Editorial cartoonist

(Tom Toles)

Back in the 20th century, the totalitarian idea was government control of everything. But the new conservative idea is to privatize this model so that you can have all the power, but with a better profit margin.

Instead of government ownership of every industry, we will have monopoly ownership of every industry. Instead of a Ministry of Information, we will have a profitable network delivering propaganda, audience-tested, with commercials. Instead of a dictator running the country from a central location, we will have a dictator running his businesses from a central location. Instead of a rubber-stamp Congress, we will have, um, okay, a rubber-stamp Congress. Institutional secrecy? Got it!

The cool thing is that you don’t need a revolution to install this. It can happen a little at a time, with hardly anyone noticing. Test: Did you notice? Better hurry! Because we’re most of the way there!

But what about the institutional checks and balances? Yeah, what about those? Those would be the rubber-stamp Congress that is kept in place through unlimited campaign contributions, voter suppression and gerrymandering. The courts? They’re still nominally running, but the relentless placement of sympathetic judges will eventually bring them to heel. Independent investigations? Well, we now have a president asserting that, by definition, his position can’t have any conflicts, and who has already fired an FBI director whose investigation he didn’t like. And this week he is reportedly floating trial balloons about firing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III because he doesn’t like his investigating either.

And who will object if he does fire him? Or who will follow through on Mueller’s findings if he isn’t fired? See above: our rubber-stamp Congress.

It all happened as quietly as a chess game, as checks and balances gradually became check and mate.