Merkley: “We Must Resist President Trump’s Dangerous Tilt Toward Authoritarianism”

In a half-hour Senate floor speech today, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) cited President Donald Trump’s attacks on the press as evidence of a “dangerous tilt toward authoritarianism” that must be resisted.

“Throughout his candidacy, and now within the walls of the White House, President Trump has viciously, repeatedly attacked the media. He has inflamed people’s anger toward immigrants, toward religious minorities, toward refugees. And he has undermined or attacked individuals who publicly stand up to him and the shortcomings of his policies,” Merkley said. “These are strategies of authoritarian leaders throughout history, and are incompatible with our government. We must call out these strategies, and we must resist these strategies.”

Merkley said he was most disturbed by Trump’s February tweet in which he said “the fake news media” was “the enemy of the American people.”

“President Trump, I have a message for you: A free and open press is not ‘the enemy of the American people.’ A free and open press is the salvation of our democratic republic,” Merkley said. “It is the essential warrior in our republic against fake news, against charlatans, and against those who use fake news and attacks on the press to advance authoritarian government.”

The full speech featuring a series of props, such as “Trump’s authoritarian checklist” can be seen on Facebook.

Merkley also cast Trump’s repeated use of false information, such as in his “attacks on immigrants” and with his “effort to demonize Muslims,” as part of a larger political strategy to undermine Constitutional checks and balances.

“That is what authoritarian leaders do. They create a false enemy. And they use the perception of that enemy to generate hate and fear. And they use that hate and fear to consolidate power,” Merkley said. “It is our responsibility as citizens, as the press of the United States, as legislators to resist this authoritarian strategy of President Trump.”

Merkley described Breitbart News as a “white nationalist” and anti-Semitic news source, and he singled out former Breitbart chief executive turned White House strategist Steve Bannon for special condemnation.

“This individual has no business being anywhere near the Capitol of the United States,” Merkley said.

The Senator went on to link the series of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and anti-Semitic vandalism around the country to the rhetorical climate fostered by Breitbart and Trump.