Yesterday, the New York Times had a groundbreaking report on Trump and his allies’ plan for a “sweeping expansion of presidential power” if he’s re-elected to the White House, which goes far beyond his public statements which included such fascist plans to start a criminal investigation of President Biden and end independence of the Department of Justice in order to put it under White House control.
The report comes from “a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.” And it includes such quotes as one from Russell T. Vought who had run the Office of Management and Budget during Trump’s first term in office – and currently runs a policy organization, the Center for Renewing America: “What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them."
Well, that seems blunt and specific enough.
But to be even more specific, the Times writes --
“Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control.
“He wants to revive the practice of ‘impounding’ funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.
“He intends to strip employment protections from tens of thousands of career civil servants, making it easier to replace them if they are deemed obstacles to his agenda. And he plans to scour the intelligence agencies, the State Department and the defense bureaucracies to remove officials he has vilified as ‘the sick political class that hates our country.’”
You can read the full article here with this free gift link I have from my subscription to the paper.
To be clear, this isn’t just a description of autocracy or authoritarian, it is part of the core tenets of fascism. Undermining other sources of power so that all control and power sits solely with the leader. While I know most Republicans today cry in outrage at being called fascist, that’s pretty much because they don’t understand what it is. This is what it is, here.
Moreover, if one doesn’t like being called a fascist, then don’t act like a fascist and don’t enable fascism.
As someone commented on television, MAGA now stands for "Making Autocracy Great Again."
By the way, it would be interesting for a reporter to ask Trump if – since this is how he sees the office of the presidency – he would endorse all these powers to a Democratic president, such as Joe Biden, if he won re-election? And any future Democratic president. Seizing control of all independent pockets. Controlling all Congressional funding. Eliminating all government employees who weren’t loyal to the president’s agenda. It’s hard to imagine that he would. As in “near impossible.”
There are three main things worth noting here – among the other great many things to note here.
The first is that, dangerous and damning as this fascist plan is, it is not surprising. Trump has been telling everyone for a long time this is what he wants. Not non-subtle things like his love of despots, but I mean very specific things. Like when after China dictator Xi Jinping ended presidential term limits, Trump praised his action, saying: "He's now president for life. President for life. And he's great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll give that a shot some day"
There’s no “maybe” about it. You can’t be more specific than that. The only way he could make his plans is if he went around singing, “I am not throwing away my shot,” from Hamilton.
The second is to repeat what I’ve been writing here for the past four years: this is not about Trump, we know who he is. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party who have enabled him since he took office. Republicans in Congress could have stopped Trump countless times as a separate body power as defined by the U.S. Constitution. But at pretty much every step, they reinforced him. This isn’t just about Trump – this is about the Republican Party today, and how it has become fascist.
Consider: after Trump’s fascist public speeches about him, if elected, ordering an investigation of President Biden and taking over the Justice Department, and after this explosive report in the New York Times about Trump’s fascist plans, there was silence in the GOP. No outrage, not a peep. Because this is who the Republican Party is today.
And third, what Trump’s plan and the GOP’s silence have told everyone who is not an enabling member of the Republican Party, is that one should not just not vote for Trump, but one should never vote for a Republican for president ever again, at least until conditions can somehow be shown to have changed.
No, really. Seriously.
After all, the Trump plan as reported is not just for Trump. If this plan was ever implemented, it would enable Republicans to hold power in the White House perhaps permanently. It is a plan for all future Republicans who eventually follow Trump. (Whenever that would be, considering his public admiration of giving a shot to "President for life.") This is not hyperbole -- there is nothing in the plan that even hints, "This is just for Trump over the next four years, but then reverts to normal." The details are perfectly clear and specific. It is a plan for Republicans maintaining control of the White House -- and perhaps Congress, as well -- permanently.
And right now, there are no elected Republican officials who have peeped a word of condemnation of this program to enable fascism. None.
So, if one supports the United States being a nation of democracy – whatever your political beliefs – voting Republican ever seems a questionable proposition. In four years, when there is another presidential election, whoever the GOP candidate is, what is there to lead any American to believe that that candidate won’t support this plan again? No matter what they say? After all, they have a chance to condemn it right now. But haven’t.
And honestly, I don’t know what it would take for a Republican in the future beyond that to be able to convince Americans that he or she or anyone in the Republican Party still doesn’t support this plan. I certainly am an optimist to think that at some point the GOP will have flushed out its fascist past and have leaders and members who are, once again, supporters of democracy and the U.S. Constitution. And can be trusted at their word that they say they do.
But, honestly, I don’t know what it would take to believe them. Trust? Perhaps, but trust is a slippery slope for a party that has a chance to speak out right now against this plan and against fascism…and doesn’t.
But let’s be more optimistic. Let’s just say that – for the time being (and we’ll check on them again later when they’re up for parole) – Trump, his allies and the elected officials of the Republican Party are telling all Americans who support democracy: until further notice, do not vote for Republicans. They are fascist. They’ve told everyone they are fascist. It’s on their website. It’s in their words. It’s in their actions. And it is in their plans. Trump and today’s Republican Party are fascist.
And we haven’t even gotten into state Republican governments -- you know, the Party of Small Government, keeping government out of your lives, and freeeedom!! -- banning abortion, banning books, banning what can be taught in schools, banning Black history, banning healthcare for transgender children, checking the bodies of teen athletes to find out if they're transgender, making it illegal for women to get abortions in states where it is actually legal, and getting access to your private, personal medical records in order to find out if you got an abortion legally in another state.
Today’s Republican Party – fascist, trying desperately to flim-flam the easily-fooled that they are The Party of Small Government, keeping government out of your lives and…and…freeeeeeeeeedom!
The good thing is that, for reasons unknown to them, Trump and his allies have made much of their plans public. And the New York Times did so for the rest. Giving plenty of time for Americans to mobilize in masses of actions to protect democracy from fascism.
And not vote Republican. And if "ever" is too long a timeline for some, or even "for the time being," then in 2024 is a good place to start.
But make no mistake: "Not vote Republican ever" is nonetheless what the GOP is telling Americans to do if they actually care about democracy.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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