Democracy Dies in Darkness

Opinions

The thing that terrifies Trump about witch hunts is the song that goes ‘Ding dong…’

September 12, 2018 at 9:35 AM

One must assume that President Trump has seen “The Wizard of Oz.” Everybody has, but Trump evidently has one scene in mind. The scene where Dorothy throws water on the witch, and she melts.

It’s bad enough to suspect that you are, in fact, a witch, even as you warn daily about hunting them. What witch wouldn’t? But it’s not just the bucket of water that Trump is wary of. It’s the reaction of the Winkies, the witch’s palace guards: “Hail to Dorothy, the wicked witch is dead!”

What else could he possibly be thinking, after Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” and the anonymous op-ed in the New York Times by a senior administration official? And the amply reported fact that these things corroborate: that the people around Trump think he’s an out-of-control maniac whom everybody is afraid of.

This is the fatal flaw hidden in the authoritarian model. It operates on fear of punishment, which is very effective until it isn’t. People will fall into line out of fear of consequences, but they don’t like it. And the longer it goes on, the less they like it. That is why ruthlessness tends to escalate over time in an autocracy, as the regime grows ever more brittle and hated.

When you first see the movie as a kid, you are startled by the Winkies’ reaction. But then you realize: but of course. No one really likes witches or wants to protect them. Only fear makes it happen.

This is what Trump knows on some level. It’s all or nothing for him. And the nonstop revelations of his weakness (another Trump obsession) and his vulnerabilities must look to him not so much like a bucket of cold water but as an approaching hurricane.


Tom Toles is the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog. His latest book is "The Madhouse Effect," a book about climate and climate-change denial co-authored with climate scientist Michael Mann.

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