Trump is Winning the New Nightmare Years

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Trump won. No, not the 2020 presidential election, the aftermath and the year since his predicted putsch bid on January 6, 2021.

So what if he tried to overthrow constitutional rule of law and what’s left of civil decency and democracy? The white nationalist GOP is his Republifascist baby. It’s still the Amerikaner Party of Trump (APoT). He’s still its grand poohbah, with his Big Hitlerian Lie of a stolen election as his great gaslighting club, accepted by three in four Republicans.

While the minority rule governance order inherited from the nation’s slave-owning Founders is already fixed well to the right of the populace, the APoT is ratcheting things farther starboard the name of the Big Lie. It is purging the small number of its elected and election officials who dared oppose Dear Leader Orange and the attempted destruction of previously normative bourgeois electoral democracy. It is passing state-level measures to suppress what it sees as illegitimate and un-American minority and Democratic votes. It is working to cancel popular presidential votes and Electoral College slates that don’t align with its ethno-nationalist program. It is conducting state-level gerrymandering on racist and partisan steroids to further ensure the emergence of a US House of Representatives that will end serious legislative branch investigation of the January 6, 2021, coup attempt.

The new Congress of 2023 will likely hand the presidency to Trump or his (equally if not more dangerous) neofascist successor after a contested election in 2024-25, when (by the way) less than a third of the electorate will have elected more than a two-thirds of the absurdly malapportioned, right-leaning, and powerful US Senate.

To help discredit and defeat Joe Biden and his neoliberal Democratic Party, the Republifascists are working in state governments, Congress, and state and federal courts to block even moderate White House and Democratic efforts to stem the growth of the continuing Covid-19 pandemic and otherwise serve the common good.

In standard fascist and neo-McCarthyite style, the APoT and its hate machine media label anything and everything the corporate capitalist Democrats try to accomplish as (supposedly horrible) socialism, communism, and Marxism.

The APoT has made a hero out of the white-supremacist teenager Kyle Rittenhouse and a martyr out of the fascist Capitol marauder Ashli Babbitt. Rittenhouse’s claim to fame is that he shot three civil rights protesters, killing two of them, in the summer of 2020.

The paranoid-style party of Trump is fueling an epidemic of real and threatened violence against election officials, public health officials, school officials, school boards, retail workers, airline employees, school nurses, vaccine-providers, and other supposed “deep state” agents of the alleged “radical liberal” Marxist-corporate-globalist “CRT” conspiracy to “jab,” mask, humiliate, shame, and disarm freedom-loving “true” – white – “Americans.” As The Guardian reports:

‘The consequences of the breakdown of the American system [are] only now beginning to be felt. January 6 wasn’t a wake-up call; it was a rallying cry. The Capitol police have seen threats against members of Congress increase by 107%. Fred Upton, Republican representative from Michigan, recently shared a message he had received: “I hope you die. I hope everybody in your family dies.” And it’s not just politicians but anyone involved in the running of the electoral system. Death threats have become a standard aspect of the work life of election supervisors and school board members. A third of poll workers, in the aftermath of 2020, said they felt unsafe.’

Much of the Republifascist base is heavily armed.

The absurdly far-right Supreme Court, stocked with three judges appointed by Trump (another big way in which the demented orange menace still wins), is poised to abolish women’s constitutional right to control their own reproductive lives next June. The holy high court may well undo a vast swath of local gun controls in a nation plagued by a maddening epidemic of mass shootings.

A third of the APoT base if not more believes that it is legitimate to crush what’s left of U.S. democracy by resorting to political violence – the rule of force and men over the rule of law. They think gun commandment may be necessary to save “the American way of life,” by which Republikaners mean white- and male-supremacist hierarchy and the nation’s intimately related right to extract and burn every last fossil fuel on a melting planet.

A recent article by the election law expert Richard Hasen in the elite liberal Atlantic magazine is titled “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun.” Hasen notes that “the democratic emergency is already here…We face a serious risk that democracy as we know it will come to an end in 2024…but urgent action is not happening.” As Hasen told CNN’s frowning anchor Anderson Cooper, Trump only failed to steal the 2020 contest because enough officials, Republicans included, “acted in good faith” to defend the republic. “You can think of January 2021 as the low point in American democracy,” Hasan added, “or you can think of it as a practice run for 2024,” understanding that the Republicans are eliminating officials committed to fair two-party elections and replacing them with agents who believe the Big Lie. “We really are in a tough spot,” Hasen said, agreeing with Cooper’s concern that the nation’s “democratic” institutions “have started to crumble.”

