In 1935, author Sinclair Lewis described the end of American liberalism in his book “It Can’t Happen Here,” an account of how populist Senator Buzz Windrip seizes power after being influenced by the Nazi dictatorship in Germany. It was fiction, but today, 80 years later, the boundaries between truth and fiction are becoming blurred.
Months ago, when Donald Trump all but ensured his spot as the Republican presidential candidate with deportation plans and the call for a ban on Muslims entering the country, a nervous debate erupted in the United States over the strength of its democracy. And now Orlando, the worst act of terror in the United States since September 11, 2001. 49 people are dead, after being shot in cold blood, and many others were wounded when a gay and lesbian nightclub became a deathtrap.
Even the United States, where killing sprees are happening with horrifying regularity, has never seen a massacre with so many victims.
June 12, 2016 will become burned into the collective memory of the nation. It was when a killer who reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and harbored a deep hatred of gays struck.
The bloodbath comes in the middle of a presidential election campaign with a cloud of fear hanging over it. This merely reinforces the impact of this act of terror, and further weakens resistance to the temptations of authoritarianism.
It is clear that Mr. Trump will benefit from the tragedy, and he knows it more than anyone else. Even as investigators are still reconstructing the course of events and trying to figure the attacker’s motivations, he has unleashed a storm on Twitter. “Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism,” he wrote in a self-congratulatory tweet, and warned: “What has happened in Orlando is just the beginning.”