Published at 14:27 on 31 January 2017
The Trump Regime is Not Stupid or Incompetent
Please, let’s stop saying this. It makes no sense. Worse, one of the most serious mistakes you can make in any struggle is to underestimate your opponent.
For openers, Trump ran an astoundingly successful campaign (winning despite spending less on his campaign than his opponents and despite having a mostly hostile mass media). Was it chaotic? Yes. Was it divisive and highly offensive to many people? Yes again. But all that’s irrelevant for the purpose of judging campaign success. The purpose of a campaign is to win an election, and in that Trump succeeded.
Moreover, very little he has done since gaining office is stupid or incompetent, either. Take the controversial “Muslim ban” executive order, for example. It is not a bug that it was needlessly cruel or chaotic. It is a feature. The order was designed in no small part to illustrate that the Trump Regime is willing to be as cruel as possible to those it demonizes, and as powerful as possible in doing so. It also served to demonstrate the willingness of at least some ICE agents to ignore the court order, at least initially. Expect those agents to be rewarded and promoted.
Yes, it is accurate to refer to it as a “Muslim ban” order. The order was intended to be as close to an actual Muslim ban as its authors believed could pass Constitutional muster.
Steve Bannon is the Real Brains of the Regime
Any lingering doubts about that should have been cleared up by the recent elevation of Bannon to the National Security Council and the demotion of the Joint Chief of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence. Steve Bannon is widely acknowledged to be the author of the “Muslim ban” executive order.
Steve Bannon is a Fascist
Bannon is on record as saying his Breitbart website is “the platform for the alt-right.” By any objective measure the so-called alt-right is a fascist movement, advocating racism, authoritarianism, and nationalism, and being hostile to democracy and equality.
When a person spreads a political point of view, the logical conclusion is that person is doing so to advocate that point of view. Those who advocate fascism are known as fascists.
Therefore the Trump Regime is a Fascist Regime
At this point, it becomes axiomatic. A regime run by a fascist adhering to fascist principles is by definition a fascist regime.
The fascist nature of the Trump regime explains the lack of mention of Jews in the White House’s statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day, the fact that the White House chose that day itself to issue the “Muslim ban” order, and the thinly-veiled antisemitism in Trump’s own campaign.
We Have Our Own Article 48
Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution was the path to Hitler making himself dictator and ruling by decree. It was unnecessary for Hitler to repeal Germany’s democratic constitution in order to become a dictator; everything Hitler did was legal and according to the letter of the law. It is often assumed that the US Constitution has no comparable weakness and thus the risk of a fascist dictatorship is significantly less here than it was in Germany. Not so.
Our Article 48 is the presidential pardon power. The president can order his subordinates to break the law and then pardon them if they are caught. In fact, this is already being planned; Newt Gingrich has advocated the pardon power be used as such.
The Right to Free Speech is Already Starting to Be Repealed
Trump filed for reelection the day he was inaugurated. That means the 2020 presidential campaign is already technically underway. Nonprofit organizations are forbidden from advocating for or against political candidates during campaigns, therefore it is now technically illegal for any nonprofit to criticize Trump, and Federal election law can (and doubtless will) be used to persecute such organizations.
Trump is Probably Planning His Gestapo
Any totalitarian government needs a secret police force that operates completely or mostly above the law. Trump is planning to do this by tripling the number of ICE agents. It is little known, but ICE agents are exempt from the normal rules against search and seizure, and most of the country’s population, and in particular most of the left-leaning population, already lies within zones where ICE is authorized to operate.
Worse, ICE already has an established reputation of ignoring those limits and operating outside that area. It also bears pointing out that the ICE is one of the most rabidly pro-Trump parts of the civil service, and thus will be willing to go beyond the letter the law that grants them their already excessively broad powers. Finally, pardons can be used to get those ICE who do get prosecuted out of jail free.
Initially the repression will be targeted against people who appear to be Mexican or Muslim, but it could be easily extended to just about anyone. They couldn’t easily jail people indefinitely, but lower-level harassment by detaining opponents for a number of days while their “eligibility to be in the country is investigated” would certainly be possible. Note that this could cause people to be dismissed from their jobs for reason of excessive absence.
