Donald Trump is showing us again how America would be ruled if he returns to the White House in 2024: Anyone who seriously opposes him could be subject to violence—“potential death and destruction.”
Sure enough, Trump’s latest target, New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg — who Trump predicted will indict the former president for paying hush money to a porn star—promptly got a letter with the message: “I AM GOING TO KILL YOU!”
Calling on supporters to protest his possible indictment, Trump mocked fellow Republicans who advised doing so peacefully, declaring “our country is being destroyed and they tell us to be peaceful.”
This, of course, follows Trump’s incitement of a violent mob’s invading the US Capitol last Jan. 6 and threatening to hang his previously-loyal vice president, Mike Pence, for refusing to unconstitutionally overturn Trump’s 2020 election defeat. Five police officers who resisted the invaders did die.
As part of his continuing insistence that President Biden’s election victory was the result of “massive fraud”—a charge debunked by every legal authority—Trump has gone so far as to call for “the termination of all rules, regulations and articles, even those found in the Constitution.”
Trump already has violated the bedrock principle of American democracy: the peaceful transfer of power after an election. He’s systematically sowed doubts about elections he or loyalists don’t win.
And he’s told so many lies, he’s undermined another basis of democracy: the ability of citizens to agree on facts. It’s an old totalitarian device (see George Orwell.)
Or, as Trump adviser Steve Bannon once said, “Democrats don’t matter. The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.” As journalist Jonathan Rauch described the technique: “this is not about persuasion. It’s about disorientation.”
Even though TV footage of the Jan. 6 Capitol invasion has been re-played endlessly, 61 percent of Republicans consider it “legitimate protest.” They are so disoriented, they don’t believe their own eyes.
Put all this together and it means that if Trump is re-elected, he’ll rule as a fascist, with “retribution” his byword. He promised it at the right-wing CPAC convention in January and again last weekend in Waco, Texas on the 30th anniversary of an FBI siege that left 96 dead and fueled right-wing anti-government activism.
It’s about time that small-d democrats among all parties – not just liberals — start seriously likening Trump to Benito Mussolini. Like the Duce’s Black Shirts, Trump has storm troopers who’ll threaten or carry out violence: right-wing militias, Proud Boys, and Oath Keepers. Or just AR-15-toting MAGA extremists.
And like Mussolini, Trump wants to purge government entities and bend them to loyally serve him. He’s taken over the Republican party. He’s tried to dominate the judiciary. And he means to cleanse the federal bureaucracy of “deep state” officials who don’t support him.
The news site Axios first exposed the plan—being actively researched by a number of pro-Trump organizations—to fire up to 50,000 government workers and replace them with people loyal to him and his MAGA agenda.
According to Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, the agencies likely to be cleansed under the “Schedule F” plan include the FBI, CIA, the Justice, Defense, and State Departments, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency. Before he left office, Trump signed an executive order to put his plan into place, but it was rescinded by President Biden.
The media failed to follow up on the Axios story, but last week Trump’s campaign released a 10-point plan for reinstating the order. Under the plan, any officials in “policy-making, policy-determining or policy-advocating” posts would lose civil service protections that have been in place for 135 years. They would be replaced by people being identified by his team as loyal.
It’s entirely possible that the Justice Department—which Trump partially succeeded in co-opting under Attorney General Bill Barr and tried again to use to overturn the 2020 election, could begin to prosecute political adversaries while the FBI spied on them. He’d justify it (to himself and his supporters) as “retribution” for what he perceives as his own victimization.
The Internal Revenue Service could be deployed to harass his opponents and give a pass to friends. Intimidated contracting officials could steer business to favored companies—and to Trump and his family.
Given his first term record of using the government to feather his own nest, a re-elected Trump would not just be a corrupt fascist, but an utterly corrupt one.
Anybody who seriously resisted him and couldn’t be neutralized by other means might well be intimidated or actually attacked. Democratic and media “enemies of the people” would be on the target list. And if there remain any Republicans honest or courageous enough to resist, they might be targeted, too.
Think about that, Mike Pence.