are eagerly plunging into a morass of dodgy deals. Trump and his team believe that they can achieve all that I just described for one main reason: “Nobody cares!” Trump likes to say. If this were happening in Honduras, we would know what to call it. It is happening here instead. So we are baffled. The mass movements of the 20th century like Fascism and Communism have left us an outdated image of what modern authoritarianism might look like. We’re not going to assemble in parade-ground formations. Politicians won’t stand erect at the microphone orating for hours. Intimidation will go where the people are. Not on the sidewalks, but in digital space. And authoritarian leaders won’t lecture. They will tweet. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States in decades. If the story ends without too much harm to the Republic it won’t be because the dangers were imagined. But because citizens resisted.

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50 thoughts on “Public Indifference Is Trump’s Asset on the Path to Autocracy”

  • Because you have a President you can't toggle anymore. The more you hate him the better he gets. Right to protest fake news. The people through the proper means of the electoral vote put Trump there and he is working for those who chose him. Retarded or not.

  • so Obama having and American teenager assassinated and wiretapping every single person on earth is fine!!

    he didn't pose a threat to legacy media's authority

  • I'm no republican but huge props to Frum for this. If there's any positive thing about trump it's that he'll help unify both parties in a neccessary effort to purge himself and his ideaology.

  • This based on a longer article in The Atlantic, and podcast on SoundCloud. Please, read or listen, and share.

  • David Frum is a neo-con who is so afraid that Trump is actually going to start changing things and his scum group of friends won't be in control anymore. Look how the left is now friends with neo-cons! What a joke!

  • Frum argues that Congress won't act as a check on Trump's power not because the oversight mechanisms have been legally weakened or circumvented but because the two branches voluntarily cooperate. That's how it is supposed to work.

    Frum argues that Trump treats independent media as the enemy, because he is hostile towards hostile media nice towards nice media. And that Trump's team is trying to use disinformation and control public perception. This isn't new at all. Obama and his allies cultivated a highly sympathetic left wing media in CNN, New York Times, and WaPo, and made it a very regular speaking point to attack and ridicule the only major right wing media outlet, Fox, and suppress or ignore the various other right wing outlets. Obama's administration was notorious for manipulating public perception and manipulative communications. I don't like manipulative public discourse and rhetoric but it's unreasonable to claim this as some new trend or somehow unique to Trump.

    Trump is a genuine power change. Frum and the Obama left represent two competing factions of the old guard. They are hysterical to see their views pushed out and some of their ideas refuted.

  • Trumplings are as real as the people tweeting Qaddafi was a great guy back in the Arab Spring. Most aren't real people. It's PR money. They try to get your goat. Just ignore them. They really are just bots xD

    More impotently the PR firms that took Qaddafi's money didn't give a crap when they caught and killed him.

    They won't when trump goes down.

    Then the demons will vanish back in to the web.

    Just like before.

  • I love how he gets in a dig at protesters at the beginning but his thesis is that public indifference will be our downfall. We'll take to the streets how we please you neocon hack. You are of no use to us anyway.

  • David Frum, as always, give us an in-depth description of the disease, with some important cautions about what not to do (no waving of foreign flags, no burning of American flags). But we await his, or anyone of his intellectual caliber, to give us a prescription for the cure.
    The message in this video, however, does set us on the right path:
    RESIST, BUT RESIST SMART.
    And always remember: this revolution WILL be televised.

  • You don't have to frame things against trump so aggressively. You could just tell the straight facts, those are bad enough. The embellishment erodes credibility for informed viewers.

  • I am the logical conclusion of Americans being the best entertained, least informed people in the world. The Republicans have been lying about the nature of reality for decades now, all while whipping up their electorate into a frenzy of hatred toward any group different from themselves. The Bush Administration got away with lying for almost a decade without any accountability in the end. You yourself, David, were a part of the right wing in the early 2000s–"Axis of Hate," I believe, was your original version of Bush's "Axis of Evil." My Administration is possible only because of the Bush years. The Republican electorate has only become more irrational and hate-filled since 2008. You, David, are one of my progenitors. When you fill the masses with fear, you can no longer resort to reason to stop the rampage.

  • Doubt the US would be where it is today if it wasn't for people like Frum who refused to see where Bush and the Republicans were taking the US.

  • It is a medical condition called delusional paranoia. Things to watch out for are sitting in a dark room talking to yourself.

  • Thank you, sir. I've watched you for years on Bill Maher's show and have always deeply appreciated the sobriety and civility of your discussions, even if I didn't always agree with all your points or could not see them at the time. I am 100% for anyone who respects the spirit of our American Republic and I see you as a public figure who has always tried to do your best. I think this may be your finest hour yet, and I wanted to say thank you for that classic sobriety and civility. I consider your current writings bravery in the midst of the morass created by so-called liberals and so-called conservatives who seem to put Ideology and Party above Truth and Country. Thank you, again, sir.

  • I'm sure David Frum and "The Atlantic" was up in arms when Obama's people were murdering Mexicans in Fast and Furious or using the IRS to persecute conservatives. Sam Harris is right, the left is irredeemably out of touch with the American people and can not be saved.

  • I am not a Republican nor am I a Partisan. I am so disheartened by the surreal political dialogue, that I doubt reality itself!
    When ever I hear Mr. Frum comment on politics it is awakening …a voice of thoughtful reasoning.
    In his book "The Two Hands of God" Alan Watts talks about dichotomies and polar opposites. Reacting to the bipolar mindset of Trump the opposition has been numbed and diminished down to a ridiculous position.
    Thank you David Frum for being a lonely voice of reason from the Mad House.

