Wineke: We’re already living in an authoritarian regime

President Donald Trump Cnn 1280

MADISON, Wis. — The nation’s political pundits keep warning us that, if President Trump is reelected, we are in danger of becoming an authoritarian society.

They miss the point. We are already living in an authoritarian society. The question is whether we want to disband it.

We have a president who instructs his staff to ignore congressional subpoenas. We have a president who takes money Congress designated for military housing and uses it to build a wall. We have a president who promises to use the military to quash urban protests.

When these things happen, pundits gasp that they are “unprecedented.” Well, they’re not unprecedented anymore.

Monday took the cake.

The president has been under fire because of an Atlantic magazine article asserting that he sees those who serve in the armed forces as being “losers” and who demanded that maimed soldiers be banned from national military parades.

Obviously, he denies the whole accusation. But this is how he responded during a Monday press conference:

“I’m not saying the military is in love with me. The soldiers are. The people in the Pentagon aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so all those wonderful companies that make bombs and make planes and make everything else stay happy.”

We, of course, have heard this kind of accusation before, but we’ve heard it from Communist leaders and far left radicals.

We have never before heard the Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces assert that the purpose of our military policy is to enrich greedy capitalists.

Never. Not once.

But that’s what he said. In public. In front of television cameras.

If you’re a soldier in Afghanistan and you hear that, how happy are you going to be going out on patrol?

But this isn’t out-of-the ordinary for Trump. A few months ago, he interfered with a military discipline case, demanding that a punishment be reversed. After Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman obeyed a subpoena and testified before the impeachment panel, Trump not only had him frog marched out of the White House but fired Vindman’s twin brother as well.

You have to wonder who all this helps. Well, actually, you don’t have to wonder. It helps this nation’s adversaries. If you can dismantle a military’s trust in its chain of command, you’ve achieved a great victory.

But that’s what an authoritarian does. He substitutes trust in himself for trust in a nation’s established institutions. The president has used those tactics to get between the military leadership and the troops it is responsible for leading. He has used it to undermine the nation’s trust in the medical leadership exercised by the Centers for Disease Control.

And how many leaders of the Republican Party challenge him?