“The System is Working”? The Latest Trump Indictments and Continuing Existential Threats

You can hear the liberal Democrats clucking and see them smiling.  The “democratic American system,” they want you to know, “is working.”  Donald “Take Down the Metal Detectors” Trump has been indicted for the third time and last Tuesday brought the big one: the federal indictment for January 6, for the attempted blocking of the peaceful transfer of power during and after the 2020 presidential election.

But is it really working, for “democracy” and “the people” – the American System, that is? This is the Minority Rule system whose Electoral College, voter suppression, Huxleyan and Orwellian media, and overall many-sided corporate oligarchy/plutocracy let the demented orange fascist  into the world’s most powerful office in the first place.

It was clear from day one that this malignant narcissist and wannabe fascist strongman for life would attempt some sort of coup to stay in power. Nobody should have been surprised by the despicable and horrific shit he pulled in 2020-21, when he mass-murderously exacerbated the Covid-19 pandemic, tried to crush the George Floyd Rebellion with the US military, and resorted to an attempted putsch to overthrow previously normative bourgeois democracy and rule of law – to block the peaceful transfer of power in the name of a potent Hitlerian lie about a “stolen election”!

During Herr Donald’s openly eco-cidal and fascist presidency, the Republi-fascist movement and ideology was boosted and emboldened across the Amerikaner “heartland”: palingenetic white nationalism and white supremacism, authoritarian personality cultism, political eliminationism, vicious patriarchy, the embrace of political violence, virulent nativism and border obsession, a war on truth and science, paranoid anti-socialism —all this and more that checks off all the symptom boxes of the political pathology that is fascism.

The system is working? Trump and his collaborator Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell created a Christian Fascist Supreme Court that has so far ended women’s half-century constitutional protection against the female enslavement that is forced motherhood. This High Handmaid Court has re-legalized Jim Crow discrimination in commercial conduct (in the deceptive name of “free speech”) and outlawed race-based  affirmative action in college admissions along with other darkly revanchist rulings.

Half or more of the nation’s preposterously powerful state governments are in the hands of neofascistic Christian white nationalists. “Red” states have passed noxious fascist laws instituting draconian abortion bans and outlawing the proper teaching of American history, social studies, civics, and current events by making it a crime to tell the truth about US and North American racism, sexism, and homophobia past and present.  Fascistic assaults on libraries, books, school boards, public health agencies, science, teachers, academics, and intellectual freedom in general are rampant across much of the nation.

The nation is lethally plagued by a globally unmatched surplus of firearms, including a plethora of military-style assault weapons, disproportionately owned by the Republi-fascist Right, which has a menacing presence in the nation’s giant racist police and prison state.

“The system is working”?  A preponderance of Republicans and roughly three in ten US citizens buy Trump’s big, multiply disproven Leviathan Lie about the 2020 election. Most of the Trump base thinks it is legitimate to threaten and employ violence to intimidate public officials and negate elections “to protect European values” – that is, to put and keep “us,” patriarchal whites, in authority and deny political voice to “them,” largely non-white and demonized Others seen as undeserving of “real American” citizenship. Thousands of Republi-fascists have been recruited to serve as precinct and county-level election workers to mess with the counting of the vote in 2024.

The American “democratic” system is an authoritarian mess. We are still stuck with an archaic 18th Century Minority Rule slaveowners’ Constitution that grants absurdly outsized political voice to the now fascist US Right through the preposterous, openly undemocratic Electoral College, the absurdly powerful and mal-apportioned US Senate (where the nation’s most revanchist regions and states are vastly overrepresented), “states rights,” and the lifetime-appointed and arch-plutocratic, now Christian Fascist and transparently corrupt, wholly illegitimate Supreme Court.

Under the rules of this ancient charter, it is quite possible that the revanchist Republi-fascist Party – an openly authoritarian, putschist, violent, racist, sexist, cultist, anti-intellectual, fundamentalist and homophobic organization – will achieve full triple-branch federal power in 2025, possibly without widely evident violence.  (There will be plenty of arch-reactionary, fascist bloodshed after such an outwardly peaceful and “constitutional” taking of power, as in Germany following Hitler’s fully constitutional appointment as Chancellor in 1933.)

“The system is working”? The Hitler fan Trump is currently tied in the polls with the decrepit, dollar-drenched corporate-neoliberal, imperialist, and warmongering president Joe “Nothing Will Fundamentally Change” Biden, whose current miserable approval rating is hauntingly similar to that of the doomed one-termer Jimmy Carter at this time in 1979.

