Monday, March 4, 2024

Opinion | Robert Kagan’s terrifying warning about a looming dictatorship

Opinion | Robert Kagan’s terrifying warning about a looming dictatorship

In his Dec. 3 Opinions Essay, “A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.,” Robert Kagan shone a bright light on the plausible path to a Trump dictatorship. I suspect we will hear little in response from the many senators who declined to convict former president Donald Trump in his second impeachment. They tracked the rationale of Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who said during his first impeachment that he had surely learned his lesson. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said, in response to the question of whether Republicans would hold Mr. Trump responsible for Jan. 6, 2021: “My personal view is that the president touched the hot stove on Wednesday and is unlikely to touch it again.” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) assured Americans that though refusing to convict Mr. Trump would not impair his continued eligibility for reelection as president, he could and should be held accountable in a court of law for any crimes he might have committed.

The premise of the dark picture illuminated by Mr. Kagan is that the process of determining the 2024 Republican Party nominee for president is being treated as “politics as usual” by the party and the media. In unwitting confirmation, we were treated in the same section of the paper to George F. Will’s assessment that former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley is strategically biding her time to strike a devastating blow to Mr. Trump’s candidacy, perhaps after a successful showing in the New Hampshire primary almost two months away. Mr. Will dependably provides sage historical context with which to reflect on today’s politics. We would have been better served if Mr. Will had instead described the similarities of the current situation, as described by Mr. Kagan, to when Paul von Hindenburg, who won democratic reelection as president of the Weimar Republic in 1932, appointed defeated presidential candidate Adolf Hitler as chancellor. Hitler had absolute power in less than two months.

David W. Brown, Alexandria

Robert Kagan’s eloquent and specific clarion call should be taken in earnest. Many of those who voted for Donald Trump and those who still adore or support the former president for his wrecking-ball posture will never see what he really is.

The third-party egoist challengers think they know better, and, frankly, President Biden also thinks he knows better. He needs to be a one-term president, gracefully and gratefully, and allow the process to perhaps find someone (not Vice President Harris) who is cognitively clear and has something to say to run as a Democrat against Mr. Trump.

To be blunt, as better articulated by Mr. Kagan: We are doomed. And, sadly, given history and the failures to address basic needs such as health insurance and truly equal educational experiences not based on Zip code, this degeneration of democracy in the face of obscene wealth inequality is coming to, for too many, a welcome conclusion. After all, the wealthy do not need infrastructure — just castles and helicopters and personal health care — and those in the aggrieved and muddled middle will have Mr. Trump and his cultists provide them with bread and circuses.

Jonathan Shutman, Ocean, N.J.

If former president Donald Trump wins the 2024 presidential election, there will be a lot of problems. But, contrary to Robert Kagan’s Opinions Essay, dictatorship won’t be one of them.

Mr. Trump can’t just replace those in charge of government institutions. He needs Senate confirmation for executive officials. If Democrats win either or both chambers in Congress, he can’t change that. The administrative state has tons of entrenched employees. The courts are filled already with judges with lifetime appointments. State and local governments are totally separate. He’d have to get the military to do all he wants by force, which is very unlikely. So a Trump presidency would be dangerous, but it wouldn’t be a dictatorship.

William Cooper, Truckee, Calif.

Seemingly every day, there are new terrifying articles about former president Donald Trump’s plans for a second term and noting that the odds of him becoming president again are not small. It is incredibly disappointing to see “normal” Republicans such as New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp indicate that they will vote for Mr. Trump if he is the GOP nominee. They know how dangerous Mr. Trump is to our institutions and way of life. Most Americans are not political experts and will look to people they trust, such as Mr. Sununu and Mr. Kemp, for guidance. If these traditional Republicans in leadership positions imply that a second Trump term would be just fine, they are doing their country an immense disservice.

Robert Kagan looked at the odds of a Trump dictatorship in a vacuum, apparently not considering the results of every election since 2016, which have repudiated former president Donald Trump and MAGA politics. Mr. Kagan ignored the growing backlash against incompetent members of Congress and the very successful grass-roots efforts to get out the vote for 2024.

Democrats and the Biden administration are not the feckless bunch he portrayed them to be. Mr. Kagan has developed a parting-of-the-Red Sea theory of a Trump march to the White House. Wrong. MAGA Republicans are a vocal minority. How many of them showed up to rally in Florida when Mr. Trump went to court for his indictment? Very few. MAGA Republicans are learning that following Mr. Trump’s directions leads straight to a jail sentence.

Elizabeth Leggat, Brookline, Mass.

I don’t know whether I should cry or throw up or both. Robert Kagan’s Opinions Essay was absolutely terrifying. And every word was gospel. I am frightened for what’s happening to our beautiful country. It’s enough to make my blood run cold. I hope that those who can will take charge to right this ship of state before it’s gone.

Wendy Shelley, Alexandria

Robert Kagan’s Opinions Essay regarding an impending Trump dictatorship chilled me to the bone. I found myself wishing that my grandfather, uncle and father, all lifelong Republicans, were alive to guide me through the next year’s political peril with their wisdom. All three put their lives on the line for the country they loved: my grandfather, a World War I Navy pilot; my uncle, a World War II sailor in the Pacific Theater; my father, the commander of a Polaris nuclear submarine during the Cold War and, later, the assistant to Adm. Elmo Zumwalt in Vietnam. I pondered, “Surely there must be a way I can use my life to defend our democracy, even in my ‘old age.’”

Days ago, for the first time in my life, I registered to vote as a Republican. On May 14, I will cast my primary vote for the GOP presidential candidate with the best chance to win the nomination away from the current front-runner, no matter how remote the chances are. One stone can kill a giant.

Peg Bachrach, Silver Spring

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