New Introduction: After I originally posted this column, on October 28, 2018, Trump made his statement about ending birthright citizenship, which happens to be guaranteed, it would seem by the 14th Amendment (and Supreme Court decision after Supreme Court decision since the Amendment was adopted holds to that position (click here). He claims that it doesn't (click here). He also claims that he has "legal scholars" to back him up. (The Times article, above, cites one retired law professor.) But, using the "original intent" argument that the Right likes so much (except when they don't, as in gun control, see Scalia's "Heller," whihc completely ignores the "well-regulated militia" clause and every other previous Supreme Court decision, which held that the 2nd does not grant unlimited, unregulated gun rights), one could argue that since the original intent of the amendment was to apply to slaves, it is inappropriate to expand its coverage to the children of immigrants. And remember, since the "Know-Nothings" were one of the founding parties for the Repubs. in the 1850s, xenophobia is in the genes of the Party.
This is a superb example of just the kind of fascist power Trump wants to arrogate to himself. One of the primary characteristics of fascism is that there is no higher-law, constitutional authority, to which a chief executive is subject.
And now to the original column:
In my previous column, on the concept of the "Popular Front" and (briefly) its history, I noted an excellent column by David Leonhardt in The New York Times on what the Republican legislative agenda for 2018-21 would be if indeed the "Blue Wave" does not materialize and the Repubs. retain control of both the House and the Senate. One way or another, the Mueller investigation would be shut down, "through firing some combination of Mueller, Rod Rosenstein . . . and Jeff Sessions" and installing Trump protectors in their place. This would be accompanied by an expansion of the Trumpian rhetoric on "witch hunts" and "hoaxes" which would make his current attacks seem mild by comparison. And of course, TrumpTV would be Trumpeting that message 24-7.
Some observers, including myself, have speculated that Mueller has already set up a raft of "send" buttons for the report and supporting evidence at whatever stage it might be shut down. But that effort would be overwhelmed by the Trumpian propaganda effort of discreditation (is that a word? Well it is in the MS Word dictionary.) As for hoping for State action, see below on my speculation about how the Trumpites would deal with that threat to them. As for making stuff up, for an example, in a speech on Oct. 24, 2018 Trump said that the Democrats stand for open borders, "inviting in MS-13." If the Repubs. do hold the Congress, that will seem mild by comparison to what will then come from his mouth.
On Repub. legislation if the retain full control of Congress: as noted by Leonhardt, they will likely try for yet another tax-cut for the rich, cloaking it as the "tax cut for middle class" that Trump promised just the other day (and including a total elimination of the Estate Tax); they will likely be successful, finally, in repealing those portions of the Affordable Care Act that they have not already undercut through both administrative and legislative action; they will go after Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in a variety of ways, as Mitch McConnell has already promised they would; McConnell would likely figure out a way to totally eliminate filibuster rule; Federal regulation would be undercut even further than it already has been; there would very likely be national voter suppression legislation; and a Stephen Millerite form of formalizing ever-harsher treatment of non-white immigrants legislation might make it also.
So things would be bad enough. That is until we take a look at what would very likely happen to the governance of the United States, because the ruling class sector that supports the Trumpite/Repubs. wants that to happen.
First, it is becoming evermore obvious that Trump would really like to become a Constitutional Dictator, most especially one who could retain the Constitutional forms, on paper that is. Remember, that is how he ran his companies. We have no idea of his net worth, of how he handled the casino bankruptcies, of how he got cash when after them U.S. banks refused to lend him money, of how much he is in hock, if he is, to, let's say, Deutsche Bank, Russian bank(s), the Saudis, and so on and so forth. But we do know, that his company had no board of directors and he had a relatively tiny staff, for which he made all the decisions, apparently major and minor. That is how he would like to run the country (the Constitution, for Trump, being irrelevant). Now, how to get there?
Let us recall that the dictators of the two of the three major fascist states of the 20th century, Germany and Italy, got there by, on paper at least, Constitutional means. (The Japanese military fascists achieved power by a coup d'etat.) Hitler was legally appointed Chancellor by the German President, and then achieved his dictatorship powers through a vote of the German parliament, the Reichstag. (The vote in the Reichstag was rigged, but those political figures who might have challenged it were either already dead, in concentration camps, or out of the country.) The act was called the Enabling Act. Based on "threats to national security," it established the legislative basis for the Hitlerite dictatorship. Mussolini was legally appointed Prime Minister by the Italian King, to face "threats to national security." As I have pointed out recently, on a Court that was pretty firmly Republican even before the Kavanaugh accession made it firmly Republican, based on a claim of "national security" in reference to the "Muslin ban," Trump has already been granted an expansion of his powers by the Supreme Court.