Think about that. Reflect on every horrific, soul-numbing, pathological, transgressive, sadistic and criminal thing the malignant orange fascist and multiply accused rapist Donald “I Can Do Anything I Want” Trump has done in plain view: the brazen fossil-capitalist eco-cidalism, the vicious and racist pandemicism, the mind-boggling and record-setting number of lies (with certainly more than 50,000 false statements in the last 8 years), the violent nativism, the embrace of white supremacists, the constant demeaning of women, the attacks on press freedom, the attacks on civil liberties, the open promise now of ugly Retribution, the open embrace of the neo-Nazi blood-libel QAnon cult, the reckless murder of a top Iranian general, the cover provided for the Saudi murder of a Washington Post journalist, the open embrace of foreign dictators, the perpetuation to this day of a giant fraudulent claim of a stolen election, the brazen Fake Electors schemes of 2020-1 (detailed at length in the latest federal indictment of Trump), the intimidation and attempted perversion of state-level election officials and legislators (also detailed in the latest indictment), the attempted recruitment of Trump’s Vice President to a criminal conspiracy to obstruct the certification of Biden’s election, and the final resort to literal mass political violence – violence that Trump wanted armed with AR-15s – against the US Congress on January 6 (this too is detailed in Jack Smith’s latest charges). Add in the theft of classified documents and the wild post-presidential deception and obstruction in response to federal government efforts to retrieve those documents.

Think about all that and more in Trump’s ongoing history of fascist transgression and then let it sink in: this lethal Uber-Asshole from Hell, accurately described by Noam Chomsky as “the most dangerous criminal in human history” in January of 2020 (as Trump stood on the precipice of his pandemicide), has tens of millions of US supporters and is tied with Biden in match-up polls.

“The system is working”?

The insane US Electoral College system is tilted so far to the right that the Democratic candidate needs to beat the Republi-fascist candidate by at least 4 to 5 percentage points in order to prevail in the quadrennial presidential contests.

Some “democratic” system! A tie in the popular vote means that Trump wins.

And this time, unlike in 2016, Trump is running with a fully worked-up arch-authoritarian plan for drastically expanded personal and executive branch authority created by an army of hundreds of staffers from the vast right-wing policy infrastructure.  Liberals and progressives I know are plagued by the persistent belief that Trump isn’t really all that serious about policy, that’s he’s just a comical buffoon running only to slake his ego and “stay out of jail.” This is foolish. It is clear from an abundance of recent reporting (including this among many other reports) and from Trump’s own Website – look at his dystopian “Agenda 47” – and speeches that the Trump tide this time includes a concerted, heavily-funded, and detailed policy agenda for the authoritarian collapse of what’s left of democracy in the United States. The plan involves a drastic expansion of executive branch authority under abject fealty to “the most dangerous criminal in human history.”[1]

“Oh yes,” liberals say, “but Trump can’t possibly win with all these indictments against him.”  Is that so? US politics, “the best democracy money can buy,” is a plutocratic currency game thanks to “our” wild west campaign finance rules (thank the holy Supreme Court) and the Trump indictments have been fundraising gold for Trump. The more he gets charged, the more his campaign (and legal defense and delay) war chest grows. As an old working-class maxim says, “money talks, bullshit walks.”

The indictments haven’t cost the Malignant One any of his core support. They’ve helped solidify his status as the runaway Republi-fascist presidential nominee, likely to stay in place to possibly win the right-tilted Electoral College coin-flip next year. And the Trump indictments haven’t boosted the embarrassing corporate imperialist Biden’s well-deserved low approval numbers one bit.

“The system is working”? The US Attorney General Merrick Garland despicably slow-walked the long overdue January 6 indictments for so long that it’s unclear if Trump can be convicted prior to the 2024 election. Garland’s spineless delay has dropped the indictments into the gathering hurricane of the 2024 election cycle, feeding Trump’s ability to sell the charges against him as “partisan election interference.”  Most of what Trump was indicted for two days ago (I am writing on Thursday, August 3rd) was known and documented last summer and fall if not before. The most recent indictments should have come down last year at the latest. The tangerine-tinted tyrant ought to be sitting in federal prison right now, facing the classified documents charges while already incarcerated for the rest of its appalling life.

There’s no law saying that Trump can’t run, win and assume office after being convicted under any of the charges that are being made against him this year. Special Prosecutor Jack Smith held back from charging Trump with attempted insurrection, a guilty verdict for which would prevent the orange monstrosity from ever holding public office again under Section 3 of the Constitution’s post-Civil War 14th Amendment.

If Trump gets back in power – a distinct possibility under “our” “democratic” system that is supposedly “working” – the fascist ogre will immediately suspend any and all federal legal actions against him and issue pardons of himself, his fellow coup-plotters, and hundreds of January 6 convicts.

If that’s “the system working,” we need a better system.

