Salon is (rightly) sounding the alarm over the increasing likelihood that Trump will try to declare himself King of America but they're not giving enough attention to what happens when he fails:
Historian Timothy Snyder: “It’s pretty much inevitable” that Trump will try to stage a coup and overthrow democracy
Snyder makes a pretty good case as to why Trump and the Republicans want to abandon democracy altogether:
Let me make just two points. The first is that I think it’s pretty much inevitable that they will try. The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them. The conventional way to be popular or to be legitimate in this country is to have some policies, to grow your popularity ratings and to win some elections. I don’t think 2018 is looking very good for the Republicans along those conventional lines — not just because the president is historically unpopular. It’s also because neither the White House nor Congress have any policies which the majority of the public like.
This means they could be seduced by the notion of getting into a new rhythm of politics, one that does not depend upon popular policies and electoral cycles.
This much has been obvious for quite some time. Republicans have been using the Southern Strategy and wedge issues like abortion and marriage equality for decades to keep their base voting for tax cuts for the 1%. But as with all things, the law of diminishing return is implacable and the economic pain the GOP has been inflicting on Those People is finally being felt by conservative whites and they are none too pleased. Even though white voters rallied to white nationalism as a cure for their woes, they're still not getting enthused about making the Koch brothers even richer while they watch their life savings evaporate.
Republicans, aware that their ability to motivate white voters is dwindling, have taken to voter suppression on a scale not seen since Jim Crow and even that won't be enough for much longer. The only option left is to simply remove the electorate as a variable. Time to abolish democracy except as a superficial ritual.
The problem, of course, is that Donald Trump is too lazy, stupid and undisciplined to be the face of that coup. In the days after 9/11, 90% of the country supported George W. Bush. He wasn't a very good president but he was good enough to calm the nation down. He wasn't a terribly smart president but he was smart enough to use 9/11 to launch an illegal war on Iraq. He wasn't the most polished president but he stuck to the script and kept the lies straight until it was too late to do anything about them. Trump is incapable of leading a coup even as a figurehead. He's King Joffrey without the charm and restraint. Even a 9/11-level event might not be enough to allow Republicans to successfully seize power with Trump as president, something Snyder recognizes:
My gut feeling is that Trump and his administration will try and that it won’t work. Not so much because we are so great but because we have a little bit of time to prepare. I also think that there are enough people and enough agencies of the government who have also thought about this and would not necessarily go along.
On the other hand, now that Trump has opened Pandora's Box, we're going to see a swarm of open white nationalists run for office as Republicans. Trump's Electoral College victory has proven that there's an audience and an appetite for white nationalism and the racists will come crawling out of the fever swamps to seig heil their way into power. They'll run in the reddest of red districts and they'll win on the strength of racial hatred, the core of modern American conservatism. That, in turn will push the GOP even further into becoming the party of white power and make it even more imperative they rig elections.
But the real problem is what comes after that. Sooner or later, a new white nationalist leader will fill the void that Trump's resignation/impeachment/heart attack will leave and if that person is reasonably smart, ambitious and charismatic, they'll stand a much better chance of abolishing democracy and kicking off the dictatorship Trump clearly wants but doesn't know how to achieve.
Salon is right is to be worried about a Republican attempt to overthrow our government and burn the Constitution but they're wrong to focus on Trump. He's the bulldozer paving the way. The distraction to draw our attention. We have to resist him, to be sure, but we also have to keep an eye out for the monster lurking in the shadows, waiting to come out when no one is looking.
There are 490 days left to the 2018 elections.
- This article kills fascists
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