If Trump hadn't had the bone spurs, he could have had a uniform too.
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Much of what Trump has done as President has been done simply because as President, under the Constitution, he can do it. See: immigration policy, being well on the way to achieving the Bannonite dream of "the Deconstruction of the [Federal] Administrative State," imposing tariffs, abandoning non-treaty international agreements, like "Iran" and "Paris." Involving/negotiating-with the Congress is not exactly his forte. Of course, the Repubs. in Congress are completely "don't-primary-me-please" cowed this man, and most of those left totally agree with him anyway.
So, in a next totally Repub. Congress, look also for moves towards a gradual expansion of Presidential authority, particularly where such moves can be couched in terms of "national security." An example? His proposal to use the Army to "seal the Southern border." It happens that under U.S. law such a move would be totally illegal. Well, so is taking payments of one sort or another by the President, from a foreign power. And that's in the Constitution, no less. (Want to wager on whether or not the President has ever read it? Want to make some easy money?) That doesn't seem to have stopped him. But if Trump gave that order, and found an Army Commanding General who was prepared to obey it, what could stop him?
OK. Given that in the next Repub. Congress the Democrats could do no more than make powerful speeches and appear constantly on favorable cable news shows, what are the two national institutions that could possibly get in his way? Everyone knows that they are: the judicial system and the media. Before he took power, Hitler said that the two most powerful institutions standing in the way of Nazism and its eventual takeover of the German government were the "Luegen Presse" ("Lying Press" --- sound familiar?) and the Courts.
Indeed. This is the Trump/Fox approach (and it was Hitler's too --- that is except when they were Nazi newspapers).
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Well, first, why do you think that Tom McGahn and Mitch McConnell have been working to seed the Federal courts at all levels with far-right wingers? At the Supreme Court level, Kavanaugh has already distinguished himself by holding, at previous times, that in one way or another Presidents are above the law. As far as the media are concerned, should the Repubs. hold onto both Houses of Congress, it should come as no surprise that they would very likely be able to pass a (totally unprecedented) national libel law, as Trump promised during the 2016 campaign. Various private right-wing sources are already filing what many would consider frivolous suits for libel and slander against liberal and left-wing outlets.
And then we would also likely see measures such as:
National voter suppression legislation.
Making sure that the Dominionist Community (led of course by Mike Pence) is kept happy, with: the reversal of Roe v. Wade (by a right-wing Court which is so dedicated to the maintenance of precedent [except when it isn't -- why not bring back "Lochner?"] with the resultant criminalization of religious belief in the matter of the outcome of pregnancy; the re-institution of functional discrimination against the LGBTQ community at a variety of levels.
Legislation that would prevent the States from pursuing any investigations that had been started by Mueller; any legislation that would violate the Repubs.' concept of "States' Rights" that they profess to love so much (except when they don't); repeal of Federal hate crimes legislation.
The end of any investigations of right-wing hate/violence/white-supremacy organizations on the grounds that such investigations are "violations of free speech."
The revocation of the of the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents the use of the military for domestic purposes.
Most importantly, a gradual, further consolidation of Presidential authority in areas that have not traditionally considered to fall under the powers granted to the President under Article II of the Constitution.
And so, how does this fit into 21st Century Trumpite Functional Fascism? Well, let's take a look at its definition:
"Fascism is a system of government in which there is no separation of powers and the Executive is in control of all branches of the State apparatus, including the judiciary. It is designed to maintain and expand the power of the State for the benefit of a capitalist ruling class. Fascism is characterized by the use of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, in various proportions, as well as force and terror, to maintain its control. The State may have a single charismatic leader. There may be a single national ideology supported by law, but if not, certain ideologies are banned by law, and certain religious/non-religious views are criminalized. There are no independent media."
Functionally, Functional Fascism shall be upon us if the Democrats don't at least take the House, and certain elements of it will be even if they do. There were warnings about Trump from the beginning of his candidacy. For a variety of reasons, not enough voters in the 2016 election heeded them. And so, are there dark times ahead for our nation? You betcha! Is it possible to turn things around? You betcha! And that effort, in my view, begins with the establishment of a Popular Front, as discussed in my previous column. Future columns will get into the weeds on this subject.
(Article changed on October 29, 2018 at 12:42)
(Article changed on October 31, 2018 at 17:49)