...Donald Trump... is now so openly fascist he may soon start wearing his Mussolini Underoos on the outside of his pants.
~ Aldous J. Pennyfarthing, Daily Kos, November 9, 2023
You might have noticed that the quiet parts are
no longer merely being said out loud, but are now being shouted
from the rooftops, in re the fascist aspirations (fascpirations?)
of 2024 GQP (un)presidential front runner Donald John Trump and his
cartel of powerful, deep-pocketed allies. Trump and gang have
made no secret of the many ways in which they intend to crap all
over the United States Constitution, and totally dismantle
American democracy, if Trump wins another term in the White
Together, the Trump campaign's disturbingly authoritarian Agenda 47 and the alarming Project 2025 have all of the makings of a fascist nightmare in progress, a dystopian novel come to life. Moreover, in the unlikely event that Trump does not win the rethuglican nomination, we're still not off the hook; the backers of the extremely well-funded and well-organized Project 2025 -- the theocratic Heritage Foundation -- have briefed not only the Trump campaign but those of the distant-second rethuglican candidates, Nikki Haley and Free State of Floriduh Governor Ron DeSantis. It seems pretty clear that the Heritage Foundation is determined to force its Christofascist agenda on the American people in the event that any rethuglican wins the White House in 2024.
The nightmare features of Trump 2.0, including the plot to dismantle America and recreate it in the Trumpublican/Talibangelical image, are not really new news, of course, but they were pushed to the front in the news cycle again due to a report earlier this month from Washington Post. By now, everyone who has been paying even superficial attention to reports and commentary across the media spectrum has at least a glimmer of a notion that a second Trump term would be a vicious revenge tour. Unfortunately, it appears that many folks are totally fine with this. Trump may be an authoritarian asshole, but he's their kind of authoritarian asshole.
Behind the curtain there's not just a timid little bald man, but an army of aggressive Trump loyalists
In case you can't get past the WaPo paywall to read the report cited above, there are scads of other sources covering this matter. Axios, in a piece published on November 13, 2023, is a good place to start if you want to catch up. The article provides a disquieting summary of the preparations being made behind the metaphorical curtain for a second Trump term.
If Trump were to win, thousands of Trump-first loyalists would be ready for legal, judicial, defense, regulatory and domestic policy jobs. His inner circle plans to purge anyone viewed as hostile to the hard-edged, authoritarian-sounding plans he calls "Agenda 47."
- The people leading these efforts aren't figures like Rudy Giuliani. They're smart, experienced people, many with very unconventional and elastic views of presidential power and traditional rule of law.
Behind the scenes: The government-in-waiting is being orchestrated by the Heritage Foundation's well-funded Project 2025, which already has published a 920-page policy book from 400+ contributors. Think of it as a transition team set in motion years in advance.
- Heritage president Kevin Roberts tells us his apparatus is "orders of magnitude" bigger than anything ever assembled for a party out of power.
The late poet Maya Angelou is often quoted as having said, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Although many folks voted for Trump in both 2016 and 2020 -- and plan to vote for him again in 2024 -- because he repeatedly showed the world exactly who he is, there were many others, at least in 2016, who were in a state of denial, not believing that he would be all that bad once he assumed the office of POTUS. But he was by most measures far worse than even many of the "alarmists" had expected, and a second term would be even more ghastly. From Axios again:
Here's what the early days of a second Trump presidency would look like, based on his words and our conversations with Trump insiders:
- His top obsession will be the Justice Department, the FBI and the intelligence community — all of which he thinks conspired to investigate him, thwart him, screw him. He's been very clear that he's willing to unleash these agencies against political enemies.
- The next priority will be the Department of Homeland Security and the border, with plans to erect sprawling detention camps, "scour the country for unauthorized immigrants," and "deport people by the millions per year," The New York Times reports. We're told Trump's top criterion for immigration officials will be whoever promises to be most aggressive. Trump has told allies he's confident the Supreme Court will back his most draconian moves.
- As first reported by Jonathan Swan for Axios last year, a key tool for Trump's "revenge term" would be the use of Schedule F personnel powers to wipe out employment protections for tens of thousands of civil servants across the federal government. Trump allies want a deep and wide purge of the professional staff that often serves across new administrations.
- Officials close to the Pentagon tell us they're worried about a plan, articulated by former Trump official Russ Vought in the Heritage document, to direct the National Security Council to "rigorously review all general and flag officer promotions to prioritize the core roles and responsibilities of the military over social engineering and non-defense related matters, including climate change, critical race theory [and] manufactured extremism." Indeed, the Trump allies see obstacles to remove at every level of every agency.
The fourth item on that list, regarding the military, should be a matter of deep concern for anybody who cares about national security. And since we're on the topic of the military for the moment, anyone who thinks that Alabama GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville's ongoing blockade of military promotions is really just about abortion access isn't paying attention. On November 7, 2023, The Guardian published an opinion piece detailing the ways that Tuberville is in reality the useful idiot of both Trump and the Heritage Foundation, with goals much more far-reaching than merely sabotaging reproductive rights.
