How Many People Does It Take to Drive Out an Oppressor?

Curt Wechsler | February 24, 2018

"We are still in the early stages of an authoritarian regime change," warns Salon writer Chauncey Devega. "We still have an aspiring authoritarian leader. Many people have gotten to the point where I was a year ago, which is recognizing that this situation is uncertain and the outcome depends upon us. Matters are not hopeless but they are dire. The stakes are very high."

In his 2017 book On Tyranny, Yale historian Timothy Snyder gave the American people one year to stop Donald Trump from shredding traditional democratic rights. Without speculating on a national emergency (like Nazi Germany's "Reichstag fire") staged in order to consolidate power, we can safely predict an upsurge in governmental repression and control in response to the resistance we've mustered to date. "I think what people have done in the last year has made a tremendous difference," says Snyder. "Things are bad and they're going to get worse before they get better, but if it weren't for the marches, local activists, lawyers defending people's civil rights, citizens calling their representatives and investigative journalists doing their jobs, things could be a lot worse than they are." But "if we all get tired and say we can't do it anymore, then things will go south very quickly."

Chauncey DeVega concludes that Americans must react better than the Germans did in 1933. He is surprised at the lack of realization that a mainstream (Republican) party "is allowing something extraordinary to happen in America. But after a while there will not be mainstream parties anymore. The analogies are clearly there."

There was enough of a base for Hitler to stay in power, roughly the same size of Trump's following, roughly a third of the population. But "it's not a situation where if Donald Trump has 25 percent of the public, we are safe, and if he has 35 percent, we are doomed," adds DeVega. "The ways Americans interact with each other as members of a shared community" will demonstrate our determination to refuse to accept a fascist America.