"Either this nation shall kill racism, or racism shall kill this nation." (S. Jonas, August, 2018)
President Trump and Prime Minister Abe Golfing. Well, they are now both gone.
(Image by The Trump White House Archived) Details DMCA
This is the sixth (and last) part in my current "Trump and Fascism: A Retrospective Series," originally published on Buzzflash.com. The first part ran about three weeks ago, the second part about ten days ago, the third part three days ago, the fourth part two days ago, and the fifth part yesterday. As we get deeper into the Impeachment Trial this part is indeed the last of this series. (For the introduction to this archival series see "Donald J. Trump: On the Road from Racism to Fascism, 2011-2020".) And now to today's column, the original version of which was published on June 4, 2019. It comprises a set of predictions made in 2019 and early 2020 of what a second Trump term might have looked like.
Trump, the TrumpublicansĂ‚ ©, and the 2020 Elections (from the perspective of Feb. 2020).
In the 2020 elections The Trumpublicans are going to run on what I call "The Six R's and The Two C's": Racism/Xenophobia, Rage, Red-baiting, Religiosity (that is the use of religion for political purposes), Repression (of the vote), Russia (interference, again); and Cheating and Conspiracy theories (to the max).
Depending upon A) who the Democrats nominate for both President and Vice-President, and B) how effective or ineffective his or her campaign is, even with Trump's poll numbers where they are and where they are likely to remain, using these tactics, Trump might indeed win a second term.
As is well-known, over the course of his pre-presidential and presidential career Trump has hit huge speed bumps, bumps that would have derailed any other politician: e.g., both before and after the 2016 election: the "Billy Bush tapes;" the pay-offs to former paramours (with which this darling of the "Religious" Right happened to have adulterous relationships); the results of the Mueller Investigation which showed collusion with the Russians in the 2016 elections (although collusion which, with the available evidence, did not rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy provable in court beyond a reasonable doubt, by Mueller's estimation) and numerous episodes of obstruction of justice, pervasive corruption, self-profiteering, and grifting, to name a few. And then there is the Ukraine scandal, which is still a scandal, despite the O'Connell Whitewash/Cover-up.
In re Ukraine, Trump entrapped himself, in large part by his very own words, by dealing with, or trying to deal with, a foreign power in return for political favors, which is against federal law. Many Trump opponents were saying words to the effect of "we got him." But he had slipped out of the symbolic (civil) cuffs before, and this time with McConnell running the show he slipped them again. Given who Trump is, and the "6 R's/2 C's", even with his approval ratings in the low 40s, given the structure of the Legacy-of-Slavery Electoral College, he might just slip through again into the White House, as he did in 2016. And so, if he does take that oath at 12:01 PM on Jan. 20, 2021, what might be in store for our nation, in some instances right away?
What a Second Trump Term Might Look Like (from the perspective of Feb. 2020)
The word "fascism," which I have been associating with Trump for some time now (as have others as well, of course), is appropriate as we conjure up a terrifying second Trump term. In Trump's case, since the system will not mirror exactly the 20th century models of Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Japan, "21st-Century proto-fascism" is likely a more accurate name for it. But in any case, modern fascism is characterized by the following:
"There is a single, all powerful executive branch of government, in service of a capitalist ruling class that controls for the most part the functions of production, distribution and exchange. There is no separation of powers [one of James Madison's signal contributions to the then-unique form of government established by the Constitution]. Thus, there are no de facto independent judicial or legislative branches, at any level. There is independent media. There is a single national ideology, based on some combination of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and authoritarianism, homophobia, and xenophobia. There is a state propaganda machine using the big and little lie techniques. There may be a full-blown dictatorship, a charismatic leader, engagement in foreign wars, and the use of the mob/private armies."
And so, in this context, what indeed might a Trump second term look like? Well for one thing, that look would depend in part upon whether in the face of a Trump victory, the Democrats were able to hold onto the House of Representatives. Of course, a Trump win would surely enable the TrumpublicansĂ‚ © to hold onto the Senate. But regardless of that uncertainty, speculation is, of course, necessitated.
Let's begin with the Federal courts. One way or another, the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court will grow to 7-2 (if it doesn't get there already between now and election day). The vast right-wing infestation of the lower federal courts engineered by Tom McGahn, the Federalist Society, and Mitch McConnell has already begun to take hold. It would get only worse from the non-Trump perspective. And rulings against Trump on both personal and governmental issues that were still in effect would be quashed. The Federal courts would begin to positively support a wide variety of Trump initiatives of otherwise questionable Constitutionality. The Federal court system would thus be well on its way to being "fascistified" [sic].
