Think Trump's first term was a nightmare? Wake up — if he wins again, the worst is yet to come

Donald Trump as president again would pose an extreme danger to the American people and the country's democracy

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published August 5, 2022 6:30AM (EDT)

Former President Donald Trump speaks during the America First Agenda Summit organized by America First Policy Institute AFPI on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Former President Donald Trump speaks during the America First Agenda Summit organized by America First Policy Institute AFPI on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Donald Trump is a type of fascist terminator. He will not stop. He will not get tired. He is relentless in his pursuit of power and will do anything to get and keep it. And he is here right now.

He is not alone. Many of Trump's followers are willing to engage in acts of terrorism and other violence at his command. Others in Trump's orbit are using him as a weapon to advance their own agenda of creating a new American apartheid Christian fascist plutocracy. They have no use for Trump personally. Some of them will even acknowledge, in private, that he is very dangerous. But they have convinced themselves that Trump can be deployed to do their bidding. To this point, they have been proven correct.

Ultimately, Donald Trump's first regime was but a preview of the American nightmare he and the Republican-fascists are advancing. If Trump returns to power in 2024 or beyond, matters will be far worse. Donald Trump and his coup confederates must be prosecuted, tried, convicted and given the maximum punishment allowed under the law as a necessary first step in saving American democracy and the country's future from the rising fascist tide.

The House Jan. 6 committee hearings have confirmed that Trump's coup attempt was much closer to succeeding than many among the mainstream American news media and the country's political class wanted to believe. As part of that plot, Trump and his confederates embedded their agents in critical positions throughout the United States government at the highest levels – including the national security state. Their role in the coup and subsequent attempts to hide and otherwise conceal and/or destroy evidence is still being revealed. These agents remain loyal to Donald Trump and the Republican-fascist movement. Presumably, they will be used again in any future coup or other attempt to nullify American democracy and the rule of law.

Trump's coup plot was disrupted by members of his administration as well as career civil servants who were more loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law than to his fascist personality cult. If and when Trump takes power again, he will remove such obstacles to his authoritarian rule.

In a critically important recent article at Axios, Jonathan Swan explained how such a plan will be enacted:

Former President Trump's top allies are preparing to radically reshape the federal government if he is re-elected, purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his "America First" ideology, people involved in the discussions tell Axios.

The impact could go well beyond typical conservative targets such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. Trump allies are working on plans that would potentially strip layers at the Justice Department — including the FBI, and reaching into national security, intelligence, the State Department and the Pentagon, sources close to the former president say.

Swan continues:

They intend to stack thousands of mid-level staff jobs. Well-funded groups are already developing lists of candidates selected often for their animus against the system—in line with Trump's long-running obsession with draining "the swamp." This includes building extensive databases of people vetted as being committed to Trump and his agenda. The preparations are far more advanced and ambitious than previously reported. What is happening now is an inversion of the slapdash and virtually non-existent infrastructure surrounding Trump ahead of his 2017 presidential transition. These groups are operating on multiple fronts: shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6–3 Supreme Court.

Donald Trump's former White House advisor Stephen Miller would play a key role in deciding who is "qualified" for the new regime per its loyalty and other ideological litmus tests, "identifying and assembling a list of lawyers who would be ready to fill the key general counsel jobs across government in a second-term Trump administration," Swan writes. "Miller has his eye out for general counsels who will aggressively implement Trump's orders and skeptically interrogate any career government attorney who tells them their plans are unlawful or cannot be done."

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In a new article at the New York Times, leading sociologist and political scientist Theda Skocpol explained to Thomas Edsall how "Trump, in a second term, would bring in like-minded loyal and lawless authoritarians from the get-go, especially to run Justice, Homeland Security and Defense." 

Skocpol also explained that America's political and other governing institutions "would not survive another Trump term, especially because of parallel reinforcing developments in a majority of states and in the federal courts. Discouragement and outright repression and popular threats of violence would push most centrists and liberals into full retreat."

This minority rule, Skocpol notes, would push the nation into "a major new decades-long era of U.S. politics. We may already have done so, given the 6-3 SCOTUS majority devoted to eviscerating federal government power for many Democratic Party agenda priorities"

None of this should be a surprise.

Trump's speech last week and his threats of "law and order" are a prime example of how fascists and other authoritarians expand their power.

Trump has a deep attraction to violence. As such, he admires authoritarian leaders such as Putin, Orbán, Erdogan, Duterte, Mohammed bin Salman and Bolsonaro, and how they de facto have the power to kill at will and engage in acts of wanton cruelty and violence against their "enemies" and others in the name of "law and order," "safety," "security" and "unity."

In a speech last week at the America First Agenda Summit in Washington, D.C., Donald Trump detailed the reign of terror he would unleash if he were to somehow be "reelected" to the presidency. One of Trump's main priorities will be to further dehumanize and brutalize the homeless, drug addicts and other vulnerable and marginalized individuals and communities. Trump is also biting at the bit to use the National Guard as his personal shock troops to impose his and the Republican-fascists' will on "Democrat-led" majority black and brown cities to "stop crime."

During his speech to America First Trump said:

We have blood, death and suffering on a scale once unthinkable because of the Democrat Party's effort to destroy and dismantle law enforcement all throughout America. It has to stop and it has to stop now. …If we don't have safety, we don't have freedom, we don't have a country. America first must mean safety first. We have to have safety. Starting with our new majorities in Congress next year and continuing onto the next Republican president, we need an all out effort to defeat violent crime in America and strongly defeat it and be tough and be nasty and be mean, if we have to. Here's what we must feel to restore public safety….

