Two things of note from Trump’s news conference yesterday:
1) Trump shouted down a CNN reporter and would not allow him to ask a question. This was after the rest of the crowd (including the one Trump brought in – more on that in a second) had quieted down to let him speak. This is exactly the kind of behavior I expected from a President Trump, and it will be damaging to our freedom of press, our freedom of speech, and the fabric of our democracy. I was glad to see the CNN reporter did not let up and continued to press for the question. CNN also published a defense of its story yesterday which was grounded and factual. These are the types of responses our press needs to continue to make to this sort of oppression from Trump, or they will start to be silenced.
2) I’m not seeing this mentioned a lot, but to me it is a very big deal. As the press conference began, I noticed many of the speakers introducing Trump were pausing in their speeches. (And yes, they were speeches–short, but prepared all the same.) I found that odd. It sounded like they were waiting for applause. And it turned out they were–people started applauding or cheering when prompted, particularly in the middle of Trump’s speech. At first, with dawning horror, I thought the press was cheering. I learned later that it was actually a small crowd of supporters Trump specifically had brought in.
Let that sink in. Trump brought a group of supporters in to cheer for him during a press conference.
A PRESS CONFERENCE!
Later yesterday, Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess champion, commented that Trump’s press conference reminded him of a Russian one. It is easy to see why.
I heard a story on NPR not too long ago about Russia, and about Russia’s history with authoritarianism, and how the culture there is predisposed to allow dictators. Democracy was a trial for them, and many of them didn’t care for it because it was difficult and economically costly. Exploring all the reasons why democracy failed in Russia would require a fully-researched book, but the main point I want to make here is that America is unique, to my knowledge, in that it *began life as a democracy*. We have been self-governed from the beginning. We expect our leaders to answer to us. We expect them to perform. We expect them to suffer consequences if they get out of bounds. It’s ingrained in our culture, in our history, in our literature, in our upbringing, and it crosses political lines. It is a great part of what makes us–ALL OF US–American.
I could have been scared by yesterday’s press conference, but I wasn’t. More and more, Trump is simply proving out all the things I suspect about him from the beginning. Now the worst has come to pass, and he will be in the White House. I’m past being scared. Being scared doesn’t help anything.
Yes, I do believe he has designs–witting or not–of transforming this country into an authoritarian regime. Not out of idealism, but because his hubris will allow him no other method of governance. He believes he is always right and should always be obeyed. Everything else flows from that.
But his failure to understand the way this country is governed will also be his downfall. People with very little political experience or prior motivation are waking up. The press is waking up. A nation that thought itself beyond bigotry and hatred is waking up.
He is treading on a sleeping snake, and history has shown that that snake bites.