Alexei Navalny, arch political foe of Vladimir Putin, “died” in a prison camp above the Arctic Circle. Come November, Americans should remember and pay heed.

The day before Navalny died, he appeared on a video looking healthy and smiling. Russian sources claimed “Sudden Death Syndrome.” Translation: assassination. Only three days ago was Navalny’s mother allowed to see his body—and forced to sign a phony death certificate.

World leaders at the Munich Security Conference in Germany called Putin to task. So did President Joe Biden. Donald Trump said nothing.

Last Sunday, ardent Trump supporter Senator Tim Scott (R.-S.C.) called Putin a “murderous dictator.” Indeed. Then he stated that Joe Biden is not up to taking a hard line on Russia, while Trump is. 

Shades of doublespeak in George Orwell’s 1984. When Russia invaded Ukraine, Trump declared Putin’s undertaking “genius” and “pretty savvy.” Recently, Trump encouraged Putin to do whatever he wanted to NATO allies who didn’t pay more dues.

Last Monday, Trump finally commented but never mentioned Putin. “The sudden death of Alexei Navalny has made me more and more aware of what is happening in our Country.” He added, “It is a slow, steady progression, with CROOKED, Radical Left Politicians, Prosecutors, and Judges leading us down a path to destruction.” On Fox News, he compared himself with Navalny.

Many of Trump’s MAGA supporters seem intent on creating a Putin-like authoritarian state led by Trump. This philosophy has cursed the world over the past 100 years. In 1922, Josef Stalin took control of the Communist Party. By 1927, he held absolute power and drove millions of Kulaks (small farmers) off their land, instigating the catastrophic famine of 1932. He also filled the gulag prison network and ordered executions of political foes—real and imagined.

Fascists Benito Mussolini in Italy and Adolf Hitler in Germany, along with communist Mao Zedung in China, followed Stalin’s murderous examples. 

America’s far right sees Trump as the strong man on a white horse defending the long-held power of white Christians, upholding religion (theirs) and conservative social values (theirs). Putin undertakes a similar agenda, defending Russian Orthodox and “traditional” values.

Some MAGA followers see violence as an acceptable tool. Members of Congress who stood against the deniers following the 2020 presidential election spoke of constant physical threats against them and their families. Andrew Hitt, former chair of the Wisconsin GOP, told CBS’s “60 Minutes” he was “scared to death” not to sign a fake Republican elector document after the 2020 election.

Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes turned down Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis’s invitation to investigate Donald Trump—since indicted by a grand jury on 41 felony counts relating to election fraud in Georgia. “I’d lived with bodyguards for four years and I didn’t like it,” Mr. Barnes stated, referring to his term as governor. “I wasn’t going to live with bodyguards for the rest of my life.”

Anti-Trump but conservative evangelicals, including the journalist David French, also have received numerous threats. (Read Tim Alberta’s revealing book, The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory.)

If Trump wins? A friend of mine—a Jewish woman—is investigating moving to Panama. 

The pressing question: If Trump returns to the White House, how many American Navalnys will lose their freedom—or their life? 

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  1. Joan Sutton on February 23, 2024 at 9:34 am

    Good question indeed, how many would lose their lives like Navalny. We should realize that this is not beyond the range of possibility, though it seems incredible. I admire Navalny’s wife and mother who have not kept quiet about this.

    • David Perlstein on February 23, 2024 at 2:27 pm

      Joan, I’m not sure that say 20 years ago, many Americans would have believed we’d be in our present political situation, despite Newt Gingrich’s Republican Congressional revolution. Today, concern is not out place.

  2. Shay on February 23, 2024 at 10:31 am

    Very well said.

    • David Perlstein on February 23, 2024 at 2:25 pm

      Thank you, Jim.

  3. Sandy Lipkowitz on February 23, 2024 at 8:01 pm

    Panama is looking very welcoming. Especially for Jews. Jews are very prevalent. Many foodie restaurants list KF on the menu after dishes. That stands for kosher friendly. People ae proud to be Jewish. There are mezuzahs on store door frames that are owned by Jews Unlike SF, where people were taking down their mezuzahs out of fear.
    I’ve started the process. If Trump wins, for sure I’ll be on my way.

    • David Perlstein on February 23, 2024 at 9:39 pm

      I’m glad you found what you’re looking for, Sandy. I hope you won’t have to leave.

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