Thirteen months ago, November 15, 2016, I wrote my first post
after Trump was elected president. I was stunned. Horrified. Terrified contemplating the future of our country in a Trump regime. In that post, I wrote that I knew awful things would happen with any Republican president in office who had a Republican Congress and a conservative-majority Supreme Court supporting him. Millions of Americans, probably hundreds of millions, would be hurt when conservative priorities were turned into law and executive actions. But as bad as that might be, it wasn't what I most feared. Eventually the damage could be mitigated or reversed when Democrats regained some of their lost power. My worst fears had to do with a slide toward Trump-led authoritarianism which would change the very nature of our constitutional democracy. The effects could be irreversible.
I titled the post THREAT Watch
, short for Trump Human Rights Erosion And Termination Watch.
But hell, I was upset over the election results. Maybe I was being irrational, a sore loser overreacting to Trump's unexpected win and exaggerating the damage he could do.
I wish I could say my predictions were an overreaction. Looking back at the post from a year's distance, I see no reason to change a word. The Trump administration started out badly. It got worse. Right now, we stand at the most dangerous crossroads of his short presidency.
Here's what I wrote about the changes I thought were inevitable once Republicans dominated all three branches of the federal government.
All kinds of terrible things are going to happen with Trump in the White House, a Republican majority in both houses of Congress and a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Taxes and business regulations will favor the rich even more than they do now. Entitlement programs for the poor will be cut dramatically. Comprehensive women's health care which includes abortion will be nonexistent in many parts of the country. Obamacare, Medicare and Social Security will be savaged.
Everything on my list has either happened or is in the works. Trump and his cabinet have gutted every economic and environmental regulation they've been able to get their hands on and ignored the rest. The tax cut is a big, wet, sloppy kiss on the mouth of every one-percenter in the country. And the trillion-plus deficit created by the tax cuts will accomplish the Republican goal of starving the budget beast, giving them the excuse they need to say we simply can't afford all that entitlement spending for welfare, food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
The gutting and cutting will only get worse when the legislature returns in January. And yet, disasters written into legislation and regulation aren't written in stone. Like the destruction brought by hurricanes, floods and fire, much of the damage can be repaired through time and effort.
More dire is the possibility the Trump presidency will damage the fabric of our society, which is not easily restored. I wrote about that next.
But as bad as those changes will be, my worst fears for the country have to do with the loss of human rights and the suppression of dissent. Trump and his allies don't have to pass new laws to persecute minority groups and target enemies. All it takes to create a police state and a climate of fear is an increased use of force against citizens and credible threats directed at the media. A Trump administration can do that on its own. It can make people afraid to congregate, afraid to act, afraid to say and write what they think—even afraid in some cases to come out of their homes.
If Trump had been free to enact what he has promised and threatened on the campaign trail and continues to rant about in his daily tweets, we would already be deep into the scenario I described a year ago. His targeting of Muslims in particular and immigrants in general, along with his support for white supremacists, has been shocking. His expanding enemies list makes Nixon's paranoid fixation on people he was sure were out to get him look quaint by comparison. Trump's hatred for and threats directed at the media continue nonstop.
Thus far, fortunately, the country's institutions have been strong and resilient enough to withstand the worst of Trump's excesses. The courts reversed much of his anti-immigration edict, though they let some of it stand. The media outlets he has targeted with unrelenting ferocity have mostly held firm. Instead of being cowed into submission and becoming meek stenographers for his half truths and lies, they've continued to report the facts as they see them and cover stories the way they should be covered. Serious reporters have resisted the urge to normalize the aberrant Trump presidency. Meanwhile, people continue to take to the streets and occupy congressional office buildings to make their voices heard.
During this time, though, right wing media has solidified in its support for Trump. Its most visible organ of disinformation, Fox News, has become a wholly owned subsidiary of the administration. And lately, Republican politicians who were wary of giving Trump too much support when he first came into office are lining up to flatter him, kiss his ring and call him Godfather. Voices of Republican dissent in Congress and the party establishment have grown weary of the fight and fallen in line.
Very possibly the greatest threat to our democracy right now is the threat to Trump's presidency in the form of the Mueller investigation. Trump and his allies are the only people who know for sure how much they have to worry about what Mueller digs up. If it's half as damaging as it looks from the outside, Trump and his team could be in grave political and legal danger, and the only way they may see to staunch the bleeding is to bring the investigation to a screeching halt. Trump, Fox News and the crazy-base rightwing media are creating the impression that anyone who wants to investigate connections and collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia are enemies who want to destroy Trump for partisan reasons — worse, they're mounting a coup to overthrow the government. A substantial number of Republicans in Congress, including some who have expressed skepticism about Trump, are joining in.
The most logical way to stop the coup described by Trump and his acolytes is to disempower, maybe even arrest its leaders and empty out complicit parts of the government. Not only would Mueller have to go, but so would much of the FBI and anyone else in government who is disloyal to Trump. In this scenario, it would be necessary to destroy our democratic form of government with its checks and balances in order to save it. As for members of the media and protesters, they would need to be brought to heel for their treasonous words and actions.
This possibility is being discussed with increasing alarm by a growing number of people, including conservative writers and intellectuals who see Trump and his presidency as a genuine threat to the country. We are edging toward a constitutional crisis which could tear the country apart and, if Trump and his followers solidify power, we could become a country which is a democracy in name only.