185 Comments

Without a doubt, this is the most important and insightful piece l have ever received on this subject !

Let the public beware!

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Sadly the vast majority of the public neither cares nor has the emotional intelligence to digest this. The problem is multifaceted. (personal opinion)

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It does seem as though 35% of Americans are FUBAR.

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That seems about right. Remember, regardless of what measure one uses for intelligence, by definition 50% of the population are below average. (I am not equating being MAGA with stupidity though the correlation is high. The correlation with OCEAN scores undoubtedly is causal, though.)

It is illusionary to think of the eventual triumph of good over evil. Both will be with us forever, in an eternal state of struggle. Laziness or complacency on the part of good people gives strength to the evil in our midst.

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George Carlin had a line about being average, then realizing half the people are stupider than you are.

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founding

Excuse my ignorance, what is FUBAR? Thanks kst

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Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition.

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Oh, you know, F##cked Up Beyond All Recognition

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founding

Now I know...thanks

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Ty for asking - I didn't know either. I asked my husband if he knew, and him being a WW2 buff, said sure, it came out of WW2. Along with SNAFU. (Situation Normal, All Fucked Up) And I agree with everyone - this is a hugely important piece. Ty Dr Snyder.

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But since you do, others may as well. I immediately distributed the essay to 8 of my friends and relatives. Perhaps they will do the same. I suggest that you and others do likewise.

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They'll likely never see it or hear it.

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What do you know about the "vast majority of the public" and how do you know it?

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It’s my personal thoughts/opinion. Could I be wrong? Absolutely. I sincerely hope I am. One parallel I see is the lack of support to outright disdain for Ukraine in the Trump faction. I can only assume such elected officials are a representation of their constituents. Given this kind of cruelty …. to refuse a free and beautiful people and country what they need to fight an invading country … not only to do so, yet to be so callous and vile as to make statements such as “Ukraine is a corrupt country”, etc.. ? On so many levels this (again my opinion..) shows such a basic lack of understanding for history or having transitioned to a democracy from rule by delegation of the USSR… it very much frustrates .. confuses and discourages me that people who can back any position so devoid of decency have above average intelligence,.? I am doubtful. (p.s with apologies to any potential grammatical or spelling mistakes, quite tired today)

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The GOP position on Ukraine is appalling, and inexplicable if one remembers the GOP of 40 or even 30 years ago. The romance with Putin's Russia? I like to think that Ronald Reagan (whom I did not admire) would be horrified.

Whether, or to what extent, GOP represent their constituents on foreign policy matters I don't know. Most USians have historically been pretty clueless about foreign affairs in general, especially about countries outside of this hemisphere.

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Mar 18·edited Mar 18

The GOP position on Ukraine is driven almost solely by Trump and his personal disdain for Ukraine and love for Putin. Ukraine was for many years corrupt, but that is changing and the country continues to evolve in a positive way in order to align itself more closely to the West, which is what infuriates Putin. Trump is apparently convinced that Ukraine meddled in the 2020 election and also the 2016 election. Trump has some weird reasons for believing this to be the case. He also thinks zelensky had dirt on Biden and refused to give it to him in 2020. Thus, there's a lot of personal animosity there driving Trump , and hence his followers. The rest of the MAGA opinions come from a fear of "forever wars" and the musings of Mearsheimer and the rest who think we provoked Russia by enlarging NATO.

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That's a plausible theory, but I'm curious: what are your sources? Do you have inside knowledge of the situation?

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I agree Susanna. Many Americans have a large gap in knowledge of geography, history and world affairs. I have no solutions for this. Myself, I have no degree in these matters.. I started to learn (listen, read and self teach) when I made the choice to tune in and pay attention during the Iraq War days… it became clear that not knowing was a liability. I also enjoy learning new things, it makes life worthwhile.

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What do we know and how do we know it? Political questions involve big and uncertain numbers and rough generalities of all sorts. Example: 70 million Trump votes in November, let's say, would come from less than 20% of our total population.

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Right -- but knowing how people vote is a far cry from knowing how they think, and why they vote the way they do. And that goes for the individual as well as the collective.