Idiots can still be useful idiots. There are larger purposes involved in [Tuberville's] scam kulturkampf. His subversion of the military is not just collateral damage. It is not the unintended consequence, but the overriding motive. His abortion ban is both context and pretext. Tuberville has opened Trump’s strategy for a second term to replace the professional class of officers pledged to the constitution with a collection of flunkies who will salute his command, legal or not. Tuberville is a blunt instrument, but, however crude, he is the available tool.
The Heritage Foundation – which has produced a blueprint for a Trump second term, the 2025 Transition Project, which includes firing the entire federal civil service and replacing it with Trump loyalists, and invoking the Insurrection Act on day one of Trump II to deploy the military against political dissidents – has evidently been behind Tuberville’s attack on the military. It circulated a letter of several far-right ex-military figures to Senate leaders demanding that they “Support Senator Tuberville’s Fight Against Woke Military”, which they denounced for “advancing the leftwing social agenda”.
Heritage published an article by one of its fellows claiming that Tuberville is the “one man” standing in the way of a dastardly conspiracy led by Biden: “Replacing the officer class of police and military ranks with politicized ideologues who will bend to a transformative dogma is a strategy that has worked in places like the Soviet Union, Cuba and Venezuela … Tuberville, thus, is stopping the promotion of woke apparatchiks.” Like Trump, the Heritage cadres project their own scheme on to their enemies.
The bottom line: This Trump-allied machine has the most power over the formation of a potential future government of any group in U.S. history. Trump, if elected, will leverage it to do things with government that none of us has seen in our lifetime.
That's the kind of stuff that should be keeping
you awake at night.
The gaffes are good for laughs,
but the plans (and the fetish for brutality) are anything but
The conservative Bulwark has had a lot to say as well about Trump's dick-tatorial wet dreams. In a November 13, 2023 piece, Charlie Sykes warned that while Trump's numerous verbal blunders are a target-rich environment and rich fodder for comedians of all stripes, we really should be focusing on his clearly stated plans as well as his fetish for brutality. Sykes wrote:
Understandably, it’s tempting to focus on Trump’s gaffes, which are, indeed, a target-rich environment. The stumbles, the bumbles, the confusion.
But the problem with Trump isn’t the gaffes — underneath the verbal clownishness Trump is telling us who he is and exactly what he intends to do.
He genuinely admires the brutality of the Chinese; he finds violence exciting; and he’s a sincere fanboy of the world’s fascists. And he keeps tell[ing] us what his presidency will mean if and when he regains power. There’s no subtlety here.
It’s also no secret what he thinks about his fellow Americans.
To illustrate the latter point about Trump's regard for his fellow Americans, Sykes compared the November 11 Veteran's Day social media messages from Trump and from President Joe Biden. Biden's message on Xitter was clear and simple and decent:
Today, we honor the story of our veterans -- the story of our nation at its best.
On Veterans Day, let's recommit to fulfilling our one sacred obligation as a nation: to prepare those we send into harm's way and care for them and their families when they come home.
Trump, on the other hand, had this to say on his exceedingly ill-named platform, Truth Social:
In honor of our great Veterans on Veteran's Day, we pledge to you that we will root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country, lie, steal, and cheat on Elections, and will do anything possible, whether legally or illegally, to destroy America, and the American Dream. The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave, than the threat from within. Despite the hatred and anger of the Radical Left Lunatics who want to destroy our Country, we will MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
And Trump amplified his message in a Veterans Day speech, in which he not only repeated the "vermin" comment but also claimed that undocumented immigrants are "poisoning the blood of our country." He got a lot of blowback for these comments, which are eerily similar to the rhetoric of Hitler and Mussolini, but he and his army of defenders have, not surprisingly, dismissed the criticism. Trump campaign spokesmonster Steven Cheung, for example, told the Washington Post that the critics are snowflakes. From Axios, November 13, 2023:
Oh, okay. So that makes it all right. Trump and
his authoritarian army will only crush the "sad,
miserable" existence of critics instead of the critics'
On the Bulwark piece, Charlie Sykes continued:
So, once again, it is essential to pay attention. Trump may be clownish, but the clown car is carrying a neutron bomb. Possibly several.
Last week, the Washington Post detailed how Trump and allies are planning to weaponize the Justice Department to go after his opponents and critics. Trump himself confirmed as much.
This weekend, we got a deeper glimpse at Trump 2.0 from the NYT: “Sweeping Raids, Giant Camps and Mass Deportations: Inside Trump’s 2025 Immigration Plans.”
Former President Donald Trump is planning an extreme expansion of his first-term crackdown on immigration if he returns to power in 2025 — including preparing to round up people living in the United States without legal permission on a vast scale and detain them in sprawling camps while they wait to be expelled.
Sykes later added, "You can't say we have not been warned."
Asleep or awake?
The big mystery to me is why so many people still don't seem to be particularly concerned about this whole mess. Whether they consider themselves to be conservative or liberal, republican or Democratic, or essentially apolitical, anybody who really cares about American democracy should be sounding the alarms full blast.