The Editorial Board of The New York Times recently marked the one-year anniversary of the Capitol Riot with the following reflection on the authoritarian specter hanging over the land:

‘On the surface, our political life seems more or less normal these days, as the president pardons turkeys and Congress quarrels over spending bills. But peel back a layer, and things are far from normal. Jan. 6 is not in the past; it is every day. It is regular citizens who threaten election officials and other public servants, who ask, “When can we use the guns?” and who vow to murder politicians who dare to vote their conscience. It is Republican lawmakers scrambling to make it harder for people to vote and easier to subvert their will if they do. It is Donald Trump who continues to stoke the flames of conflict with his rampant lies and limitless resentments and whose twisted version of reality still dominates one of the nation’s two major political parties…In short, the Republic faces an existential threat from a movement that is openly contemptuous of democracy and has shown that it is willing to use violence to achieve its ends. No self-governing society can survive such a threat by denying that it exists.’

It’s not just about the Republifascists, of course. The dithering, dollar-drenched corporate and imperial Democrats are a distinctly un-radical and un-Left party of passive and hollow resistance. They offer little real counter to the nation’s rightward drift. They are Weimar-like junior partners in in a fascitization process that could well inscribe the January 6 Capitol Riot as the Beer Hall Putsch – practice and prologue for the later fascist takeover – of the 21st Century.

The “dismal Dems” of the long neoliberal era helped birth the neofascist Frankenstein by discrediting democracy and themselves, demobilizing their base in service to concentrated wealth and power (please see the final chapter of my new book This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America). From the second half of Jimmy Carter administration through the Citigroup and Council on Foreign Relations presidencies of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, the onetime “party of the people” has shown itself to be a plutocratic platform of inauthentic opposition and elitist, politically correct fake progressivism.

As the great American public intellectual Noam Chomsky, the Bertrand Russell of the early 21st Century, has recently acknowledged (almost as an aside in a recent interview with Amy Goodman), “the US is moving to a form of fascism.” Will the Democrats do anything to stop this movement? What do the Democrats propose to do to slay the monster it did so much to let loose upon the world? Very little indeed, nothing that is remotely in the ballpark of arousing the mass and militant popular resistance required to put the beast of fascism back in the cage where it belongs. As the six-year-old organization Refuse Fascism notes in its January 6th anniversary statement:

‘The January 6 coup attempt demonstrated that fascism is not just the worst of a pendulum swing. It is an all-out assault on the rule of law aiming to strip democratic rights from whole groups of people they see as sub-human. Trump and his fascist movement have torn up the norms and thrown out the rule book, yet the outrage and hopes of people on the side of justice keep getting diverted into the very channels that are being eviscerated, and away from the kind of deep, mass, society-wide struggle that is needed…Biden and the Democratic Party have not stopped or slowed the advance of these fascists. Trump roams free to cement his hold over the GOP and run for president in 2024, while across the country, we are losing the right to abortion, voting, protest, history education, and free speech. Death threats against public officials have become routine, and Christian fascists on the Supreme Court openly dehumanize women with Roe v. Wade in their crosshairs…The Democratic Party has largely led people into inaction, passivity, and conciliation with fascism. This is a reality that must be confronted: Fascism can, and is, happening here and it cannot simply be voted away. The question remains, what will the decent people do? Will the future be fascist, or will we act?’

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the Democrats or the holy electoral and judicial processes to save the republic, much less preserve and advance democracy. The not-so leftmost of the two major parties is hopelessly committed to “stability” and to normative bourgeois principles and methods of absurdly calm, polite, parliamentary, and bipartisan deliberation – modes of governance that are being torn up under the pressure of deeply rooted social, economic, and political contradictions in late capitalism. Even as many of their publications and editorial pages show that they understand the grave existential menace to their unmentionably contingent, limited, and bourgeois democracy, they will do nothing special or “radical” to save that (or any other kind of) “democracy.” Only an aroused, mass, organized, and militant populace acting beneath and beyond the masters’ quadrennial electoral extravaganzas can move the world’s most powerful nation off its continuing descent into “the nightmare years” of eco-cidal, patriarchal, white-nationalist, and neofascist rule.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).