Explanatory Note: The Steady State was founded because former senior members of the US national security community see Donald Trump as a danger to the democracy of this country. The threat he poses to our democracy intensifies every day of this election cycle.
We have seen autocrats in other countries steal elections and destroy their democracies. Imagining what Trump and his campaign looks like to other countries, especially longtime allies, illustrates exactly how dangerous Trump and his Senate and media allies are to the United States. Until November 3, 2020, The Steady State will write reports that reflect what we see as the current president of the United States follows the autocrat’s playbook more and more closely, and will mimic what we would be writing back to our own leaders, if this were happening in another country. Again, the reports are based on our own experiences watching candidates in other countries undermine legitimate elections with lies and violence. We have chosen to present the writings as coming from the Ambassador and Secret Service of an imaginary country, an established democracy, which is a long-time ally of the US, the fictional country, Freedonia.
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The following is a report from Freedonian Ambassador to the United States William Smythe, covering the two weeks from 28 August — 5 September 2020.
AMBASSADOR’S REPORT ON THE AMERICAN POLITICAL SITUATION
28 August — 5 September 2020
The 3 Sept story in The Atlantic reporting that President Trump had canceled a planned 2018 visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery in France, calling the soldiers buried there “losers,” has dominated the political news for the last several days. On the same trip he told staff that the 1,800 marines who perished in the 1918 battle of Belleau Wood were “suckers,” adding that he did not understand why the U.S. became involved in World War I. While the White House denied the story, many observers quickly recalled Trump’s criticism of the late Senator John McCain’s status as a war hero, and Trump’s attacks on senior military officers who briefed him in the initial days of his presidency.
The Republican Convention threatened to black out all other news the week of 28 Aug, but details of the police/militia killings in Kenosha Wisconsin have gotten a lot of attention, as have advisors Eric Trump and Kellyanne Conway and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The RNC convention was a festival of misleading or outright dishonest speeches. These speeches largely ignored COVID, which at the latest count has killed some 180,000 people. The speeches wildly misrepresented the economy, ignoring that Obama left Trump a country in good economic shape, and the reality that, for each of the three years of Trump’s presidency, the economy has underperformed Obama’s economy.
The Kenosha killings and protests have, in many ways, reflected the two sides of polarized America: the police and armed “militia,” a seventeen-year-old boy from Illinois, killed three peaceful protesters. The police seemed to welcome the young man who did the second and third killings: they made no apparent move to stop him from leaving the scene and seemed to welcome his presence.
In other news, Trump has repeated his warnings that he will send sheriffs and police to the polls; Eric Trump has refused to testify in an investigation of the Trump Organization being conducted by New York’s attorney general; Kellyanne Conway, one of Trump’s longest serving and most trusted advisers left her position at the end of the week; and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo violated all norms of political history, giving a speech from the US Embassy in Jerusalem, after having been rebuked on additional Iran sanctions by US allies at the UN.
Ambassador Comments: While Trump has kept his loyalists in line despite such gaffes before, The Atlantic’s story seems to be sticking several days later. Americans in all walks of life tend to be very fond of their military service members, and particularly respectful of those who sacrificed their lives for their country; while pundits have been calling one gaffe or another the “end of the Trump presidency” since 2017, this incident may finally be the one to significantly damage support in his (generally pro-military) base.
The Kenosha militia attacks, the flagrant RNC dishonesty, the attacks on the voting process and Eric Trump’s refusal to honor legal subpoenas are all indications that the Trump Presidency is mounting an all-out assault on American democracy. Trump and his enablers in Congress, governor’s houses and Fox News continue their attacks on truth and the rule of law, fundamental pillars of democracy, while too many local officials welcome illegal actions against the people they are supposed to protect by armed hooligans.
The personnel of the Embassy of Freedonia are in close touch with our counterparts in the US government, the US media, lawmakers and private citizens. Many of these people evince dismay at the direction of the country, and concern about the future.
Next Steps: We will be updating our Human Rights and Political Freedom report to reflect the additional decline in America’s performance this year. Our anti-corruption ranking for investors will decrease from “needs improvement” to “caution.” We will continue to discourage Freedonian travel to America due to the U.S. government’s lack of effort on Covid-19.