Do We Have To Fear The Possibility Of A Police State?
Authoritarian-minded people, the people that John Dean wrote about in his book "Conservatives Without Conscience". There's a small number of authoritarian leaders, there's a large number of authoritarian followers and most of the people who voluntarily and enthusiastically become police officers or members of the military are authoritarian followers. Not all of them, certainly not all of them, but probably well over half.
And if you look at the history of other countries, when authoritarian regimes came to power, whether it was Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany, Franco in Spain, look at all the countries in Central and South America, the history that we see over and over and over again is that when an authoritarian leader comes to power the the structures of power and authority within the country which is principally the military and the police, and secondarily the court systems which Donald Trump is right now as Mike Papantonio just pointed out, 650 federal judges. He's fixing to completely reinvent the entire federal judiciary. Those institutions, being inclined toward authoritarianism to begin with, become more authoritarian.
So the most enthusiastic people at rooting out the Jews in Germany, the most enthusiastic people at finding the Communists in Spain, the most enthusiastic people at finding the trade unionists in Italy and utterly destroying them during the 1930s were the police.
Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't have police, I'm not saying that the whole thing needs to be changed - the police number one and the military number two. If you look at the military during the Vietnam era when we had a draft, or during World War Two when we had a draft, our military represented a broad cross-section of Americans and so the percentage of authoritarian followers was probably about the same percentage as it is in the general population as a whole, which is around 20 percent.
And in a lot of our police departments it was just a good job, particularly in New York City. Hey, they've got a strong union, you can make a hundred grand a year if you work some overtime, it's a good job, good benefits. Twenty years and you're out with a pension. It doesn't get better than that.
So in those kind of environments you end up with police officers who represent the broad spectrum of America.
But when you start paying really poorly as many of our police departments do, and when you lower the standards for entry as many of our police departments have done because they're paying poorly because Reaganism has just kneecapped the ability of towns and counties and cities to have enough money to pay for municipal services like police and fire, as your standards and your pay drop, more and more, the people who enthusiastically sign up to be police officers, it's no longer people who are looking for a good pay and a pension. It's now people who are looking for the ability to pull out their billy club or their gun and beat the crap out of or kill whoever they want, whenever they want. In other words, the authoritarians.
So this is one of the reasons why I've been saying for years and years and years with regard to the military we need to bring back the draft. There needs to be a non-military option for conscientious objectors, for people who are not fans of being part of the military, so that they can work in a hospital or a school or something like that. But everybody takes one year after after high school and either goes into the military or does public service. It's a rite of passage, something that we have lost and are lacking in our culture. It would be a good thing psychologically and culturally for people.
And with regard to our police and teachers, I've been saying this for decades - our teachers hold our future in their hands, our police hold the quality of life of our present in their hands and we dump on both of them. We don't pay teachers well and we don't give them respect and in most parts of the country we don't pay cops well and we don't give them respect. We don't hold them to high standards.
And both of those things need to change and, as I said, our military.
And until we look at these things, these systemic things, and say, "this is actually a threat to democracy that our military is being filled up with people who are authoritarians, that our police departments are being filled up with people who are authoritarians," which is just laying the ground, seeding the ground, fertilizing the ground, when an authoritarian leader like Donald Trump comes along, everybody's going to snap into line.
We have seen this happen in country after country after country and it would be a terrible, terrible thing if it happened here.
We need to be awake to these possibilities.