The fascist project will live on even if Trump’s multiple legal problems somehow knock him off the  Republi-fascist presidential ticket or damage him too badly to win the right-leaning general election coin-flip.  The fascism problem is much bigger than its 2015-2023 vehicle and leader Trump.  If Trump goes down, the nation’s neofascists will find new Dear Leaders (it seems that “Ron DeFascist” lacks the charisma qualification for that job) and methods for advancing their revanchist, eliminationist, eco-cidal, racist, nativist, sexist, and potentially genocidal cause.

In the meantime, even without the fascism problem, also contrary to smug liberal claims that “the system is working,” America and the world face grave crises courtesy of US-led capitalism-imperialism – crises partly captured in a recent report from Axios:

“Existential threats to humanity are soaring this year. Put aside your politics and look at the world clinically, and you’ll see the three areas many experts consider existential threats to humanity worsening in 2023… focus your mind on how the threats of nuclear catastrophe, rising temperatures and all-powerful AI capabilities are spiking worldwide…You just lived through the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. The world’s oceans are absurdly warm, with temperatures in the 90s° around the Florida Keys, bleaching and even killing coral reefs in just one week. Antarctic sea ice is plummeting even in the dead of winter. Wildfires are raging. Climate scientists don’t relish saying, ‘I told you so,’ but they’ve been warning for years that each seemingly incremental rise in global average temperatures would translate into severe heat waves, droughts, floods and stronger hurricanes. And the worst part is, we can’t even call this our ‘new normal,’ because it’s going to keep getting worse as long as carbon emissions keep increasing…This is a global problem that will require a global solution, but tensions between the world’s top two emitters — the U.S. and China — are high, and getting the big global powers to abide by a sufficiently hardcore climate commitment has so far proven impossible…AI: The technology’s top architects say there’s a non-zero chance it’ll destroy humanity — and they don’t really know how or why it works…AI — with its ability to mass-produce fake videos, soundbites and images — poses clear risks to Americans’ already tenuous trust in elections and institutions….Nukes: China has expanded its nuclear arsenal on land, air and sea — raising the likelihood of a dangerous new world with three, rather than two, nuclear superpowers..,’Beijing, Moscow and Washington will likely be atomic peers,’ the N.Y. Times reports. ‘This new reality is prompting a broad rethinking of American nuclear strategy that few anticipated a dozen years ago.’ …Russian President Vladimir Putin said this summer that he moved some of his country’s roughly 5,000 nuclear weapons into Belarus — closer to Ukraine and Western Europe. President Biden warned in June that Putin’s threat to use tactical nuclear weapons in Ukraine is ‘real.’”

There’s much that Axios leaves out, including especially the central roles of the United States and the world capitalist-imperialist system in the creation of each of these “existential threats to humanity.” Still, Axios is right to remind us that we face grave “existential threats” with or without fascists in the White House.

At the same time, contrary to the suggestion that we “put aside our politics,” it should be acknowledged that our chances of properly addressing these and other existential threats – e.g. the menace of new pandemics – if the most powerful country on Earth is under the rule of the likes of Donald Trump and the crafters of “Agenda 47.”

Fascism itself deserves mention as one of the dire existential threats” facing humanity. It must be defeated both within and beyond the USA.

And that defeat will not be achieved here in the US by the better people sitting back and letting the supposedly democratic American system “work.” Bringing that defeat about will require more than Biden, Garland, and Jack Smith et al and the slaveowners’ Constitution can provide.  The main thing missing in the thinking and rhetoric of “the system is working” crowd  is any reference to the need for thousands and then millions of people to stand up en masse and say, “you’ll have to go through us to build a fascist Amerika.” Mass mobilization and activism on the part of those who refuse to accept such an Amerika, and not merely bourgeois-D/democratic electoralism and legalism, is what is most truly and urgently required to stop US fascist consolidation.

This essay initially appeared on The Paul Street Report.


+1. This is different from 2015-16, when Trump didn’t think he could win and relied largely on the fascist bloviator Steve Bannon for a handful of policy notions. This time, building on four years in actual power and two-plus years in bitter opposition to the supposedly “radical Left” (militantly capitalist-imperialist) Biden administration, Trump has a vast “conservative” (radical right) political and policy network replete with hundreds of staffers from the Heritage Foundation, the Claremont Institute, the America First Policy Institute, and the Conservative Political Action Coalition working up comprehensive schemes for Christian white nationalist/ neofascist consolidation. Their plans aren’t actually about the destruction of “the deep state” and the “administrative state” to put “We the People “in charge. That’s the faux-populist and faux-libertarian rhetoric they use to suck in gullible supporters, including a significant number of “left”-identified folks with whom I am acquainted.  Beneath the deceptive rhetoric, they are planning the fascist reconfiguration of the whole state and society itself to gravely deepen the oppression of the people under a new capitalist-imperialist superstructure that puts an eco-cidal jackboot on our collective neck.  Their claim to be against Big Government is another one of their many lies.

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