I hate coming across like one of those intensely annoying conspiranoids who claim that only they and a few others are totally awake and aware, while the masses of sheeple snooze on unaware. Truth is, I don't consider myself to be totally awake and aware about anything. But I am awake and aware enough to understand what Trump and his backers are trying to do to the country I love. And so, of course, are millions of other people, but there are also millions for whom all of the above is NBD.
Like most of us who have been blaring warnings about Trump for years and years, I have been repeatedly accused by Trumpanzees of being an alarmist, a snowflake, a libtard, and a victim of Trump Derangement Syndrome (when in fact supporting Trump is the true derangement). The accusations don't bother me.
I study the breakdown of democracy, and I don't know how to say this more clearly. We are sleepwalking towards authoritarianism, and people are not waking up to this. And the Constitution is not written with magical ink. It is protected by the people who make brave choices during moments of political peril and we are in one of those moments.
So the question is, do voters wake up as well? Because our political class is not rising to the challenge. They're not distancing themselves and the Republican Party from this rhetoric. They're just sort of pretending like it doesn't exist. And we are literally walking towards a world in which Donald Trump is going to consolidate power, politicize the rule of law, and break down democracy one day at a time, and I think that's something that we have to really grapple with as we head towards the election next year because that is the biggest story in American politics and nothing else comes close.
It's definitely time for more folks to wake up
and smell the fascism.
The next Big Lie is adding fuel to the fire
America is still reeling from the effects of Trump's initial Big Lie, i.e., his repeated, obsessive claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen (or "stollen," as he has put it more than once) from him. But as Amanda Carpenter and Deana El-Mallawany wrote in a November 15, 2023 report on The Bulwark, Trump's next Big Lie -- his tall tale about "weaponization" of various institutions whose purpose is to uphold the rule of law -- is already here. And not only is it adding fuel to the fire that led to January 6th, it is in certain fundamental ways more dangerous than the original Big Lie.
The authors warn that we should recognize the power the second Big Lie may hold over the 2024 campaign, as well as its potential to inspire violence the way the original lie did on January 6, 2021. In fact, as detailed on Carpenter's and El-Mallawany's Bulwark piece, the false weaponization claims have already inspired disturbing and credible threats of violence to witnesses and prosecutors in Trump's various legal dramas.
But the danger to the rule of law cannot be overstated.
TRUMP’S 2020 LIES WERE AIMED at holding on to power; the damage they caused to the rule of law was collateral. With his 2024 lies, opposition to the rule of law is the very purpose. No one is supposed to be above the law, not even former presidents. Yet Trump resists any form of legal accountability for his acts because, as he has said, “I was always of the opinion that a thing like this couldn’t happen. In other words, you protect your former presidents.”
Like many aspiring autocrats, Trump is engaging in the democratic process in hopes of becoming powerful enough to subvert it. Should he win the presidency, he will use his powers as both a spear and a shield—both to “dismantle” the government and to protect himself from accountability.
Anyone who is either unconcerned by, or
actively supports, Project 2025, Agenda 47, and Trump's whole
body of lies and his revenge agenda is very much a part of the
problem, and is either willfully blind or not very bright... or
is a fascist too. And as I've said many times before and will no
doubt say again, anybody who still supports Trump and his allies
specifically because of their rhetoric, actions, and plans deserves to live
under an authoritarian, fascist regime... but the rest of us do
We have to outvote them.
Update: December 1, 2023: In a followup to its disturbing November 13 report, Axios revealed on December 1 that it has obtained copies of the exact questionnaires Trump allies are using and that then-President Trump used himself during his final days in office.
The 2020 "Research Questionnaire," which we obtained from a Trump administration alumnus, was used in the administration's final days — when most moderates and establishment figures had been fired or quit, and loyalists were flexing their muscles. Questions include:
- "What part of Candidate Trump's campaign message most appealed to you and why?"
- "Briefly describe your political evolution. What thinkers, authors, books, or political leaders influenced you and led you to your current beliefs? What political commentator, thinker or politician best reflects your views?"
- "Have you ever appeared in the media to comment on Candidate Trump, President Trump or other personnel or policies of the Trump Administration?"
An alumnus of the Trump White House told us both documents are designed to test the sincerity of someone's MAGA credentials and determine "when you got red-pilled," or became a true believer.
- "They want to see that you're listening to Tucker, and not pointing to the Reagan revolution or any George W. Bush stuff," this person said.
Both documents," Axios added, "are
striking for their emphasis on what you believe rather than your
credentials or accomplishments." Copies of both docs can be
viewed at the end of the Axios article (here's that link again).
Reportedly, Trump himself has been irritated by all the attention Heritage and other outside allies have received for, as Axios puts it, "the prefab administration that's being assembled."
- The Trump campaign's top two officials, Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita, issued a statement in mid-November saying that "none of these groups or individuals speak for President Trump or his campaign. We will have an official transition effort to be announced at a later date."
- "Unless a second term priority is articulated by President Trump himself, or is officially communicated by the campaign," they added, "it is not authorized in any way."
Um...okay. But I think we've heard and seen enough from Trump himself (and his campaign) to know that he poses a threat of the highest order to American democracy.