As noted above, another key feature of fascism is the suppression of the free media. It is unlikely that the TrumpublicansĂ‚ © would, at the beginning at least, go after the media directly by statute. (Although who knows. The Trumpites might design a much tighter "national security" limitation on what could and could not be published, which could throttle any criticism/exposure of the Administration on almost any issue.) Further, Trump just loves suing. And he has often talked about suing the media for libel. Right now, it is very difficult for him to do so, most importantly under a famous 1964 Supreme Court decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. It set a very high bar for success in such suits.
But a fully TrumpublicanĂ‚ © Congress could pass a national libel law. Then, with a Supreme Court that just loves to overturn liberal precedents like this one does (for example, the "Heller" decision on guns which ignored a slew of precedents), NYT v. Sullivan could be overturned and the bar for what qualifies as libel in the media could be set much lower. Trump would have a field day and the independent media could well disappear. Or, if somehow Trump could not get a national libel law through Congress, he could begin suing in states with their own libel laws favorable to him, and begin the media shutdown that way.
As for some of the other major issues, even in its current term, depending upon what Roberts decides to do, the Supreme Court could reverse Roe v. Wade and Obergefell (on gay marriage), legalize employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, etc. But if one or more of those decisions were not to occur now, with a thoroughly Trump court, they surely would. Abortion would be outlawed nationally and thoroughly criminalized. Further, first, the laws in those states which already do that (pending Supreme Court review), like Georgia and Alabama, would be copied by TrumpublicanĂ‚ © state legislatures all over the country and upheld by a rubber stamp Trump Supreme Court.
If the TrumpublicansĂ‚ © were to totally control the Congress, a national "right to work law" would be passed to effectively kill the remaining, very weak, trade union movement, and it would be upheld by the Trump Supreme Court. In fact, this court might well reinstate the "Lochner" decision from 1906 which effectively prevented government at any level from enforcing any work rules. (It was reversed during the New Deal.) Anything left of "Obamacare" would be repealed. The 40-year Republican battle to functionally repeal Medicaid would be won and Medicare and Social Security would be significantly cut back, along with being privatized.
As for indicting his enemies, which an unfettered Trump with his loyal packhorse Barr would be itching to do, first up would be Comey, McCabe, and Mueller, while Manafort, Flynn (if ever imprisoned) and Stone (if ever imprisoned) would be sprung at the first possible moment. As for Michael Cohen, if Trump could figure out a way to get around double jeopardy, he would be first in Trump's sights for further punishment. He then might well go after such targets whom he has already named, like Rep. Adam Schiff. "Oh no," you might say, "going after elected members of Congress couldn't happen, could it?" Well, given what Trump has gotten away with so far, even with a somewhat independent media and the courts not entirely under his control, just think what might happen with the media on a short leash and the courts almost totally under his thumb. Indeed, following what Trump said last fall, Rep. Schiff could be arrested on some Trumped-up "treason" charge. Then Speaker Pelosi might not be far behind. And who knows who else.
What else might happen, whether or not the House remained in Democratic hands? Well, Trump might well decide to govern under "Declarations of National Emergency," either under the provisions of the Patriot Act which he would actively revive or "just because." And so:
1. The movement of federal funds from one pocket to another without consultation with or the agreement of Congress, which he has already been doing, or trying to do, for "The Wall," would be expanded;
2. Concentration camps, that is facilities in which persons are confined without criminal charge, indefinitely, with no legal rights, are already being used for immigrants of various types; they could be expanded to cover political prisoners (yes, folks, few folks foresaw this happening in Germany before Jan. 30, 1933, when Hitler became chancellor, but it did, beginning on Jan. 31, 1933);
3. There could be some kind of Praetorian Guard for the president, supplanting the Secret Service (which is how Hitler's Schutzstaffel [SS], originally his private guard, came into being; see the 22,000 'militia men' who showed up at Richmond, VA for an anti-gun control rally; such folk could also be organized into a version of the Nazi's Sturmabteilung, the S.A., the Nazi's private army, formed in the 1920s, then disbanded in July, 1934 as the price for the German Army's full support for Hitler's regime);
4. Some version of Trump's "Killer Fence" would be created for the Southern Border (see chap. 15 of my 1996 book "The 15% Solution: How the Republican Religious Right Took Control of the U.S. 198102022: A Futuristic Novel");
And 5. Actually, the Trump Supreme Court, citing the primacy of "states' rights" already trumpeted loud and clear by think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, might reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and declare unconstitutional the Civil and Voting Rights Acts (the latter already having been severely weakened by "Shelby").
All of this, of course (forgetting about what would happen with foreign policy), is just for openers. Certain friends on the Left (and non-friends too) have charged me with fear-mongering. For using the projections above, I find myself (as of Feb. 2020) firmly in the "Vote Blue No Matter Who" camp for the upcoming election. And I have replied to those friends that indeed, I intend to monger fear from now until November.
(Article changed on February 11, 2021 at 00:15)
(Article changed on February 11, 2021 at 04:03)