Although in essays and proposals it is good form to end with your strongest argument, here we start with the worst vision. Let’s just get it out there and done. It is the vision that I proposed first in December 2015. I broke Godwin’s Law and put it out there. I called Trump a potential dictator, and now, he is in a position to lead this nation down that very dark and soul destroying path. This is how I see an attempt to move this country to fascism could unfold. There are three simultaneous groups of events that need to be executed; grab power, distract the masses, silence the opposition.
I. Grab power
The first moves will be subtle, even expected, perhaps lauded as progress. The rhetoric at this stage will be all convivial and conciliatory at the surface. Meanwhile, no mention will be made of civil unrest, except to blame the opposition while dismissing the actions of allies as – pranks, or defensive in nature.
Among the first actions of Trump’s presidency will be to nominate a justice to the Supreme Court. Now as loathed as Scalia was for his conservatism, his conservative interpretation of the law and the Constitution was often a valid interpretation. I know that sounds circular in its logic, but look at the Obergefell v. Hodges decision of the Supreme Court. It was the conservative justices who citing the constitution of the United States reversed the decision of a lower court and allowed gay marriage to be legal nationwide. So even if a conservative justice is appointed it’s not a signal of anything, other than filling an empty seat.
The fear here is that Trump would so stack the court against the interests of the nation that he would be able to pervert the government into a fascist state. The more I contemplate the possibility, the further removed from reality I think it is.
But, do look at who is chosen. Trump already has a list of possible nominees for the position. They all lean to the right, but that is no surprise. Most seem quite solid in their records, and there are two women among the possibilities. Justice Merrick Garland, who was put forward by President Obama, is imminently qualified. And, for those who are interested he falls to the conservative side of center. He may yet be the next Justice if the new government goes for expedience rather than more obstruction. That’s a toss up.
But let’s say that somehow, despite Congress, despite the conscience of the justices themselves, within four years Trump manages to stack the Supreme Court in such a way that he has it firmly in his back pocket. The next step down this fear filled and increasingly fantastical scenario would be extending the power of the Presidency, and the Congress. First, if Congress was proving helpful, or at least malleable, there would be removal of term limits and the increase of terms themselves. Because, if you have a group that’s playing nicely with you, you want to keep them in power. Then there would be an extension of the term of the Presidency… 8 years, 10 years… who knows.
Another step in this phase would be greater voting restrictions. Again, if you’re in power, your first job is to stay there. There might be a poll tax, literally a fee to vote. Fewer and fewer polling stations in urban areas, and strict polling hours would do irreparable damage to the ability of minorities to vote.
So there you have Trump, working with a Republican Congress to take power out of the hands of the people, securing political power for themselves.
II. Distract the masses
At the same time as the grab for power is happening, there needs to be a distraction for the populace that backs Trump. The first thing that Trump needs to secure power, is political unrest. The more unrest there is, the more disorder, the more rising hysteria, and the louder the opposition, the more material Trump has to exploit against his opposition. Rioting, violence, calls for violence all feed the fears of the people who voted for Trump, and I’ll remind you that was nearly 50% of the US population.
So, if 50% of the people are afraid, how much opposition will there be to a curfew, just to keep us safe. Or to the thousand of other little indignities or ‘rules’ to help keep us ‘safe’ or from mingling with ‘the Other.’ Perhaps certain elements will need to register if they have a job outside of their home neighborhood. Nothing intrusive you see, just to help locate people if there is a need, an emergency. Papers to travel from one state to another, a database, a symbol, all the creeping invasions to liberty to help maintain law and order.
And maybe Trump does what he promises to do with 11 million immigrants. He decides to ship them out. He’ll need a special police force to help identify and relocate all those men, women, and children. If he’s offering a good enough salary, more than minimum wage maybe, he’ll have a line of white men at the door for applications. Good benefits too, I hear.
And while the deportation of 11 million people is being set up, in the background, there are the trials to keep people entertained and talking. The trials. Televised spectacles, like the OJ Simpson fiasco, but with a much better production team. First to the bar will be Hillary Clinton. Special prosecutors, teams of lawyers, Comey in the stand as the distressed and bitter former lover..(wait a minute, getting carried away there.) But, there will be trials. Intense procedural that drags on for months while an apparatus for breaking this nation is assembled in the background.
And if the trials aren’t enough, there will be the constant stream of hate and fear directed at “the Other”. It needs to be something that Trump can control, extort, and be perceived as the defending force against. He needs a scapegoat. In 1930s Germany the scapegoat was the Jewish community. Here in the US in the 2000s the likely scapegoat would be the Muslim community. Also minorities of the inner city, would be framed as “the Other”, the danger, the unknown.
They are the drain on society. The welfare mother, the immigrant, the shifty eyed Lebanese looking for asylum(No, really he’s Syrian, no, Iranian, no a Kurd… oh, hell doesn’t matter.) This is the mantra on subliminal repeat that the Trump campaign has already started in America. And, the young ones, are listening. Yes, “Tomorrow belongs to Me” little white children. Sing along.
And while our children are learning and repeating the rhetoric of hate and turning in their parents for not supporting the Father of our Nation, the fringe of society will have their day. Don’t believe me, the KKK rallied openly in Mebane, NC yesterday. I’m sure the good ole boys are getting together again tonight, and there might be something real special planned for the weekend. The Alt-Right, that conglomeration of everything society flushes, is coming into our houses, our communities. They will become first the unofficial, and then the official arm of ‘keeping us safe.’ They will become pervasive.
III. Silence the opposition
The general population would not be immune from the culling of undesirable influences. There would be increased surveillance, not only in reality, but on-line. Newspapers and media that stood up or dared to report on the Trump misdeeds would be silenced. But, at the moment I don’t think the media has anything to worry about. They have already proved themselves amenable to Trump’s agenda. Individual bloggers might need to go silent, or underground.
One of the strongest tools that we will see if Trump is following the path of the fascist ego driven ruler is the implementation of new libel laws. The threat of economic ruin will follow every word that is written or printed about him. There might even be “grandfather” clauses to catch previously printed non-complimentary essays and articles. Yes, we are getting pretty far afield from reality, but like the tufts in a quilt that join the layers, this is one of those quite possible threats. Trump is proved as litigious, thin-skinned and petty. He uses the terror suit flagrantly to stifle opponents and people with legitimate grievances.
Another tool that could be used is the seizure of assets of people ‘suspected’ of having ties to ‘terrorists’. They might take the passport first, or not, but bank accounts would be frozen, then mortgages seized, then businesses closed, then homes robbed, then emptied. Those daring to oppose the changes could find themselves destitute and shut out by friends who feared the same.
This is by far, the most frightening possibility. And the generation that saved us from Fascism is almost gone. We must save ourselves. How likely it is though is tough to call. And, as we will explore in other pathways some of the first actions on this pathway are also present in other scenarios, so don’t go thinking the absolute worst on Day 1. But, I think you can see there will be places for opposition along the way, and the bureaucracy of government itself has an inertia that I haven’t even factored. The possibility of this outcome is terrifying, but inconceivably low. In short, it will only happen if we let it happen.