Dictators do not spring up on their own accord. No human being possesses the power to subdue an entire nation through their own devices. The rise of a dictator has three primary ingredients.
First, an individual emerges who has the perfect mix of ambition, charisma, and cunning. Richard Nixon had the ambition of a dictator but not the charisma. Ronald Reagan had charisma, but did not aspire to seize absolute power.
A would-be dictator develops a cult of personality. They become a cause personified. Hitler became the personification for Germany’s return to respect and power. Lenin and Stalin were Communism personified. Barack Obama marketed himself as the living image of hope and change.
A dictator may start out as an individual who truly wants to do good. This person may not even aspire to absolute power at the start. But what happens early on is that they start believing that they are larger than life. They believe that they are special and different from others. They begin to amass a following of loyal admirers who nurture their ego.
This brings us to the second ingredient. In order for a dictator to rise, he or she must have a loyal, almost slavish group of supporters. For these people the dictator can do no wrong. They are mesmerized in the presence of the dictator. They will suffer no criticism of the dictator. It is when the dictator’s sphere of loyalists extends into areas of true power that the dictator begins his rise. A fawning press, enthralled celebrities, mesmerized political peers, and captivated wealthy donors form a formidable base of support from which a dictator can begin to consolidate power.
Finally the third ingredient is a feckless opposition. As the aura of power around the dictator grows, fewer and fewer people dare to challenge him. The dictator masterfully frames the debate so any opposition to him is opposition to a grand cause. Policy differences become transformed into a “war on women”, racism, homophobia, and xenophobia. If you are against the dictator’s economic policy you are against the worker. If you are against the dictator’s foreign policy you are unpatriotic.
All the while the dictator’s loyalists work feverishly to build the narrative of the dictator as the enlightened savior and the opposition as dangerous, stupid, boorish, and evil. As the propaganda machine gains speed the opposition melts away until only a few lone voices of dissent are left. Often these hold-outs are dragged down one-by-one by former allies who seek to gain the approval of the dictator’s regime.
If any of these ingredients look familiar to you, it is because we are in the middle of an emerging dictatorship. Barack Obama swept into power with all the messianic trappings of the second coming of Christ. Instead of a sword and a white horse he has a pen and a phone.
It would be hard for the humblest of men not to see the potential for power in the swell of support he enjoyed. But Obama is not a humble man. Humility does not take one from being a community organizer to the President of the United States over an astonishingly short period of time.
Obama believes that he was put in this time and place to make a difference. And while that is not necessarily a bad thing (indeed it could be a good thing) it becomes evil when you start to believe that your special abilities give you a license to act outside the limits of your power. Dictators often try to fool themselves and others into limiting freedom in the name of “the greater good”. But the fact is freedom is the greatest good.
Saving the environment from climate change, helping immigrants come out of the shadows, wage fairness – all are causes Obama would seek to compromise our Constitutional system for in the name of the greater good. But these are all lesser goods compared to the protections to our liberty afforded us in the very Constitutional system that the President is undermining.
What does your salary or your immigration status or the average global temperature matter if you lose your freedom and are forced to live under the whims of a dictator?
Today we are talking about causes that some people view as noble. That is how all dictators start. Soon the causes become more self-serving and eventually diabolical. Soon there are calls to silence the voices of opposition lest they stand in the way of the greater good. Soon the dictator seeks to expand his power indefinitely because he is best equipped to achieve the greater good. Soon all opposition must be imprisoned and reeducated because they refuse to comply with the greater good.
We have not yet reached that stage. But make no mistake, we are headed there. All three ingredients for a dictatorship are in place – an ambitious, charismatic and cunning leader, a slavishly loyal group of powerful supporters, and a completely inept and cowardly opposition (yes I am talking about you, [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ], [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ], and all progressive Republicans).
Today Obama is using his pen to put illegal immigrants on the path to citizenship, in the not too distance future that same pen could be used to put citizens who oppose him on the road to a re-education camp. If it sounds far-fetched ask those who saw Stalin, Mao, and Hitler rise to power. When law and order are cast aside in the name of hope and change, the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how beneficent the man who would be dictator appears at the start.