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This is a really important essay. I don’t think many Americans understand that if they vote a “strongman” in, that’s the end. You don’t get to vote him out once you see him destroying the country and doing nothing for you except harm. Democracy will be gone.

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As regards tfg's core supporters, it is what it is, and IMO nothing we can say or do will change their minds. One focus of our efforts must be to understand and motivate the 45-50% of US citizens who habitually do not vote - a fraction that is higher than in vibrant democracies. Presumably some fraction of them are open to the idea of changing their practice.

Sadly, to date efforts to get more people engaged have been at most modestly successful. New ideas are needed. Mandatory voting, with an income tax penalty associated with failure to vote, perhaps?

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What disturbs me is the Very Serious People who might not be all-out MAGA but, you know, don't LIKE Trump, but, well, both sides have their problems and, gosh, nothing happened last time Trump ran things, and we can still criticize the President, so there's no "fascism", nope, never could happen here.

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People of all walks of life in this Nation, left and right and center, are allergic to anything that smells like a mandate. Even though in some aspects of their life they accept rules as given. But not when it comes to the Government.

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What you say is undoubtedly true. But. 1. The suggestion was just that, and was made in part to promote civil discourse as to how we might improve the situation. 2. Imagine a conversation between a voter V and a complainer C:

C: I hate this tax penalty for non-voters! It is government overreach blah blah blah

V: Did you vote?

Alternative:

C: No.

V. Then it's your own fault. I suggest next time you find a candidate who favors your position, and vote for them!

Other Alternative:

C: Yes

V. Then you have no right to complain. It's no skin off your back!

Another alternative would be to withhold some portion of federal funding to states in which the voter turnout did not exceed some threshold, say 75%. That would also have a negative effect on voter suppression efforts. But it's just a suggestion!

What's your idea?

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founding

Maybe ‘strongman’ is just a euphemism for ‘bully’ — even nice guys don’t want to stand up to some thug who’s willing to do anything to get his way. Maybe we should be crystal clear and simply call a bully a bully.

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Before Trump laid down at Putin’s feet, G.W. Bush looked into Putin’s heart and saw it was good. Before that, KKK Grand Wizard and GOP gadfly David Duke sold Americans hungry for a strongman, on Putin as The Great White Hope of Christian Nationalism. Behind it all - an assault on representative government, government regulation, and equitable taxation. Funded by corporate and private interests bent on undoing: Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal (conservation of natural resources, control of corporations, and consumer protection); FDR’s New Deal (relief for the unemployed and poor, recovery of the economy, and reform of the financial system); LBJ’s Civil Rights legislation and Great Society programs to end poverty; and all progress towards equality since.

The biggest Republican lie is that MAGA will restore a purely American polity. When in fact Republicans are itching to ape Russian and Hungarian autocrats.

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Thank you, Lin, for saying it so clearly.

“Behind it all — an assault on representative government, government regulation, and equitable taxation. Funded by corporate and private interests. . .”

Let’s not forget them while we are lamenting the MAGA selfish and ignorant voters. Whose ignorance and sense of grievance is encouraged and supported by the corporate interests and Murdochs, Musk, Thiel, Mercers, etc.

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ThankYou.

And let's not forget to talk about Leonard Leo. A dime a dozen right wing lawyer, who's crafted a lucrative niche career for himself. Using plutocrat cash to push populist bigotry. Funneling dark money through shell companies to antidemocratic causes. Eventually stacking the Supreme Court with racist right wing religious extremists bent on repurposing a democratic republic as a corporate clerical fascist state.

https://www.propublica.org/article/leonard-leo-teneo-videos-documents

https://www.propublica.org/article/we-dont-talk-about-leonard-leo-supreme-court-supermajority

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Leonard Leo is an Opus Dei Catholic and yes, had a lot to do with the Trump Supreme Court choices.

And the most corrupt of the Justices, Thomas, is a “practicing Catholic”. The pedophilic-loving American Catholic Bishops oppose Pope Francis. They support Trumpism.

