The Rise of the Democratic Dictators:

The World Waits for America to ‘Do the Right Thing’

2020 has indeed been the most extraordinary year in my lifetime. I believe that every so often fate and circumstance throw up years that have a profound effect on the world and I am convinced that the history books will record that 2020 has been one of the defining years of the century . 1929, 1939, 1968 were all such years engulfed in turmoil, strife and had critical events at which we all had to look at each other and decide what is right and wrong on a global platform. Whether it be a re-distribution of wealth, a re-balancing of the basic human and equal rights of all citizens and at times fighting for our very existence as free men and women.  

As we, here in the UK, struggle to come to terms with the devastation of Covid-19 and are still yet to contend with its aftermath, socially, mentally and financially I am drawn this week to events happening across the Atlantic in America. I look at them in a perverse way as a sort of respite from the frustrations of our own Government’s ineptitude with regards to the handling of the pandemic; the sheer effrontery of its lack of empathy regarding the many millions of those in poverty and going hungry at this time, and that’s before we’ve even got onto Brexit.

I say perverse as there is nothing humorous or enjoyable about events in the US as much as there is now here in the UK, a distinct lack of impetus to satirise Boris et al due to the fact that it has almost become beyond parody. But like the proverbial car crash one cannot take one’s eyes of it.

My wife and I have become, as I said in my last Blog, obsessed with watching late night CNN to catch up on the day’s happenings in the White House. Over these past months in lockdown it has been incredible to see how Trump and his administration have manipulated the system to set up a grand finale that means that I am absolutely certain that the ‘Tale of the Tape’ of the 2020 Presidential election battle will not be settled on November 4th. Like a good old fashioned ‘Red Top’ headline this one will run and run!

How can it be that the bastion of democracy around the world, the flag bearer of life, liberty and the pursuit of justice has come to such a tipping point whereby it’s very survival as a Union is now under threat again, more than at any time since the end of the Civil war in 1865. To understand how this has even become a part of the psyche of renowned political commentators I think we have to look East and the template created and already in practice by Trump’s Commander-in-Chief Vladimir Putin. It seems that Trump has been schooled by his mentor Putin in the ways of assuming power but more importantly not relinquishing his grasp on it once it is in his grip. The story starts a long time before the last election in 2016.  “A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…called 1989”.

When the last remnants of the rubble that was the  Berlin Wall were being ceremoniously scooped up by the authorities on both sides of the divide and sent away for bagging and selling on to the nearest shadowy entrepreneur for re-sell as mementos (to cement as it were the toppling of one of the most oppressive empires ever to have proliferated the globe) we might have been forgiven for thinking that such empires and dictatorships might well be a thing consigned to the  pages of our ever more scarce history text books.

But we were wrong. Not only were we wrong but we were naïve too; an unforgivable failing as the 20th Century alone had given us enough examples that the minute we rest on our laurels and isolationism it usually gives rise to another contender waiting in the wings. If not Stalin then Hitler, and why celebrate the fall of Mao only to be shocked at Pol Pot? Mugabe for Amin…you get my point.

It was easy for us in the West to categorise the countries that had the fallow conditions ripe for dictatorship. Why? Because more often than not our abandonment of those countries at the early stage of their evolution had not only seeded the land but, followed by our continued betrayal to finance the rebuilding and support of the countries in question, had taken the hose pipe out and watered the soil too! Germination was not long behind. We had our dictatorship radar on the lowest setting at DEFCON 1 and could leisurely watch from behind our desks whilst smoking our proverbial cigars!

But the 21st Century not only brought in a new era of understanding, communication, and global interaction,  it also bought in the ability to ‘hide in plain sight’ of which the illuminati of dictators around the world are now doing. ‘The rise of the Democratic Dictator’ if you will.

I am not sure there is a collective noun for a group of dictators, but I feel an  ‘illuminati of’ best serves the purpose in these circumstances. It is no surprise that with the fall of the wall and the break-up on the Soviet Union that Russia had most to lose in terms of power and financial gain. And although the ‘Bear’ slept for a decade or more assimilating into its brave new world the new kids on the block were not idle.

St Petersburg’s born and Lenin State University educated Vladimir Putin on first look would not be the obvious embodiment to be the leader of this new ruling class of Democratic Dictators but leader of the twitter trending new wave of dictators “he most certainly is”, as Trump’s Hardy might have said to Putin’s Laurel.

The sixteen year veteran of the KGB was certainly well placed to fast track himself through the new Politburo ranks. He created the new environment for any budding millennial dictator,  quickly realising that without the fall-back position of intimidation and force that had expired in many communist bloc countries in the early 1990’s, then information (and damning information at that) on your political opponents had replaced the need to imprison them.

Putin was the master of this and by 1999 he was acting President in the new more democratic era of the Russian ‘Carnivora’.

Very much akin to the dictatorships of the 20th Century the citizens of the democratic dictatorship are superfluous to the ultimate goal. Control of the people is of course a pre-requisite for any dictatorship worth its salt, as is the occasional disappearance of the odd oligarch every other year or the poisoning of a troublesome potential defector whilst sightseeing in a foreign clime. But they are only needed to make sure they get you into power. Their need after that is redundant. Once the erstwhile dictator is in power then the real action can begin.