This cannot go on anymore. Every other approach has been considerably tried, and they tried the weak approach, they've been trying it for years... It's not working. It's time to go a different direction. And only one option remains. The next president needs to send the National Guard to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago until safety can be restored....We're living in such a different country for one primary reason: there is no longer respect for the law and there certainly is no order. Our country is now a cesspool of crime.

We have to take back our streets and public spaces from the homeless, the drug addicted, and the dangerously deranged. What's happened to our cities?....

Donald Trump, like other fascist and authoritarian leaders have done in the past (and present), wants to "disappear" the homeless and other "undesirables":

Perhaps some people will not like hearing this, but the only way you're going to remove the hundreds of thousands of people, and maybe throughout our nation millions of people, open up large parcels of inexpensive land in the outer reaches of the cities, bring in medical professionals…build permanent bathrooms and other facilities, make 'em good, make 'em hard, but build them fast, and build thousands and thousands of high-quality tents, which can be done in one day. One day. You have to move people out.

Trump's speech last week and his threats of "law and order" are a prime example of how fascists and other authoritarians expand their power and control, criminalize dissent, and intimidate and otherwise brutalize any individuals or groups who dare to oppose them in any way.

Writing at Defense One, Kevin Baron offers this warning about Trump's plans and the danger they pose to American democracy and the basic principle that the country's military is not supposed to involve itself in domestic politics:

Donald Trump just said he wants to build concentration camps in America and assume direct control over the National Guard in a way that sounds a lot like the Nazi SS force.

…So, on Tuesday, in a speech meant for the ears of Republican primary voters, Trump said the next American president should send the National Guard to Chicago. That would require, at minimum, invoking the Insurrection Act, which is supposed to be reserved for natural disaster or civil violence "to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the State or possession are incapable of maintaining public order." But it also would ignore the Illinois governor, the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, and the advice of top National Guard generals who strongly resist federalization. (We've been through this debate before.) 

And that's how extreme partisan politics could change the U.S. military forever, if Americans want. …It's not just control of the House that's on the ballot; it's control of the U.S. military.

The law is not neutral, "blind" or fair in the authoritarian regime that Donald Trump and his Republican-fascist allies and movement want to impose on the American people. The law is instead an extension of the Great Leader's, the ruling party's and other elites' will, whims and desires. For such rulers, the law is but a means for exerting power and control to advance their narrow personal and political interests by snuffing out human freedom.

It is important to understand that Donald Trump's and the Republican-fascists' and larger white right's plans for a new America do not exist in isolation. They are part of a much larger global project that takes inspiration from Vladimir Putin's goal to make Russia into a type of White Christian Empire as well as Hungarian leader Victor Orbán's fake right-wing populism and white supremacist nationalist agenda.

Orbán is a particularly alluring role-model and guide for the American neofascists. In a speech two weekends ago, Orbán boldly and without qualification or hesitance channeled Adolf Hitler saying that: "We [Hungarians] are not a mixed race … and we do not want to become a mixed race."

The Guardian offered this additional context, "On Saturday, he made frequent nods to the "great replacement" conspiracy theory, which claims there is a plot to dilute the white populations of the US and European countries through immigration. He said it was "an ideological trick of the internationalist left to say the European population is already mixed race." He named demographics, migration and gender as the main battlefields of the future, on the same day that thousands of people rallied in Budapest for the city's annual Pride march."

As part of his campaign against "diversity" and "multiculturalism," Orbán's government and followers have targeted the LGBTQ community, feminists, immigrants, migrants, Muslims, "leftists" and others deemed to be human pollution in the type of "ethnically pure" and "strong" "white" "Christian" society he is trying to create in Hungary and other parts of Europe.

Leading right-wing opinion leaders such as Fox News personality Tucker Carlson have been mainstreaming Orbán's racial authoritarianism and outright fascist talking points about "white civilization" being "under siege," "imperiled" or somehow at risk of being "replaced" to their public across the right-wing hate media propaganda echo chamber.

The Republican Party and other leading members of the American right-wing have not properly denounced, renounced or otherwise condemned Orbán's hateful and incendiary comments. Instead, Orbán is a featured speaker this week in Dallas.

Donald Trump and the other Republican-fascists are transparent and direct with their plans to end America's pluralistic multiracial democracy. As I have repeatedly warned in my essays here at Salon, the Republican-fascists and larger white right tell you what they are going to do and then they do it. It is foolhardy and dangerous to ascribe some other meaning to their threats and plans or otherwise attempt to impose some more kinder and gentler explanation for their cruelty. Unfortunately, too many Democrats, liberals, progressives and so-called pro-democracy Americans continue out of desperation and unending naïveté to make that mistake.

In a recent Twitter post, journalist David Atkins echoes this warning: "When Republicans say they will do terrible things, they mean it! It's not just politics. If you give them power, they will do the terrible things. You don't have the luxury of "sending a message" or making grumpy votes about gas prices that presidents don't control."

Donald Trump's ex-wife Ivana died on July 14. They were married for 14 years and maintained a close relationship after the divorce. Donald Trump buried her on July 20 at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey. Ivana Trump's grave is not "simple" or "modest." It is basically unmarked, and looks like the type of grave that one would find at potters field or some equivalent space where the indigent are interred. In many ways, Ivana Trump's grave is a literal metaphor for Donald Trump and his lack of care and concern for other human beings. Some experts have even speculated that Donald Trump likely buried his ex-wife at his golf resort as a way of receiving a tax break for his property because it could then be deemed to be a "cemetery" under state law. If Donald Trump would treat his ex-wife and mother of his three children with such gross disregard, imagine what he would do to the American people (again) if he were to return to the White House, fueled even more by vengeance and evil, and possessing even more power.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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