Oct. 16, 2018 – Donald Trump is not only undermining democracy here at home, but he’s also emboldening dangerous authoritarian movements around the world. Trump’s presidency has become America’s most dangerous export.
FIRST: Trump has provided cover for authoritarian leaders around the world who are actively attacking the media and suppressing the truth to entrench their power.
He congratulated Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on his electoral victory, despite Orban’s efforts to undermine democracy and stifle freedom of the press.
On Twitter, Trump vowed to join with Polish president Andrzej Duda to “fight the fake news”. Duda has placed media outlets under strict government control.
Trump welcomed to the White House the Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who has locked up tens of thousands of his political opponents and decimated the human-rights community there.
Trump reached out to Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte, who has invoked Hitler’s mass extermination of Jews as a model for how he would like to dispose of drug dealers and addicts.
He has courted Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has imprisoned critics and human-rights activists, caused thousands of civilian deaths in Yemen, and – evidence increasingly suggests – is responsible for the gruesome death of Washington Post journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi.
And, of course, Trump infamously made excuses for Vladimir Putin when asked about the murder of Russian journalists.
SECOND: Trump’s anti-immigrant policies and rhetoric have lent legitimacy to racist and xenophobic political parties across Europe. His success playing on racial fears and stoking nationalist sentiment has been a model for their efforts.
Look at Italy’s new deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, who campaigned on mass deportations and has evoked the language of Benito Mussolini.
And Austria’s far-right Freedom Party has demanded tighter border security, expedited deportations, and financial “sanctions” on immigrants.
Close behind them, although not yet in power, are France’s Marine Le Pen and Britain’s Nigel Farage, who Trump has complimented on Twitter.
THIRD: Trump has undermined the international institutions committed to protecting human rights and defending democracy.
Unlike former U.S. presidents, Trump doesn’t publicly mention human rights.
In a break with decades of U.S. foreign policy, Trump has attacked NATO, weakening the alliance as Putin threatens to undermine democracies in Western Europe.
He has also called the European Union a “foe,” playing into nationalist movements.
As in the 1930s, economic strains are fueling the rise of demagogues who direct anger and resentment toward scapegoats such as immigrants and minorities – lying about them with impunity.
But the truth is still getting through to most people, and democracy is still alive. Yet in sharp contrast to the 1930s when the president of the United States defended our democratic ideals, Trump is now helping lead the charge against them.
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers “Aftershock”, “The Work of Nations,” and”Beyond Outrage,” and, his most recent, “The Common Good,” which is available in bookstores now. 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.” He’s co-creator of the Netflix original documentary “Saving Capitalism,” which is streaming now.