In several democracies, duly elected officials — including Benito Mussolini in Italy, Adolf Hitler in Germany, and Vladimir Putin in Russia — have followed a playbook to increase their power in office, ultimately becoming dictators, especially after being emboldened by being elected to a second term. After reelection, they took control of their government with the help of appointed officials with whom they surrounded themselves.

Our Constitution, separation of powers, and rule of law are primary reasons our democracy has weathered so many storms and has survived for well over 200 years. All of these can be destroyed, as they have been in several countries, if we aren’t constantly working to protect our Constitution, separation of powers, and rule of law.

The fascism playbook: demonize the press and go after them relentlessly as the enemy of the state; surround yourself with “yes” men who are blindly loyal to you and willing to disregard the Constitution or rule of law; fire anyone who disagrees or challenges you; demonize federal agencies as deep-state groups challenging your legitimacy and constantly working to destroy you; create anger, hatred, and division, using disinformation and demonizing marginalized people such as immigrants, ethnic groups, or refugees; work to continually stir the pot to keep people angry; stack the courts so they become your ally rather than independent judiciaries; demonize anyone who differs from your point of view by calling them unsavory names such as criminal or traitors; and the list goes on.

Elected to a second term, such officials start asserting more power and start working with those with whom they surrounded themselves to change rules, allowing them longer terms in office and more executive authority, and to limit the powers of other government branches. Then it’s all downhill.

Any of this sound familiar?

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J. Doug Pruitt

Knife River