What Might a Second Trump Term Look Like? Be Afraid, Very Afraid of the Very Thought of It
October 12, 2019
By Steve Jonas
In the 2020 elections The Trumpublicans are going to run on what I call “The Six R’s and The Two C’s”: Racism/Xenophobia, Rage, Red-baiting, Religiosity (that is the use of religion for political purposes), Repression (of the vote), Russia (interference, again); and Cheating and Conspiracy theories (to the max).
Depending upon A) who the Democrats nominate for both President and Vice-President, and B) how effective or ineffective his or her campaign is, even with Trump's poll numbers where they are and where they are likely to remain, using these tactics, Trump might indeed – barring impeachment -- win a second term.
As is well-known, over the course of his pre-presidential and presidential career Trump has hit huge speed bumps, bumps that would have derailed any other politician: e.g., the “Billy Bush tapes;” the pay-offs to former paramours (which also was adultery); the results of the Mueller Investigation which showed collusion with the Russians in the 2016 elections (although collusion which, with the available evidence, did not rise to the level of a criminal conspiracy provable in court beyond a reasonable doubt, by Mueller’s estimation) and numerous episodes of obstruction of justice, pervasive corruption, self-profiteering and grifting, to name a few. And now we have the Ukraine scandal.
Trump entrapped himself, in large part by his very own words, by dealing with, or trying to deal with, a foreign power in return for political favors, which is against federal law. Many Trump opponents are saying words to the effect of “we got him.” But hey, you never know. He’s slipped out of the cuffs before and he could well slip them again, even to, in one way or another, holding onto the White House as of 12:01PM on Jan. 20, 2021. So, what might that picture look like?
The word "fascism," which I have been associating with Trump for some time now (as have others as well, of course) is appropriate as we conjure a terrifying second Trump term. In Trump's case, since the system will not mirror exactly the 20th century models of Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, and Japan, “21st-Century proto-fascism” is likely more accurate. But in any case, modern fascism is characterized by the following:
There is a single, all powerful executive branch of government, in service of a capitalist ruling class. There are no de facto independent judicial or legislative branches, at any level and no truly independent media. There is a single national ideology, based on some combination of racism, misogyny, religious bigotry and authoritarianism, homophobia, and xenophobia. There is a state propaganda machine using the big lie technique. There may be a full-blown dictatorship, a charismatic leader, engagement in foreign wars, and the use of the mob/private armies.
And so, in this context, what might a Trump second term look like? Well for one thing, that look would depend in part upon whether in the face of a Trump victory, the Democrats were able to hold onto the House. Of course, a Trump win would surely enable the Trumpublicans to hold onto the Senate. But regardless of that uncertainty, speculation is, of course, necessitated.
Let’s begin with the federal courts. One way or another, the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court will grow to 7-2 (if it doesn't get there already between now and election day, 2020). The vast right-wing infestation of the lower federal courts engineered by Tom McGahn and Mitch McConnell will begin to take hold. Rulings to date against Trump on both personal and governmental issues will be quashed, and the courts will begin to positively support a wide variety of Trump initiatives of otherwise questionable Constitutionality. The Federal court system will be well on its way to being "fascistified" [sic].
Another key feature of fascism is the suppression of the free media. It is unlikely that the Trumpublicans would, at the beginning at least, go after the media directly by statute. But Trump just loves suing. And he has often talked about suing the media for libel. Right now, it is very difficult for him to do so, most importantly under a famous 1964 Supreme Court decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. It set a very high bar for success in such suits.
But a fully Trumpublican Congress could pass a national libel law. Then, with a Supreme Court that just loves to overturn liberal precedents like this one does (for example, the “Heller” decision on guns which ignored a slew of precedents), NYT v. Sullivan could be overturned. Trump would have a field day and the independent media would disappear. Or, if somehow Trump could not get a national libel law through Congress, he could begin suing in states with their own libel laws favorable to him, and begin the media shutdown that way.
Then, of course, there is the "manufactured consent" that limits the range of corporate media to not challenge a government that rewards wealth and corporate personhood. Even the current corporate DC media press corps is largely responsive to Trump's manipulation. The US media would become more like the Russian media, a propaganda outlet for the ruling elites — and specifically, Putin.
As for some of the other major issues, in its current term the Supreme Court could reverse Roe v. Wade and Obergefell on gay marriage, legalize employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, etc. But if one or more of those decisions were not to occur now, with a thoroughly Trump court, they surely would. Abortion would be outlawed nationally and thoroughly criminalized. Otherwise, the laws in those states which already do that (pending Supreme Court review), like Georgia and Alabama, would be copied by Trumpublican state legislatures all over the country and upheld by a rubber stamp Trump Supreme Court.
If the Trumpublicans were to control the Congress, a national "right to work law" would effectively kill the remaining, very weak, trade union movement, and it would be upheld by the Trump Supreme Court. In fact, this court might well reinstate the “Lochner” decision from 1906 which effectively prevented government at any level from enforcing any work rules. (It was reversed during the New Deal.) Anything left of "Obamacare" would be repealed. The 40-year Republican battle to functionally repeal Medicaid would be won and Medicare and Social Security would be significantly cut back, along with being privatized.
As for indicting his enemies, which an unfettered Trump with his loyal packhorse Barr would be itching to do, first up would be Comey, McCabe, and Mueller, while Manafort would be sprung at the first possible moment. As for Michael Cohen, if Trump could figure out a way to get around double jeopardy, he would be first in Trump’s sights for further punishment. He then might well go after such targets whom he has already named, like Rep. Adam Schiff. “Oh no,” you might say, “going after selected members of Congress couldn’t happen, could it?” Well, given what Trump has gotten away with so far, with a somewhat independent media and the courts not entirely under his control, just think what might happen with the media on a short leash and the courts almost totally under his thumb.
What else might happen, whether or not the House remained in Democratic hands? Well, Trump would govern under “Declarations of National Emergency,” either under the provisions of the Patriot Act which he would actively revive or “just because:” the movement of federal funds from one pocket to another without consultation with or the agreement of Congress, which he is already doing for “The Wall” (although that declaration of emergency was temporarily struck down by a federal judge last week), would be expanded; concentration camps, that is facilities in which persons are confined without criminal charge, indefinitely, with no legal rights, are already being used for immigrants of various types, could be expanded to cover political prisoners (yes, folks, few folks foresaw this happening in Germany before Jan. 30, 1933, when Hitler became chancellor, but it did, beginning on Jan. 31, 1933); there could be some kind of Praetorian Guard for the president, supplanting the Secret Service (which is how Hitler’s Schutzstafell [SS], originally his private guard, came into being); some version of Trump’s “Killer Fence” would be created and, actually, the Trump Supreme Court, citing the primacy of “states’ rights” already trumpeted loud and clear by think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation, might reverse Brown v. Board of Education, and declare unconstitutional the Civil and Voting Rights Acts (the latter already having been severely weakened by “Shelby”).
All of this, of course (forgetting about what would happen with foreign policy), is just for openers. Be afraid. Yes, be very afraid.
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. He is an occasional contributor to BuzzFlashReborn (after having been a long-time contributor to the original). In addition, he is a “Trusted Author” for Op-Ed News. a contributor to Reader Supported News/Writing for Godot; a contributor to From The G-Man; a contributor for American Politics to The Planetary Movement; and a Deputy Editor, Politics, and a “Witness to History,” and an occasional contributor for The Greanville Post; He is also a triathlete (36 seasons, 256 multi-sport races).
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