  • There are two weapons that Trump and his minions wield effectively, intimidation and fear. I know Americans don't like to compare our present political situation to Germany in the mid 1930's but with any kind of knowledge, it is a valid comparison. I would rather go down fighting him and his ideas than waiting for cronies to come for me and those who see him for what he is. Can anyone demonstrate how he and his supporters are different.

  • What is the best way for citizens to resist then? Because even from Frum's observations, this administration seems to have a counter strategy for all forms of resistance.

  • Public Indifference is also the asset of the legacy media, such as CNN or The Atlantic, who manufacture consent and truth in order to maintain moral authority as the fifth column.

  • He should immigrated to Canada and become a Canadian. I can see a wedding ring on his finger. He should bring his family to Canada and help increase our population. He can become a liberal, conservative or NDP (Socialist party in Canada) leader of those political parties except for the BLOC who is dying separatist party from Quebec. PS, any Americans wants to become a Canadian. We have different social political parties in Canada to vote for. Our politics is not perfect if we have a bad prime-minister and his/her form a majority government in Canada. We can't do anything about it but a minority government is a different story. They will not last a four year term if the prime-minister does something stupid. You vote for your MP is like the version of the US congress or Senator. I can tell you that the Canadian senate is useless because they are appointed by the prime minister in power. The Canadian senate doesn't have power at all or political decision in the Canadian society. I can say that the Canadian senate is more like a figure head in Canada.

  • Anarchists are like, we told you so. You never listen. You never have. You keep thinking you need a leader to follow, when you can lead yourself. You keep thinking you need government, when you can govern your own self.

    These things should be so self evident to you, like knowing if your kid follows random strangers and obeys what the stranger tells them to do, they are going to get lost and hurt. And yet you yourself follow random strangers and defer to their authority. Does that compute to you? Stop obeying the police, stop paying taxes, stop following the rules and laws you had nothing to do with making, stop fearing the state, stop thinking a Constitution you did not write or a country you did not found or a flag you did not make is somehow "yours".

  • David Frum is a Conservative Republican and was a speach writer for George W. Bush. I agree with what he is saying here, but I am giving you his background in support of my opinion. I just want to point out he is one of many traditionally Conervative Republicans who sees the Trump threat the same way. When you have town cryers shouting from both parties, people might should pay attention.

  • Frum is really more afraid of the Establishment losing its power- then, the establmnts power to be influenced will be lessened and people like from might have to actually work for a living instead of making up fake news, hypothesizing …etc. Trump is the peoples choice – Draining the swamp is Trumps phrase- its working. Paul Ryan is leaving, Flake is leaving . If we could get a mass exodus of Rinos and Liberals to leave asap, America would see a flood of "changing-back" to good traditional problem solving. (An ounce of prevention would definitely have been better than the "pound" of cure facing Americans ( notice I didn't say congressman ) , excluding the typical news pariahs like Mr Fru m

  • Democracy is only as good as the people. That’s why we have a kind of dummy democracy, better known as a “republic.” Your vote is no good, only the Electoral College is good. Gonna do something about that? Of course not. You get the government you deserve, and apparently you don’t deserve anything.

  • Scientists have found that conservatives have a different brain structure. It must be really stupid brain structure.

  • What I recall is Mexicans carrying Mexican flags in America as long as I can remember. They did so before I was born, and will likely do so when I'm gone. As obvious as that sounds, clearly it's not. But you suggested they've only done so under the current administration.

    Which president saw a million illegal aliens marching in the streets, vandalizing public and private property, taking down American flags, hoisting Mexican flags, and daring INS (not ICE) to arrest them? Not Trump.

    Which president not only saw the rise of black lives matter, but encouraged them to protest? Not Trump. Another claim you made.

    Which president was the first in a very long time to make the media so afraid of actually reporting the truth, or anything negative, such that he blacklisted them from White House press briefings? Not Trump.

    So before someone says "oh another Trump supporter", no. I didn't vote for him, and I have very little about him with which I agree.

    But he's correct about one thing: there is a lot of "fake news", and this is one piece of it.

    Yellow journalism was better than what is going on today. It sickens me that this is but one more outlet which would rather add to the fire in a cowardly attempt for subscriptions, than rise above partisan politics and report FACTS.

    Cowards I say, without a shred of journalistic integrity.

  • The reality is that confidence in democracy is decreasing because democracy isn't a great system of government, and those without the means to take advantage of its opportunities feel that intuitively. The iron law of oligarchy will always work. The autocrat has the capacity through a reserve of independent power and influence to balance the aristocracy.

  • This is absolutely insane! Trump is not challenging the republic, he's actually fighting for his policies. For decades Presidents have caved to protests and activist. Trump on the other hand is using the opposition to his advantage, like Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Nixon all did. If the opposition wants to change things, yelling in the streets won't work, because Trump isn't going to cave. And the whole idea that no President before has done this is a lie. The Tea Party movement was blown out of proportion by Obama, and the Democrats successfully kept the Senate in 2010. All Trump is, is he's a rouge, who doesn't care what the media says or does because he doesn't trust them or care about them. Trump is doing exactly what he promised, he's only answerable to the people who elected him, and the opposition is nothing but a bunch of lying, selfish, losers. Trump is hated so much by the opposition because nothing they do can stop him unless they successfully win elections, which is looking grim on if any major changes will come.

  • If Trump is an autocrat who is threatening democracy, why is he lowering taxes, loosening regulations and not using the federal government's agencies to spy on, stymie, indict and even imprison his political enemies who committed no crime other than opposing him?

    The last President raised taxes, suffocated us with regulations and abused his power we trusted him with to keep us safe to attack his political enemies. When his party lost control of Congress, he said he would simply act without their approval. That sounds……autocratic.

    Where were David Frum and The Atlantic calling out the autocratic tendencies of the President "threatening our democracy"?