The Dismantling of Democracy: A Grim Projection of American Fascism Under Trump

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The guardrails of democracy have been blasted into dust. The Supreme Court’s ruling on presidential immunity grants presidents carte blanche to commit crimes as long as they act within their “constitutional authority.” Welcome to gangster capitalism. Trump, the convicted felon, white nationalist, white supremacist, and aspiring dictator, can rest assured that his dream of unaccountable power will be realized if he is elected in November. With the legal cover to use his “official” power to commit endless crimes, the Supreme Court ruling effectively grants Trump the right, if elected, to become a domestic terrorist. Writing a dissent to the ruling, Justice Sotomayor rightly comments on its terrifying implications, calling it an extraordinary power grab and a glaring instance of maligned legality. She writes:

When [the President of the United States] uses his official powers in any way, under the majority’s reasoning, he now will be insulated from criminal prosecution. Orders the Navy’s Seal Team 6 to assassinate a political rival? Immune. Organizes a military coup to hold onto power?  Immune. Takes a bribe in exchange for a pardon? Immune. Immune, immune, immune.

 If and when he takes office, public services that operate, or are supposed to operate, in the name of truth, justice, and freedom will be largely disabled, just as the most crucial democratic rights will continue to be undermined. Young people will be written out of the script of democracy, staggering levels of inequality will increase mass immiseration, the economy will tumble into a massive recession, and blood will flow in the streets and abroad.

Critical ideas and thinking itself will be under siege, as well as any institution capable of producing them. Under Trump and his fascist sycophants, critical thought will disappear from public and higher education, social problems will be criminalized, the oppositional press will be shut down, women will lose control over their reproductive rights, the social state will morph into the punishing state, and the dark cloud of fascism will extinguish the dimming lights of democracy.

Even more tragically for democracy, Trump, if elected, will be able to institute a criminogenic system of law that can be used to assassinate his opponents, kill immigrants, imprison critics, and enact an American version of the Nazi Enabling Act, which allowed Hitler “to issue laws that laid the foundation for the complete Nazification of German society.” This corrupt Supreme Court, filled with bribe-takers, misogynists, and white supremacists, has just put democracy in a coffin. With the collapse of checks and balances that should provide a balance of power in the U.S., we will see a tsunami of barbarism and state violence in America, reminiscent of Fascist Italy, Chile under the ruthless Pinochet, and Nazi Germany. None of these predictions, given the rhetoric of revenge and violence Trump promises to enforce, should appear hypothetical.

Fascist politics, which is the endpoint of capitalism and a failed democracy, will no longer be a matter of historical analysis. First, it will emerge through a series of statutes outlined in Project 2025. As this project takes place, thousands of immigrants will be detained and put in prisons, dissidents will be rounded up and thrown in jail, and show trials will begin for Trump’s most hated enemies, including a range of judges, politicians, and outspoken critics.

Second, every aspect of social life will be militarized, leading to a culture of fear and state violence. Behind this will be the legitimizing force of a thoroughly corrupt Supreme Court majority and a repressive state apparatus, including the police and various elements of the armed forces. A hint of what might transpire is evident in Trump’s recent calls to jail “President Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Senators Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, and former Vice President Mike Pence, among other high-profile politicians.”[1]Trump also called for a televised military tribunal to hold Liz Cheney responsible for treason. It will only be a matter of time before he and his sycophants, such as Stephen Miller, provide a list of alleged enemies to be potentially thrown out of planes, assassinated, or disappeared—tactics used by dictators like Pinochet in Chile. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling on presidential immunity, Trump’s deranged fantasies and penchant for revenge, violence, and unchecked authoritarianism can now unfold without any constraints, legally or politically. Welcome to a potential era of gulags, internment centers, and reign of state terrorism masquerading as entertainment and reality TV—broadcast daily on X. This fascist vision is clearly outlined in Project 2025, a 900-page American version of Mein Kampf.

How do we address the slow death of justice, the emergence of a culture of cruelty, the contempt for those perceived as different, and the complete erasure of any meaningful remnants of the social and solidarity? It is hard not to feel the weight of profound loneliness in North America today. Shared values have been replaced not only by shared fears, but also by the collapse of civic literacy, and a value system in which intimacy and compassion, once central to public spaces, have mostly vanished. In the era of Trump, people turn into corpses, mere shells, devoted to the worship of money, violence, and greed. Critical thinking has become dangerous, with institutions once dedicated to it now besieged by white Christian nationalists and billionaire champions of ruthless capitalism.

As James Baldwin once noted, “One has to steal moments to think.” People are ensnared in a haze of historical and social amnesia that nurtures ignorance and mutual alienation. Social fragmentation has evolved into a kind of madness, trapping individuals who increasingly fall prey to the false sense of community offered by purveyors of hate and bigotry. The decay at the heart of capitalism reduces people to lifeless commodities who struggle to trust one another, mired in emotional poverty, a fear of solidarity, and a dread of expressing compassion and dignity. Neoliberalism’s corrosion thrives on manufactured enemies offering the disenchanted the illusion of feeling something, anything at all. This is not the country I grew up in because I no longer recognize it. I am not optimistic, but at the same time, while hope is diminished, it is not lost. Hopefully, mass resistance can persist even in the face of unimaginable odds.  I hold onto Baldwin’s claim that “Even the emptiness of America can be overcome.”


[1] Chris Cameron, “Trump Amplifies Calls to Jail Top Elected Officials, Invokes Military Tribunals,” New York Times (July 1, 2024).

A version of this essay originally appeared on LA Progressive.

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest in the English and Cultural Studies Department and is the Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books include: The Terror of the Unforeseen (Los Angeles Review of books, 2019), On Critical Pedagogy, 2nd edition (Bloomsbury, 2020); Race, Politics, and Pandemic Pedagogy: Education in a Time of Crisis (Bloomsbury 2021); Pedagogy of Resistance: Against Manufactured Ignorance (Bloomsbury 2022) and Insurrections: Education in the Age of Counter-Revolutionary Politics (Bloomsbury, 2023), and coauthored with Anthony DiMaggio, Fascism on Trial: Education and the Possibility of Democracy (Bloomsbury, 2025). Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s board of directors.