This modern day dictator realised the enormous possibilities that came from being a democratically elected ‘Glorious’ leader. It allowed him to openly converse with the rest of the world across all aspects of commerce, financial investment and industry. He didn’t need to invade Ukraine or Poland or even France to obtain control over these countries – he only had to have ownership and control on the  cartel supplying their gas. No need to line tanks on the boarders, just be ready to throw the switch on their electricity supply at any given moment and you can rule with as iron a fist as any of the previous dictators had done before you.

Putin caught on fast and was quick to rectify his mistake of decreeing that a two term Presidency only would be enough to carry out his plan for world domination by running again in 2012 and regaining power from a reluctant but well paid off outgoing President Medvedev.

The template was now secured. His guidelines to success in place. The only question now was where could Vladimir ‘McPutin’ sell his franchise next and who to?

Of course, the cliché habits of ‘Old Skool’ dictators are hard to shrug off in a democracy.

Jailing of political opponents still has to be carried out, if not in the same way as the genocidal purges from before . Credible storylines of corruption must be promoted so the free world, of which the newly accepted democratic dictator is now a part of, are satisfied that the bell of freedom is still ringing.

Curtailing of press freedom has to be subtly introduced so not to alarm too many of the liberals at the same time and preferable find a supportive channel and social media feed that further confirms the budding dictator’s argument that what you say is true and everything else is not… fake news if you like.

And finally when the time is right, as can been seen in Russia today and maybe America tomorrow, the doctrine for any potential democratic dictator is to make sure their tenure at the top is extended by the early voicing that any free and fair elections will be compromised by an outside interest… which undoubtedly will secure a win for your opponent, when in reality it will assure you of the win as the outside interests are your interests too.

Any of this sound familiar? What happened in Russia in 2012 is a mirror to what’s going to happen in America tomorrow.  Or to be more precise on November 3rd.

Putin, along with his other ‘Most gracious and brilliant comrades’, Trump, Bolsonaro and Johnson are the Hans Gruber’s of the democratic dictator members club. Distract the masses on human rights policies, racism, common sense, drinking bleach and sun beds whilst the real robbery is taking place in the basement.

Master Putin has taught his students well.

It’s always been about the money and whatever happened in that Moscow hotel room somewhere between 1985 and 2016 it was the catalyst that allowed Putin to control and then ultimately offer the present incumbent of the free world the chance to find monetary Shangri-la.

You have to go back to 1987 when the concept of a Trump Tower in Moscow first ingrained itself on the few remaining brain cells of President Trump. Maybe it was the fact that Russia was at the time still under the old style dictatorship and power meant fear and that sort of power has always been attractive to a man like Trump. Or maybe the idea of having young and pretty girls desperately hanging on his every word and action as he portrayed himself as the embodiment of the American dream to them. I wonder how many souls were lost metaphorically to the bullshit he must have spewed out to them, of promises of a better life when he returned in lieu of favours now. Well, whatever happened in ‘87 or any of the corresponding years that Trump spent time in Moscow it certainly helped Putin to recruit another ‘Dic’, to give his new disciples a more succinct name , to his plan for world domination via the financial markets.

But Trump was a willing freshman. Reputed to be amongst the world’s richest men, Putin was the role model that Trump had been looking for, especially given his own financial mismanagement and hopeless monetary acumen.

Money, power, ego.  As Trump might have allegedly mused “so what’s a little golden shower on a bed… between friends? Just as long as the photos aren’t released, and the Christian Right don’t turn against me, I might have a chance.”

A chance that turned into a promise that turned into a Presidency.

As surprise election results have become the lead across the world it has to be said that Putin is succeeding at present. He has secured  a landscape of normality that we are all accepting far too readily. The echoes of 1930’s Europe are there for us all to see.

For us Brits we are faced with another four years of the incompetent leadership of Boris Johnson and that coming on the back of Brexit allowing those in power to profit whilst the people, literally on the streets, suffer. But it is not a dictatorship.

Russia has already voted to allow Putin to lead until 2036 if necessary. Think about that… sixteen years without challenge. But it is not a dictatorship.

And perhaps the clearest example of a democratic dictator – but it is not a dictatorship –  is found in the White House, where on the back of Covid–19 and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement, Trump has already set his stall out to dispute the result of the election if he indeed loses as all polls show at the moment he most certainly will. He has, in the nick of time, gained political and religious control of the Supreme Court with this week’s swearing in of Amy Coney Barrett, he has had for some time the propaganda machine that is Rupert Murdoch and Fox News and he, if necessary, will undoubtedly beg for the assistance of Putin before he has to lock the doors of the oval office refusing to come out like a spoilt child screaming “I want my daddy.”

But beg he will if it looks likely that his dictatorship might be coming to an end at the hands of good old ballot paper democracy…’God’ forbid something so extraordinary should happen in these modern times???

I think we can only learn from this time in our history and accept that the battle has taken a different direction in the fight against totalitarianism and we must always be on our guard however much a Govt seems to have its intentions firmly based within the boundaries of democracy. The war is still very much alive with the added irony that in just eighty years the leading lights of the Allies have become very much the Axis of Evil.

So, like most of the world, my wife and I will be setting our alarms for the early hours of the morning of the 4th November to hope that the Biden Harris ticket has secured a landslide victory to ensure the smooth transition of power… but as history has taught us anything less than a landslide and this will be a story whereby the election result is only just the beginning!… Enough Said!

Gary Webster

30th October 2020

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