Trump's Authoritarian Slogans Aren't Just Shocking. They're Actually Dangerous | Opinion

Each day, President Trump trumps his own previous outrages. His Town Hall debacle performance last Thursday was shocking. His "lock them all up" applause line at his Michigan rally on Saturday was frightening.

The mainstream media naturally condemn Trump's norm-busting statements, but they also describe them as "self-destructive," "snippets of inner monolog" or "rhetorical outbursts." But they're much worse than that. They are deliberate, substantive attacks on the rule of law, truth in political discourse, and Americans' rights, freedoms, and values.

It's not inadvertent when Trump attacks Governor Whitmer instead of the right-wing extremists who plotted against her, or when his policies systematically separate families and lock children in cages. So when he says outrageous things like "lock them all up," we need to take him very seriously.

At his Town Hall meeting Trump said his people have such affection for him, he can't prevent them from hugging him. He wasn't misspeaking or being metaphorical; he was saying explicitly he has no intention of taking any steps to prevent spreading covid-19 to his supporters, gold star families, or anyone else. Asked whether he had been tested for the virus prior to his first debate with Biden, he said "Possibly I did, possibly I did not." He wasn't equivocating; he was deliberately signaling he's fine with the idea of infecting his opponent with a deadly virus. When he advanced the proposition that 85 percent of those who wear masks become infected with covid, he wasn't inadvertently getting the facts wrong; he was explicitly undermining measures that inhibit the spread of the virus, because chaos and fear are part of his election strategy.

Trump's trampling on truth would disqualify anyone else for any public office. In fact, his refusal to disclose financial information or the real source of his $421 million in debt would disqualify anyone else from taking out a mortgage. How can such a person be entrusted with the power to use nuclear weapons, or the responsibility to protect our health, safety, and rights?

The relationship between the American people and any legitimate government rests on accountability and transparency. It requires honesty and the pursuit of the common good. Trump's statements and actions undermine these principles and insult American norms and values. Lest we forget, here are some of the foundational principles of our system of government, which Trump has intentionally and systematically violates, and which we must now reaffirm:

1. The rule of law

The integrity of our system hinges on an independent judiciary above the fray of partisan politics, and on restraint of the exercise of the power of the state. We need justice in order to have a stable, equitable society where people can be free and prosperous, where contracts are honored, businesses can flourish, and people can speak their minds without fear of reprisal. The exercise of power must be subject to the rule of law at all levels.

America is the first nation founded by a legal instrument, the Constitution, rather than on race, religion, or ethnic identity. To undermine the rule of law is to corrode the very foundation of America.

President Trump not only degrades the rule of law, he fawns on tyrannical foreign rulers, including the leaders of Turkey, North Korea, and the Philippines.

2. Fact-based analysis

A commitment to verifiable facts is fundamental for prosperity and democracy. A scientific, evidence-based understanding of the world is necessary to govern a modern society. Without facts grounded in science and evidence, we can have neither innovation, nor civilized debate, nor a well-informed electorate, nor rational policies that serve the common good. The result will be policies that undermine society's ability to function.

Trump isn't dismayed by that; he's counting on it. Incredibly, he substitutes his own self-serving prejudices for facts and science. But in today's world, veracity is a matter of life or death. The pandemic has killed a million people and counting, climate change is accelerating and stands to kill many more people than covid, ecosystems are declining globally, nuclear weapons dangers are increasing and we are closer to nuclear "midnight" than any time since the Cuban missile crisis. These are objective facts. Trump doesn't just ignore them, he deliberately disparages them, pulling out of the Paris accord and nuclear treaties, putting all life at increasing risk. It's an irrational, narcissistic expression of unrestrained power.

3. Rights and Freedoms

Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is equality of all, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and respect for diversity, justice and compassion. These freedoms are beyond science's purview, but they are the moral compass for public and private behavior. Leaders must exemplify them, not stoke prejudices and divisions which are inimical to the very conception of the public good. The antidote to that is human unity and universal recognition of intrinsic rights and freedoms.

Trump supports organizations that espouse racism, he countenances and incites violence, he paints bigoted nationalism as patriotism. He is a cheerleader for shredding human solidarity and the cultural fabric on which peace and freedom depend.

We all must all stop enabling Trump. Instead of focusing on Trump himself, we must turn our attention to repairing the damage he's done, and preventing more. The only remedy for a rogue president who uses his office to say "lock them all up" is to defeat him resoundingly at the polls, and lock him out of the White House.

Jonathan Granoffis president of the Global Security Institute and representative of the World Summits of Nobel Peace Laureates to the United Nations. He chairs the Task Force on Nuclear Nonproliferation of the International Law Section of the American Bar Association, and is a fellow of the World Academy of Arts and Science. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.