If a suggestion is made to someone that a dictatorship is possible in America, it is met with derision and the assertion that “it could never happen here, the American people would not stand for it”. The average person clings to this belief even as they continue to witness an increase in the tyranny of government over their lives with every passing news cycle.
I am not suggesting that we are on the verge of dictatorship. I am saying that we close our mind to the possibility at our own risk. George Washington in his Farewell Address gave us some insight into how dictators come into power.
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight)…” ~George Washington (1796)
Paul Brooker, in his book, “Non-Democratic Regimes: Theory, Government and Politics”, describes the process this way.
“The characteristic feature of the modernized, twentieth-century dictatorships was their possession of an official ideology and political party… many … examples were produced by an ideologically committed political party seizing power and establishing a dictatorship, as in the case of the Communist regime in Russia and the Fascist and Nazi regimes in Italy and Germany. …The most blatant shift to personal dictatorship occurs when an elected civilian president stages an autogolpe and uses this self-coup to misappropriate the public office and powers he has acquired by democratic, constitutional means”…
The point both Washington and Brooker are attempting to make is that whenever a fervently ideological political party gains overwhelming dominance over competing parties, the conditions are ripe for tyranny to flourish.
We are not at that point yet, however, recent events indicate that we should not delude ourselves into thinking such a development is not possible in our country.