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lin, have I directed you to X’s mudpuppy’s findings yet? I think I have, but the latest regarding the Russian Orthodox Church, the billionaire oligarchs, and the R’s are very revealing. @mudpuppy_16

Scary shit, which shows not only Leo as a traitor but many others whose names were unfamiliar!

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ThankYou. As always.

It is good that these antidemocratic schemes (and Leo's role in them) are being spotlighted by many people in many contexts / platforms

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Absolutely! I just pray we all bring him and the syndicate down!

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How could I forget Leonard Leo? Who was given how many billions by a single benefactor to do his damage.

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Barre Seid. $1.6 billion. Tax free for both. Thanks to laws crafted by ...

https://www.propublica.org/article/dark-money-leonard-leo-barre-seid

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Oh yes. JD Vance. Auditioning for Trump's VP, in all the worst ways.

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As someone who grew up in the shadow of WWII, someone who lived through the Cold War, and someone who visited the Soviet Union three times along with Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the need to write this column is unfathomable but totally necessary. Send it to everyone you know.

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➡️ "The best Americans, betrayed by you when you cast your vote..." ⬅️

I was an election clerk again in LA County for 4 days this past cycle and enjoyed conversing with voters as always. One conversation in particular was bone-chilling. A native Cuban man told me about, among other things, children turning on their parents and friends turning on friends; no one could be trusted. He spoke of the degradation of civil society, the poverty that tourists never see, the loss of personhood. Hence, his move to the US in the 1980s and ultimate citizenship - and is still amazed he can vote for whom/what he pleases.

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This is exactly my experience living under Castro’s totalitarian regime (until I escaped Cuba by boat in 1980). I’m terrified to see the same signs, code messages, policy proposals and even propaganda slogans of Communist Cuba now used by Trump and his MAGA cult minions.

But I know there is no escape by boat this time. The calvary is not coming. No one will save us, but ourselves.

This is why we have to vote in numbers so large that the Republicans-in-Robes in the Supreme Court will not be able to steal another election!

Voting Blue down the ballot in November.

Vote.org

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That evokes, for me, one of the most vexing issues nowadays - how to counteract the disinformation being spewed in Spanish media. For example, I scanned through your link and had to dig to find a tab that linked to info about "Spanish Language", and even then it wasn't in Spanish. Methinks that info needs to be top of the page on every website, including the newsletters on Substack.

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Beth B so who did he vote for? I am amazed that so many Cubans and Venezuelans are Trump supporters being fed the SOCIALIST scarey talk about Democrats yet they'll vote for someone who promises to be dictator on day one - did they not hear this????????

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Mar 17·edited Mar 17

He didn't say. I didn't ask - we're not allowed to discuss voters' votes. The point is that no matter his vote, he's allowed to do so freely. However, I did get agita helping some voters navigate the ballot machine and noticed they'd chosen tfg and other magats. One dude even asked how to spell trump. 🤦🏼‍♀️ And a small number of folks changed their registration to R. That's democracy at work, no matter my gastric juices.

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Many vote with their eyes and ears shut.

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No historian confronts as does Snyder with his vast experience and sober matter of fact delivery. This is an important, albeit, terrifying piece that needs vast exposure.

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A secular prayer from Timothy Snyder. During The Strongman Fantasy, I saw, heard and read the fantasy as it lives in the US. I saw the man on the staircase walking down and down. The pictures drawn here with words were simple and real. This cusp that we are on is real. Timothy Snyder

took us down the steps.

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“Your tragedy will be living long enough to understand this.” I hope we do not reach this place in America. I admit to being terrified. This isn’t like the Bush Junior years where a civil conversation could still take place. Things are so broken here, I pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

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Mar 17·edited Mar 17

That's what I grew up with in "socialist" Czechoslovakia. Any chance of a regime like that must be stopped, Right now there is only one way to accomplish it in the upcoming presidential election.

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I recently read “The Polish House” by the current foreign minister who

grew up in the 1970s as Polish Communism floundered. Parts of it are really funny—all the stratagems and work-arounds, pin-pricks and darts, underground jokes, theft and sabotage. I lived in the Philippines in the last years of Marcos—similar.

