Published at 14:18 on 10 August 2020
Disclaimer: My Vision Is Faulty
Specifically, I have a real blind spot when it comes to telling when, if, or which Republicans are going to push back. There’s no way I could have predicted that Marco Rubio would fall into line behind Trumpism, while Rick Wilson or Charlie Sykes would join the ranks of anti-Trumpers. More recently, Moscow Mitch’s pushback against Trump’s idea of cancelling or postponing the election came as a surprise to me.
This is all very significant, as we soon shall see, because it is of critical importance in guiding the course of likely future events. What I have tried to do here is to hedge my bets by considering the two major types of alternative, and to rely on the judgment of trustworthy others in those areas where my own vision falls short.
The Old Order Is More Dead Than You Realize
Since he has taken office, Trump has:
- Enacted a Muslim ban via executive order,
- Started building a wall along the southern border via executive order,
- Staffed his Cabinet and agencies without the consent of Congress,
- Successfully rebuffed Congressional subpoenas, and
- Sought the influence of a foreign power in the electoral process.
Yes, in some of the above, Congress has tried to stop him. Tried, but not tried as hard as they could have tried. Tried, but failed. In other words, he has gotten away with it.
Such is as it has long been with Republican abuses of power, and the imperial presidency in general (i.e., regardless of party). There was very little accountability for the George W. Bush administration’s war crimes (remember, they outright used torture as an official policy). There was a lesson in this to Republicans, and that lesson was: you will get away with it. As such, Trumpism should really come as no surprise.
As it goes with the Republican Party, so it goes with Trump personally. He was a child of privilege, whose inherited privilege has taught him, time and time again, that laws and social norms are for the little people.
Given all that, and given what the polls say about his current popularity with the American public, of course Trump is going to attempt to prevent a free and fair election, one capable of unseating him, in November. Not only is he going to attempt it, it is entirely plausible that he will be successful in this attempt.
This much is virtually axiomatic; anyone who doubts it is a fool spewing nonsense.
But It’s Not Quite That Simple
At this point, my faulty vision gets in the way. To reiterate, I was actually surprised when McConnell and some other prominent Trumpers threw cold water on Trump’s postpone-the-election trial balloon, but throw cold water they did. Was that anomalous behavior, or was it a portent of a future trend? I honestly cannot say, so I must hedge my bet and consider both alternatives.
If There Is Pushback
It will probably happen after Labor Day. I am relying on the knowledge of Washington insider pundit types here; many of them have whispered that Republicans in Congress might become rats deserting a sinking ship if Trump is still polling as badly after Labor Day (now under a month away) as he is today.
The window is short. If it doesn’t start happening within a fortnight of Labor Day, I don’t see it happening. Realistically, if it doesn’t start happening within a week of Labor Day, I don’t see it happening, but I’m going to err on the side of caution by doubling the size of the window.
It will take an impeachment. This is because of how Trump’s entire life has shaped his personality. It will simply not be possible to convince him that it is in his best interests to adopt strategic long-term thinking (something he seems utterly incapable of) and act lawfully (when laws have never before presented serious obstacles to him). It will be necessary to force him from office. Any lesser measure will prove ineffective at ensuring an at least somewhat free election.
If There Is Not
It will still be necessary to force Trump from office. It’s just that, given that both impeachment and the electoral process will have been mooted, extralegal means will be necessary. I’m talking about a mass popular insurrection, the likes of which have swept many governments from power in many other nations throughout the world.
It will be possible. Six months ago, I would have been very glum about the prospects of this, given how shamefully passive most liberals had been up until then. Now, after the waves of Black Lives Matter protests, I am rather more optimistic about the prospects for free and open society continuing to exist.
I don’t think liberals are there quite yet, but I think the destruction of the electoral process will probably serve as a sufficient radicalizing agent to turn most liberals (and many centrists, and a few conservatives) into revolutionaries. Not full-fledged anarchist revolutionaries, mind you, but revolutionaries nonetheless.
The Stakes Are High
In 1940, during the early days of the Second World War, Churchill remarked:
Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”
Make no mistake, what we are fighting is the new fascism, and the stakes this time are every bit as great as they were eighty years ago.