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Trump 13: Wanting a dictator

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I’d never heard of the movie Gabriel Over the White House until a few days ago, when a friend (who also had just recently learned of it) screened it for me. If you’re in a mood to be frightened, this one will do the job.

It was set for release early in 1933, within days of Frank Roosevelt’s swearing-in, and at a peak (or depth) of the Great Depression. The film, technically advanced for the time, was set in that time and place, and focused on Judson Hammond (played by Walter Huston), the newly-elected president of the United States. At first he seems ineffectual, until an accident leave him in a coma. He revives from it, apparently with the help of the angel Gabriel, and becomes decisive – extremely decisive. He dissolves Congress and the Supreme Court, wipes out any remaining opposition within the country (the army is employed), then imposes his will on leaders of other countries – and miraculously saves the country. Whereupon, he dies.

The picture was pulled from general distribution after producers and others observed what was happening at the time in Germany. But it has a strong and eerie resonance now.

But for the last plot bit, Gabriel seems to be what a large portion of Trump supporters seem to want. Trump’s statements have all the earmarks of a dictator-in-the-making, but he has never applied that term to himself. (Yet.) Some of hs followers have, though, and enthusiastically.

Huffington Post on July 29 reported how “Hundreds of posts in Reddit’s The_Donald forum ― where Donald Trump this week participated in a Q&A session ― refer to the Republican presidential nominee as “God Emperor.” The practice of using this name for Trump apparently caught on last spring. New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman wrote in May about the deluge of anti-Semitic hate he’d received from self-identified Trump supporters, including “Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew” from a user called “Trump God Emperor.” Among Trump’s active online supporters, using the nickname is now commonplace. The post announcing Trump’s participation in the Q&A heralded “our God Emperor,” and a search of the phrase returned over 200 posts in the day after Trump’s appearance.”

I don’t mean to overstate here: “Some forum members say “God Emperor” is simply a tongue-in-cheek attempt to rile up Trump opponents who fear he would be a strongman as president. The term is attributed variously to God Emperor characters in the science fiction series Dune and a tabletop game called ‘Warhammer 40,000’. ‘We know he can’t literally be one,’ wrote member NewJersey908, but the phrase whips people ‘into a frenzy saying that we literally want a dictator.’”

I’ve learned to be wary – and often dismiss – followup statements from this crowd saying something to the effect of, “We were only kidding.” When eyes look away, that’s often followed by statements that more clearly say, “No, we weren’t.”

The idea of We the People as the big boss of this country, of democracy as our form of government now and always, is so ingrained that many of us have a hard time imagining anything else – or that any significant number of Americans do think in any other way.

But there’s no mistaking it. Quite a few Americans do think otherwise, and that’s one of the scariest realizations of electiono 2016: That a lot of Americans really would prefer it be the last. – rs

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