Lies, Lies, Lies
It’s well-known that Trump tells lies. A lot. But he doesn’t do so because he’s stupid or inept. All his lies serve very deliberate and intentional purposes.
Some lies are told for the pure purpose of exerting control over both his opposition (who are manipulated into a perpetual state of hyperventilating over Trump’s dishonesty) and his followers (who are manipulated into believing anything their Dear Leader says, no matter how obviously false). Trump’s lies about the size of the crowds at his inauguration fit into this category.
Trump is Probably Planning to Undermine Elections
Some lies also have deeper, more sinister purposes beyond the above. His lie about winning the popular vote despite election results to the contrary (because so many undocumented aliens voted) falls into this category. Obviously, that lie is also calculated to whip up xenophobia. But it also carries a logical implication: if it is true, then the inescapable conclusion is that the election process in certain states (conveniently, ones with Democratic majorities) is corrupt and in need of being cleaned up.
I believe Trump plans to twist Civil Rights laws intended to ensure minorities have the right to vote to the purpose of ensuring that the minority (and in some cases, even the white Democratic) vote is suppressed.
Trump’s Achilles Heel: Hubris
Trump is on the far right, but ironically his greatest weakness is one that has historically plagued authoritarian leftists: an excessive belief in the power of government coercion to achieve desired aims.
Consider how he has already placed the USA and Mexico on the brink of a trade war because he actually believes he can make Mexico agree to pay for the border wall. Trump and Bannon are acutely aware of how patriotism and nationalism can be used to their advantage, but utterly unaware of how the vast majority of those in every country have a similar sense of national dignity.
Mexico won’t agree to pay for the wall even if such a refusal prompts US sanctions that hurt the Mexican economy more than just paying for the wall will. When this happens, the Mexicans will tend to support their leadership for opposing Yankee aggression and defending their national dignity, blaming the crisis 100% on the USA. The resulting economic hardship will then prompt an increase in the number of Mexicans attempting to cross the border illegally.
The sanctions are likely to take the form of tariffs. Though Mexico will be hurt by these, it will be impossible for the cost of these to be borne solely on the Mexican side; they will inevitably disrupt supply chains and impose higher costs on US businesses and consumers.
Trump’s rule is likely, therefore, to evoke a pattern familiar to anyone who has studied Venezuela under Hugo Chavez: do something ham-fisted and authoritarian, have it predictably blow up as the Law of Unintended Consequences manifests, and then double down on the ham-fisted authoritarianism. Rinse, lather, repeat.
The good thing about this is it will end up hurting practically everyone, big capitalists included, the Rust Belt working class included. This will in turn motivate opposition to Trump. Venezuela had a huge underclass which formed Chavez’s base. Part of the reason his regime lasted so long was that Venezuelan society was so unequal that even though his policies were making the economy overall poorer, his base overall tended to be better off as a result of the new programs Chavez created. Trump will not enjoy this degree of long-term immunity to the overall harm he causes.
A Reichstag Fire is Inevitable unless Trump is Stopped
All available external evidence indicates Trump’s disdain for the intelligence community continues. So doubtless significant intelligence about terrorist threats is or will be ignored. Moreover, the Muslim ban order has served alienate Muslims worldwide, and the fight against terrorism requires the cooperation of allies in Muslim-majority areas of the world. It’s not for nothing that an unprecedented number of retired national security officials opposed Trump.
Therefore an increase in terrorism is all but inevitable. Expect the reaction to be as hysterical and draconian as possible. It is likely that basic civil liberties will be restricted in response if Trump is at the helm.
We’re in a Race Condition
Where we are now is basically a race condition between the various types of damage done by the regime’s hubris. If the damage that cannot be easily spun into rationales to impose a dictatorship dominates, it will be possible to limit the overall damage Trump does. Otherwise, a truly horrifying future awaits.
What’s important at this time is to oppose and undermine as much as possible while we still can do so at relatively low personal risk, while at the same time preparing ourselves for the worst-case scenario.