Saturday, March 13, 2021

Trump is Gandhi? (No, the other Gandhi)

Indira Gandhi once took over India and ruled by decree for nearly two years. Could Trump have done the same thing in America?

As I've noted before, it never pays to rely on the Nightly News to figure out what's going on in the world. Usually we find out ten years after the fact what the real deal was.  At the time things are happening, we are often too close to the subject matter to get an impartial appraisal.

I was surfing the internet the other day and got sucked down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and then jumped to the Wikipedia page for Indira Gandhi. It's very interesting, but when I was in school we didn't learn much about Indian history. We learned how her father (just kidding), Mahatma Gandhi fought the British and overthrew their rule and declared independence in India.

And at the time, we viewed Indira Gandhi very positively as a leader of India who was instituting many reforms. Of course, this was in junior high school in 1973 before things took a turn for the worse.

In the mid-1970s, Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and ruled by decree for almost two years. It's a very scary scenario, and hard to believe, in retrospect that the world's biggest democracy became the world's biggest dictatorship nearly overnight.

Now, maybe, based on your political leanings, you think what Gandhi did was right.  But that's not the point.  The point is, in a strong and vibrant democracy, it was quite easy to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree.  In fact, maybe it is easiest to do this in a democracy.  It was fortunate that Gandhi decided to call off the state of emergency (perhaps due to political pressure) rather than remain dictator-for-life.  It doesn't always play out that way.

We look at the lunatic rioters at the Capitol, with their funny outfits and their bumbling actions. Or at least what appeared to be bumbling actions, or perhaps that's what they want us to believe. Word is also coming out that some of these people were highly organized, and perhaps if all of them had been organized, things might be different. Some of them were quite vicious and attacked Capitol Police and severely injured in even killed one of them.  It wasn't some sort of prank gone wrong. It was a failed coup.

The story we are being told, particularly by Republicans, was that this was a ragtag mob of crazy people who had no real intent of taking over the government, or even if they did, they had no realistic chance of doing so, as they were so disorganized and inept.

When you look at what Indira Gandhi did in India, you realize that it really isn't that hard for a president to declare martial law or state of emergency and take over a country, at least temporarily. And it appears that at least in some quarters this was the plan. There were senior people in Trump's circle who pushed for a declaration of martial law and a military takeover of the government. We laugh at the pillow guy and his notes on the same thing. But this is a man who's having a sit-down meeting with the president and making these proposals in earnest.  There were others, in the administration, pushing the same agenda.  Why Trump decided not to go that route, we may never know.

Anyway, that's my perspective on it. If Gandhi got away with it, Trump could have too. And it is sad that we didn't learn about the state of emergency in India when I was in school. I don't even recall reading about it much in the paper. It's not that we as Americans are particularly ignorant about the rest of the world - well of course we are – but the people tend to focus on what's within their immediate sphere. As the old saying goes, someone being injured in your town makes the headlines.  Someone being murdered in the next town might make headlines in your town.  Ten people killed in the next state might make headlines in your town, or a hundred people in another country and so on.  It's the nature of the press.

Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and by cooler heads here, we don't mean President Trump. I think if some more people in Trump's cabinet and inner circle promoted the idea, he probably would have gone along with it as it would have fit into his narcissistic visions. I think we will discover years from now that a few key people pushed back on this idea and prevented the whole US Government from falling apart. We may not realize until a decade for now how close we came to anarchy.

Never say, "It can't happen here!" because it can.  The Germans and Indians said the same thing.