I knew it was coming, you knew it was coming: it's time again that we talk about Trump. In addition, I think that we need to discuss the entire political apparatus in the United States, because many of our concerns don't disappear with the end of the Trump threat–they persist, as they do today, until the empire falls (and even then who knows). So today let's talk about what comes next, as Trump retakes center stage and as we near his probable return to the White House.
First, let's discuss the current playing field: where we are right now with democrats in ostensible control, with wannabe GOP players debating, and with Trump entangled in what is supposedly the part of the US government that is indefatigable and all but unbeatable–the courts. Frankly, I'm not impressed.
With Dems Like These
If you haven't been paying attention, life under Biden has been, of late, not dissimilar to what you'd expect from Trump: billions sent overseas for genocide, little regard given to domestic issues (except for oil permits), and promises of transformative policies for the working class largely forgotten. Most shocking, if you were born after Biden's famous "we should have to invent [Israel]" pronouncement, has been his response to the Israel's ongoing siege following October 7th. After, by the time this letter goes out, more than three months of brutal bombings, starvation conditions, and the killing of tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians, Biden has only now, only begun, to express concern for the wanton killing of innocent people. Of late, Biden's government have simply steamrolled Congress in order to send funds and munitions to Israel–but, of course, he's powerless to help us with student debt. It doesn't end with Biden, either. Former pillars of what amounts to the left in the Democratic party have revealed themselves to not give a shit about people if it means they have to examine their colonial attitudes.
We could talk about the disappointment that is the Democratic party for a few letters, but that current disappointment you may feel is nothing new–it's just resurfaced. The Dems have, for about a generation now, sworn off actually winning fights and opted instead for making money left and right by playing the eternal underdog. When they're out of power they make money off key social issues, and when they're in power they're simply too tied up by the GOP to actually make any of those changes they campaigned on. Biden is somehow unable to move the needle on student loan debt, but he can juke past Congress to send bombs to Israel. And when it comes to funding for Ukraine (which, to be clear, I am not against) he's willing to let the Republicans make some heavy immigration restrictions if it means another go-round. If our supposed party of hope and change is supplying a genocide on one hand and willing to compromise what are supposedly core values on the other, what reason do we have to participate in this system? Why endorse a party that will not represent us?
Meanwhile, on The Right
We've already talked about the fact that the GOP primary was a big ol' nothingburger, but it did establish the following: Trump is it; and the easiest way to get attention is to push right. While every other contender this election season was attempting to position themselves as a reasonable counter to Trump, Vivek Ramaswamy chose instead to try and get himself a TV show, or something, and to espouse the great replacement theory during the last debate. That theory states that the powers that be–whether they be in power or not–are attempting to crowd out white people from America through open borders and lax immigration policies. It's bullshit, along with pretty much everything Ramaswamy said on stage and elsewhere. But if you've forgotten, this is not the kind of talk we used to get put plain on the debate stage. Even Trump, in his earlier days, would not have been likely to crib so precisely from white supremacist talking points–even if he was very much thinking and acting in those terms. Now, however, the Overton Window has been smashed rightward.
And while this is a topic for another letter, I want to briefly mention the ascension of former-nobody Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. I'll laugh all day that McCarthy got the boot, and that Jim Jordan didn't even get a chance, but we may yearn for someone as outwardly slimy as Jordan after a few years of someone like Johnson. Johnson is deeply, grossly Christian in the worst kind of way–he's been pushing for sodomy laws, wrote an amicus brief against the Lawrence v. Texas ruling that enshrined the right to privacy, and, just to put the sugarless icing on the cake, has defined his career, in his own words, as "defending religious freedom, the sanctity of human life, and biblical values, including the defense of traditional marriage, and other ideals like these when they've been under assault." The right is becoming increasingly crowded with people who, whether by religion or by race, wish harm on greater and greater parts of the country.
You may have seen the slew of pieces in recent weeks about a potential Trump dictatorship. Allow me to add to that pile. I'll begin by saying that I think it doesn't actually matter whether or not Trump becomes a dictator. He will be nearly 80 years old when he retakes office, and even at a stretch he's not likely to last too much longer than his legal term. Should he live, should he stay in office, his capacities will leave him and it will be the people that surround him calling the shots–meaning, shockingly, fascism doesn't end with him. Moreover, Trump has successfully moved this country to the right (see above), and given the actions of recent democrats (see above), I am not much becalmed by the idea that this apparatus as we know it continues with anyone at the helm.
That said, there is good reason to be concerned at Trump's return to office, whether it be autocratic or not. I'm not arguing he caused no harm–just that he's done rolled the stone away and there's no putting it back. Trump has promised to use the Justice Department as his personal weapon of revenge against those who've wronged him, or at least who he perceives as having wronged him. It's highly likely he'll once again dump a slate of experienced feds of all stripes and replace them with immoral loyalists. In doing so, as before, he yet again imperils our courts, our soft power abroad, and any chance at achieving the occasional measure of equality from the system.
As leftists, Trump's acts of revenge on a system that we largely disagree with aren't exactly as menacing as they might be to your average liberal. But where he is most troubling, as ever in my opinion, is in his ability to push the nation, and particularly to push his followers. Trump is an advocate for a government that does things–much like the Dems, actually–but this is a departure from the foot-stamping of the right that insist the government get out of the way of the people. Instead, Trump sees the government as a cudgel, meant to beat anyone who disagrees with him, and the bigger the cudgel the better. It's this thinking that is growing on the right, and Trump is guaranteed to spur on more of this talk in a second term. We talked about a popular article in The Federalist a while back, which describes just this movement on the right toward a beefed-up, authoritarian right-wing, one that isn't afraid of spending and getting in the way of the free market, if that market isn't doing what the government likes. It's not hard to imagine Trump shaping the first iteration of this government, one that persecutes perceived enemies, prosecutes on ideological lines, and throws money by the bill at the police and military.
This shaping goes both ways, too. While I'd bet you my eye-teeth Trump doesn't give a crap about abortion, I bet you my molars he'll double-down on it this election season to shore up his religious right flank. And Trump has already promised to go after doctors that provide gender-affirming care. He has likewise promised, more recently, to "obliterate the deep state...drive out the globalists, and...cast out the communists." He was so clear as to say "I am your justice...I am your retribution." He has already called grounds for the suspension of the Constitution, and said he could implement the Insurrection Act on day 1. It's his vacuity, really, that makes him dangerous. It's not any particular belief or quality of his own. He has come ever-closer to white supremacists if not out and out white supremacy, and of late he has truly begun to dance with them, evoking rhetoric cribbed from Hitler of immigrants "poisoning the blood" of this country. This is not nothing.
We talk about Trump like a boogeyman, like a specter who loomed over all of us during his first term and lurked and occasionally hollered from the distant corners of Florida in the interim, only to loom once again on the horizon. But Trump isn't a boogeyman. The problem, the potentially fatal problem, is and always was the disease of white supremacy. Trump is the rat carrying the fleas carrying the plague into our medieval town. He is not the thing that does us in–he's merely the vehicle. And no part of our political system has responded to this challenge adequately or appropriately; there has been no real push-back in the face of this supposedly Trump-sourced fascism. Both parties have, instead, chosen to make money off the opportunity Trump poses. So while the media is having a conniption fit, and the Dems are pandering to our very real fears, remember that our troubles did not begin nor end with Trump. He may speed those troubles along, sure, but he's not the head of the snake. That particular serpent, I'm afraid, is deeply, deeply rooted, and all this talk of a Trump dictatorship is just the rattling of its tail.