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Sun Mar 8, 2020, 11:22 AM

It Can Get So Much Worse

Democracy, human rights, and rule of law are losing globally. But if Trump wins reelection, the game may be up.

By Adam Weinstein

March 5, 2020

Back in the summer of 2016, an old ex-colleague and editor at Esquire reached out with an invitation for me to participate in covering what, then, was still a novel angle on the rise of Donald Trump: his political counterparts in other countries. I liked the idea of spotlighting the globe’s other power-hungry, arch-right demagogues. As a participant in the Panama Papers investigation that spring and a reporter on the periphery of the Trump-Russia story that summer, I’d begun to get a feel for the underworld of ideologues, corrupt governments, and black markets that propped many of these scapegoating stooges and their handlers. Michael Idov, the Soviet-born writer, had lived in that underworld. And so we collaborated on a package that would introduce readers on a morning commute to the world’s Putins, yes, but also its Modis, Dutertes, and Orbans.

Dubbed “The Trump Bump,” the package was set to print after he lost the election, to remind readers that while Trump might have been a brief, clownish eruption on the American body politic’s rump, he belonged to—and fed—an ominous global pattern. “These regressions have followed a remarkably similar path from country to country,” Idov wrote in his introductory essay. “And by the time you realize what it has cost you, it is too late.”

We filed by Halloween. The morning of November 9, after the U.S. election was called for Trump, I emailed my friend, the piece’s editor. “Hate to ask, but what will this do to the piece?”

“Holy hell, this is dark,” he replied, three hours later. “We’re still figuring out how to best proceed with the results from a big-picture perspective. That said, I’d argue this package is even more important today than it was yesterday.”



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