Opinion: Trump’s plan to subvert democracy is on the record. Will Republican voters care?
I have to hand it to the inimitable Charles Pierce of Esquire magazine.
A few days after media critic Margaret Sullivan complained in the Guardian that journalists were not effectively conveying the dangers of a second Trump administration, the headline on his essay did not mince words: “Nazi-Curious Madman Currently Under Indictment For 91 Felonies Gives Speech.”
This is not hyperbole.
As former President Trump appears to be sailing toward the Republican presidential nomination, he is increasingly embracing autocratic language and ideas, using rhetoric familiar to anyone who has studied the speeches of dictators and strongmen through history.
“I am your justice. … I am your retribution,” he told a crowd at a conservative political conference in March.
Illegal immigration, he told a right-wing website in October, is “poisoning the blood of our country.”
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country — that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” he told supporters in New Hampshire earlier this month.
If you are not alarmed by his rhetoric, then you are either not paying attention or don’t recognize the danger he poses to democracy. Or perhaps — and I recognize that this may well be the case for many of his most ardent supporters — you think a strongman with protectionist impulses, racist policies and contempt for the rule of law is just what America needs.
And what would become of the current world order in a second Trump administration?
Does anyone, for example, believe for a moment that Trump, who has bent the knee to Russian President Vladimir Putin, would support Ukraine in its battle against Putin’s war of aggression? Do you think for a second that the Islamophobic Trump would exert any sort of moderating influence on Israel as its extremist government seems ever more intent on punishing not just Hamas, but every single Palestinian in Gaza and the West Bank as Iran watches and waits?
During Trump’s first campaign in 2016, his supporters liked to say that his over-the-top rhetoric was mostly for show. “Take him seriously, not literally,” they said.
If you bought that line, you were foolish.
Trump, as the Atlantic’s Peter Wehner noted, is an “institutional arsonist.” Wehner is a former speech writer for three Republican presidents and a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum, a nonprofit Christian think tank. “It is a rather remarkable indictment of those who claim to be followers of Jesus that they would continue to show fealty to a man whose cruel ethic has always been antithetical to Jesus’s and becomes more so every day,” Wehner wrote last week.
Trump has vowed to dismantle the federal bureaucracy, which he and his crony Steve Bannon love to dismiss as “the deep state,” and end civil service protections for tens of thousands of federal employees he perceives as insufficiently loyal. If elected, he will fire them and replace them with political appointees. This plan, laid out in an executive order called “Schedule F,” was secretly developed during his first term. Trump staffers told the website Government Executive that they had identified 50,000 federal employees to fire, “although they hope to fire only a fraction of that total to create a ‘chilling effect’ to keep the rest of them in line,” the website reported. President Biden rescinded the order as soon as he took office.
Trump has promised to use the Justice Department to go after his political enemies, including, of course, the Biden family.
The Washington Post reported that Trump has told advisors and friends he also wants the Justice Department to investigate former allies-turned-critics, such as his former chief of staff, John F. Kelly, his former attorney general, William Barr, and former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, Mark Milley, whom Trump has suggested deserves the death penalty for communicating with Milley’s Chinese counterparts to allay Chinese fears about an imminent U.S. attack at the end of Trump’s tenure.
Trump’s Republican collaborators are deeply implicated in his antidemocratic plans.
One flank is dedicated to rewriting the history of Jan. 6, the day that violent insurrectionists failed to thwart the results of the 2020 presidential election. A second is devoted to maintaining the fiction that the election was stolen from Trump.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene insists in her new book, a commercial flop that critics say reads like a tryout for a Trump administration job (VP, perchance?) that the insurrectionists were not MAGA Republicans, but left-wing extremists and undercover federal agents.
Her colleague, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, refused to answer George Stephanopoulos recently when the ABC News host asked, “Can you say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?” Stephanopoulos must have asked the question six different times, and all Scalise could muster was “There were a handful of states that didn’t follow their election laws.” Does it really need to be said that making it easier for citizens to cast votes by allowing mail-in ballots or ballot drop boxes during a pandemic does not rig an election?
I happen to think that journalists have done a magnificent job exploring the dangers of a second Trump administration.
The question is, are Republican voters rational? Do they care?