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The European Parliament has called Putin’s constitutional amendments “illegally enacted.”

Western leaders often speak of their determination to stand up to the Kremlin. Sometimes the most powerful tool of all is simply telling the truth. Putin is not a legitimately elected president. He is a dictator and a usurper. It’s time the free world finally said so.

Opinion by Vladimir Kara-Murza ✍🏻 WAPO

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This is an important essay. But how can it get to an audience that matters? We don’t and my sense is that the 44% to 47% of the country that supports the orange guy doesn’t care.

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Each of us has a vote. (Until something takes it away.) Plan on VOTiNG; that is your weapon. Start now to motivate as many friends, family, neighbors as you can to VOTE. Know where your polling place is and what the rules are for early voting. Check to see that you are still registered, and correct any attempts to remove you from the rolls. Remind those you contact of these points and of the power of their vote. Your action such as this should remind them and you of the POWER of your vote. Do not get discouraged; that's how "they" win.

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Indeed!

Voting Blue down the ballot.

Vote.org

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I intend to print it out and make several copies to hand out to my still-friends who are in the MAGA flock and refuse to budge. My take is that it’s like trying to leave a bad relationship. It’s very difficult to cut the cord when there has been so much emotional investment made. People don’t always think with their brains.

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I did copy-and-paste the entire text and posted it on my Facebook page (including the actual link at the end).

Will also print copies to give away.

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Thank you Raul. You inspire me to do something similar.

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I'd be interested to know how many of the people you send this to continue to be your friend after reading it. That's assuming they get that the essay is talking about Trump. My MAGA neighbors don't think Trump is a wannabe dictator or that they're voting for authoritarianism. If they read this, it would either go over their heads or they'd assume it was talking about the Democrats.

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I get it. You can only lead a horse to water - it’s up to the horse to decide what to do with it. As for myself, I have to understand that not everyone has the time or interest to study this MAGA movement. I have managed to keep my MAGA friends bc I begin by assuming we all want the best for the US. It’s called common ground. People will not listen or trust you if you put them on the defense. Facts will not matter to folks who hear only one news source. I need to accept that fact but try regardless.

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PS. This is not a party issue except for the fact that the MAGA minority have less than quietly take over what used to be the R party. We need a strong two party system filled with legislators willing to give and take.

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True, but polls are now saying that 2/3 of Republican voters believe the 2020 election was stolen or otherwise invalid. That's scary.

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Maybe your "sense" is misreading the situation? Maybe you're overlooking referendum results since the Dobbs decision came down? If you're anything like me, you've got people in your orbit who are open to Trump even if they aren't hardcore MAGA. Those people are in contact with other people, some of whom may be hardcore MAGA. This essay isn't going to get to any of them by itself, so put some thought into how you can pass some of these insights along. IMO one of the most powerful ones is "You can't vote a dictatorship out of office." That's not a bad place to start.

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founding

One of the things people don't realize when they opt for a dictator is the fact that a dictator doesn't respond to anyone other than, possibly, other dictators. If 'their' dictator decides that he doesn't like their corporation or their cache of weapons, he can easily dispense with those 'rights' -- no one is exempt, no one is favored, everyone is expendable.

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I’ve started to think the same. I don’t know if it boils down to a lack of intelligence on their part or what…. even though I do not want to accept this possibility.

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It's hard to believe that MAGA supporters wouldn't regret a Trump dicatotrship once reality sets in. I've spent the past 4 years saying to my Trumpist family members... be careful want you wish for - you will live to regret giving your freedom away.

Getting them to listen , think and have any real discussion is a whole other thing, no matter how diplomatic. Part of the MAGA "in your face" attitude is disrespect and rude behavior. They don't seem to care. No matter how bizarre and deranged Trump acts.

I'm just voting BLUE all the way.

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Ive been trying and failing to understand it also. I don’t think it’s absence of intelligence. It’s a combination of polarization - groups quickly coalesce around common ideology and simply reject outside evidence; and a failure of imagination. Most people in America do not really imagine that any basic change is conceivable., and it’s incredibly inconvenient to think about it.

