Trump’s True North: President for Life

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

You have to listen to what Donald Trump says. If he’s made one thing clear, it’s that, when it comes to the big stuff, he keeps no secrets. He tells us what he intends to do. During the 2016 campaign, he made many noises about not accepting an electoral loss, with occasional dark hints about the tough guys who would support him. He repeated those implied threats in 2020, tenaciously not dropping them, insisting that he “could only lose” due to election fraud, and then, when he did actually lose, he followed through. That was on January 6, when he whipped up a raging mob of rioters and pointed them at the capitol, which they stormed, amid howls to “Hang Mike Pence,” as they cobbled together gallows, and a search to lay hands on notables like Nancy Pelosi. Trump warned that he wouldn’t accept an election loss, and he was as good as his word.

Trump also publicly asked Russia in 2016 for campaign help, a request he soon dropped. This was no secret conspiracy, no hidden collusion. As his son said, they were too stupid for that. Instead, this was an open pitch for intervention. Which doesn’t mean Russians were so cretinous as to comply in any big way. But promoters of the phony Russiagate claptrap mysteriously lost sight of all that, priming the populace for an election fraud narrative and eroding faith in the electoral process.

In his hegira from winner to loser, Trump snapped up whatever weapons were at hand along the way, and this disillusionment, caused by the Russiagate fraud, proved most useful. Trump consiglieri like Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani turned it on its head, claiming Venezuela and China tampered with voting machines, helping to steal Trump’s crown, while chief of staff Mark Meadows pursued more arcane charges of Italian meddling via space satellites. The Russiagate ruse turned out to be a can of worms.

Trump also, throughout his tumultuous presidency, periodically floated the lousy, uraemic notion that he would be president for 12 years or longer. Those who listened carefully shuddered, in light of what happened with his warnings about losing. Because Trump once again had stated his intentions. And this could prove just as awful as his attempted coup: Trump intends to be president for life.

Now if the January 6 mayhem was not the culmination of his efforts, but as some have convincingly argued, a prologue, Trump’s repeated allusions to being president forever should be taken very, very seriously. Because he clearly has a plan. He may not have revealed the details yet, but you can be sure, when the time comes, he will, just as he revealed his concoction to counter losing.

The reasoning that the January 6 insurrection was introductory was spelled out very convincingly by Barton Gellman in the December 6 Atlantic. “The strategy of nearly every move of the Trump team after the networks called the election for Joe Biden on November 7 was to induce Republican legislatures in states that Biden won to seize control of the results and appoint Trump electors instead…in Bush v. Gore the Supreme Court affirmed that a state ‘can take back the power to appoint electors.’ No court has ever said that a state could do that after its citizens have already voted, but that was the heart of Trump’s plan.” And it still is.

Gellman also argues that this replacement of electors was “the last gambit in a soundly conceived campaign – one that provided a blueprint for 2024.” If Trump loses in 2024, he won’t have to move heaven and earth to get Republican legislators to appoint his electors. Because those legislators are already prepared to do so. That is Trump’s strategy. Those GOP state leaders also expelled election officials who revealed integrity in 2020, installing instead those who don’t have it, who will loft their support for Trump over their sworn obligations.

Trump’s scheme almost worked last time, because it was an effective strategy. So what about becoming president for life, as Trump has “joked” he’d like to be? Only a fool would assume he lacks a formula.

Trump’s team brainwashed 68 percent of all Republicans that Biden stole the election. It thus “achieved something crucial and enduring,” Gellman writes. Sixty-eight percent is tens of millions of furious people, many armed. You don’t have to be Einstein to hypothesize how a newly empowered president Trump in 2025 would use this massive grudge to cement his presidency for life.

That sounds fantastic, you say? Well, how about a false-flag operation attributed to antifa, launching the Insurrection Act? Trump parasites reportedly floated invoking this act after Trump lost the election. The idea ain’t new in the Trump crowd. How about martial law with general Michael Flynn at the head of the armed forces? If you don’t believe Trump’s considered these options, you need to adjust your thinking cap.

“Nothing close to this loss of faith [the 68 percent of Republicans duped into believing the election was stolen] in democracy has happened here before,” Gellman comments. “Even Confederates recognized Abraham Lincoln’s election; they tried to secede because they knew they had lost.” Gellman argues that convincing voters of Trump’s Big Lie is a strategic win, because GOP legislators depend for their political careers on those voters who believe this fib. Thus Trump has secured a path to doing what he claims he suffered, namely stealing an election, in this case the upcoming one.

Trump’s strategic win may well enable him to decapitate what remains of American democracy. If he does, right-wing militias, armed to the teeth, will probably assist. In any such violent insurrection, the left, being second amendment averse, is at a great disadvantage.  Worse, the left lacks an effective leader. It has no Lincoln or Trotsky, only pathetically weak Weimar Democrats, to battle this twenty-first century Mussolini and his hordes of over-armed fascists.

Unfortunately, it’s almost 2022 and the only people who have been punished for the January 6 fiasco are the rather clueless but blood-thirsty foot soldiers. Scot-free and promoting their prevarications on the airwaves are the plotters, the conspirators, the Steve Bannons, Paul Gosars and Rudy Giulianis – all of whom should likely be in jail. But the Dem congressional and executive sanhedrins have yet aggressively to pursue them. This failure propels the nation’s sleepwalk toward disaster.  A powerful demagogue with a fanatical coterie and an angry, armed base of millions of supporters seeks to topple what’s left of American democracy. His Dem opponents stand frozen like deer in the headlights.

Let’s hope the party in power wakes up and confronts this peril. Let’s hope that it doesn’t continue to dilly dally. The select committee investigating the January 6 riot says it will finally hold public, televised hearings. Good, and long overdue. People need to see what’s transpiring on their TVs. The citizenry must understand what crimes were committed and who perpetrated them. And then those crimes must be punished. For that, above all, we need a special prosecutor.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Hope Deferred. She can be reached at her website.