Robert Reich: Fifteen Ways to Spot a Tyrant

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Donald Trump and his wife Melania during New Year's Eve celebrations at the Mar-a-lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, December 31. Robert Reich writes that Trump displays all the tell-tale signs of a despot overturning democracy. Jonathan Ernst/reuters

This article first appeared on RobertReich.org.

As tyrants take control of democracies, they typically:

1.  Exaggerate their mandate to govern—claiming, for example, that they won an election by a landslide even after losing the popular vote.

2.  Repeatedly claim massive voter fraud in the absence of any evidence, in order to restrict voting in subsequent elections.

3.  Call anyone who opposes them “enemies.”

4.  Turn the public against journalists or media outlets that criticize them, calling them "deceitful” and “scum.”

5.  Hold few if any press conferences, preferring to communicate with the public directly through mass rallies and unfiltered statements.

6.  Tell the public big lies, causing them to doubt the truth and to believe fictions that support the tyrants’ goals.

Related : Robert Reich : Rallies and Lies. This Is How Tyranny Begins

7.  Blame economic stresses on immigrants or racial or religious minorities, and foment public bias and even violence against them.

8.  Attribute acts of domestic violence to “enemies within,” and use such events as excuses to beef up internal security and limit civil liberties.

9.  Threaten mass deportations, registries of religious minorities and the banning of refugees.

10. Seek to eliminate or reduce the influence of competing centers of power, such as labor unions and opposition parties.

11. Appoint family members to high positions of authority.

12. Surround themselves with their own personal security forces rather than security details accountable to the public.

13. Put generals into top civilian posts.

14. Make personal alliances with foreign dictators.

15. Draw no distinction between personal property and public property, profiteering from their public office.

Consider yourself warned.

Robert Reich is the chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a senior fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as secretary of labor in the Clinton administration, and Time magazine named him one of the 10 most effective Cabinet secretaries of the 20th century. He has written 14 books, including the best-sellers Aftershock, The Work of Nations and Beyond Outrage and, most recently, Saving Capitalism. He is also a founding editor of The American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and co-creator of the award-winning documentary Inequality for All.