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Sadly true, Bowman. Yet I would also add the dumbing down of intellectual curiosity and creative, open thinking, due to a whole host of factors. The invidious, 24/7 imagistic based nature of the internet and social media's negative effects, the fact that we are nearly forty years on after the death of the Fairness Doctrine, the slow, sinking under the waves of newspapers, too many news deserts where the only "News" is Fox, etc........

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Thank you Dr. Snyder for describing what life is often like under a strongman to a large segment of our population who have never experienced anything like you’ve described.

Sadly, IMO currently in the US most folks attracted to our strongman candidate are largely attracted to him because he pointedly recognizes their GRIEVANCES and promises to redress those grievances. Their grievances are very real and need to be redressed but they are supporting him without seeing any detailed plans for how he will do this. They are voting for the hope they hear/see in his often grandiose promises without giving a considerable amount of attention to what could happen if, in fact, he destroys the administrative state and their lives consequently get worse rather than better.

Another huge undercurrent in the MAGA supporters is the age old presence of “might makes right”. It has been a vaunted presence in America since it’s settlement began - witness our near extermination of the Indians, the KKK, and many other of the dark events throughout our history. It’s our very own version of the strongman must be in control to ensure their vision of a hierarchy that will bring order. Isn’t Christian Nationalism being extolled as the MAGA answer to the multitudes who disapprove of the disorder they witness in the complex world of so many competing factions in the US today? Christian Nationalism would restore the male dominated hierarchy inherent in most Judeo-Christian religious tenets and if this is on offer by our strongman it appeals to a very large number of people who want to put a stop to the current disorder (even chaos) in their minds.

Of course, a huge problem is the MAGA voters total focus on righting these issues without actually having a firms grasp of how they’ll be righted nor how they’d be able to effectively respond if their strongman doesn’t actually deliver on his promises but instead proceeds with his own personal agenda.

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So many of us with compassion and fairness will discuss the grievances of the right wing believers, giving some benefit of the doubt. But as time has gone on with so many fake Christians and polarized, cult followers it has become obvious that these grievances are actually illegitimate. Most of these so called ‘grievances’ are based on wanting to control and dictate to others what they should think, say, do and follow - already a form of fascism is on their minds. The reason so many of these trumpers are excited about the idea of having this orange festering pustule rule them is it follows their self-sabotaging impulses and propaganda fed false evidence.

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Mar 17·edited Mar 17

I think you have made excellent points, and thank you, Margaret.

I would disagree that the grievances are legitimate for everyone who feels

aggrieved. Certainly legitimate grievances exist, but some grievances are more like envy, as I see it.

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Chilling. Orwell warned us and yet what may come to pass.

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Donald Trump says that if he is elected, he'll be a dictator for ONE DAY. His followers are so impressed with his style and stature that they trust him to GET THINGS DONE. No more shillyshallying, and hoping the Liberals will do the right thing. Trump admires Putin of Russia, and other strongmen. That's OK, because we can trust Trump! Having served as U.S. Naval Attaché for two years in the USSR, I can tell you: Once you elect a man like Trump, you may have him for as long as he and his children, and close associates, live. Read what Tim Snyder writes!

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founding

Never trust a bully. It’s always the ‘fault’ of the victim that the bully is ‘forced’ into doing something awful.

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Brilliant. I wish I had the capacity to express the danger so clearly and forcefully as you do.

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This nation was founded by a group of men and women who dreamed, often contrary to their experience that together we could find the courage, the honesty, the understanding, the tolerance, the compassion, the wisdom, the humor, the hope, and the sheer common sense to rule ourselves from the bottom up after four millennia of top-down rule. It is telling that those who would sell us on the idea of a strongman are also those who show the least amount of those qualities in their rhetoric and their actions.

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Ain't that the truth, James. Telling indeed!

At his essence, Trump is a coward, and he appeals to the unconscious cowardice in those who similarly, yet never quite as horrifically, are too afraid to engage in the market of ideas lest their deep rooted presumptions and privileges be in any way questioned.

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A man who demands loyalty over integrity has neither.

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Couldn't have said it better myself

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