Day two of Donald Trump's dictatorship

Plotting out the demise of the American presidency

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published July 2, 2024 6:17AM (EDT)

Former U.S. President Donald Trump (L) gestures, flanked by former First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump, as they prepare to leave after he delivered his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination for reelection during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on August 27, 2020.  (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
Former U.S. President Donald Trump (L) gestures, flanked by former First Lady Melania Trump and son Barron Trump, as they prepare to leave after he delivered his acceptance speech for the Republican Party nomination for reelection during the final day of the Republican National Convention at the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, DC on August 27, 2020. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

You will obey!

This is the mission statement for authoritarians and autocrats such as aspiring dictator Donald Trump and his MAGA movement. Donald Trump and his agents’ and allies’ revolutionary plans to end American democracy are not secret: they have been publicly announced and are detailed in the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, on Trump’s own campaign website as Agenda 47, and throughout the right-wing “news” media disinformation echo chamber. And now blessed by the highest court in the land

These enemies of American democracy would not be so bold if they were not reasonably certain of their success.

In series of recent interviews, MSNBC host and author Rachel Maddow has been trying to warn the American people about the existential danger to their freedom, lives, and safety from Donald Trump, the MAGA movement, and larger neofascist project. As Maddow told CNN’s Oliver Darcey, Trump's threats are no joke: 

I'm worried about the country broadly if we put someone in power who is openly avowing that he plans to build camps to hold millions of people, and to 'root out' what he's described in subhuman terms as his 'enemy from within. Again, history is helpful here. He's not joking when he says this stuff, and we've seen what happens when people take power proclaiming that kind of agenda. I think there's a little bit of head-in-the-sand complacency that Trump only intends to go after individual people he has already singled out. Do you really think he plans to stop at well-known liberals?

Maddow continued:

It also seems pretty clear that some people in politics might think they'll be on the safe side — that they might even benefit from it — if they side with Trump. Ask Mike Pence about how that works out in the end. When Trump invokes the Insurrection Act to deploy the U.S. military against civilians on his first day in office, do you think he then rescinds the order on day two? For that matter, what convinces you that these massive camps he's planning are only for migrants? So, yes, I'm worried about me — but only as much as I'm worried about all of us.

Rachel Maddow is correct. History has repeatedly shown that authoritarian and fascist movements almost always expand the groups of people they target as the enemy or some type of Other. Eventually, these movements target their own supporters in a cycle of escalating violence and suffering, as they finally, as seen in Nazi Germany, consume themselves in destruction. Ultimately, almost all Americans are imperiled by Trumpism and American neofascism.

One of the great failures of the mainstream news media in the Age of Trump (and especially its hope-peddlers, institutionalists, and professional centrists) is treating aspiring dictator Donald Trump and the right-wing’s plan(s) to end multiracial pluralistic democracy as a hypothetical or something imagined and fantastical instead of as a real and present and growing danger.

In their new essay at Slate, Norm Ornstein and Dahlia Lithwick write with uncommon clarity and force about how the news media and the country’s political class have mostly failed in their responsibilities to warn the American people about the imminent dangers and reality of Trumpism and American neofascism:

Americans have a normalcy bias. It leads them to believe anyone who tells them that everything is awesome and that a system is “holding” — even as that system is hanging together by way of dental floss…..And many journalists have a normalcy bias so acute they wouldn’t know how to cover an authoritarian takeover if it meant that one of the two presidential candidates threatened jail for his political opponents—even as he continues to refer to these journalists as “the enemy of the people.” (My emphasis added) It also means that they tend to cover “Trump convicted on 34 felony counts” in terms of “how much would this story make us deviate from covering a normal election?” It turns out that we’re normalizing the abnormal, covering the election as a horse race between democracy and illiberalism without mentioning illiberalism or considering the stakes and the consequences, and repeatedly applying a false equivalence to Trump and Biden…. The signals are flashing red that our fundamental system is in danger. “The system is holding” is not a plan for a knowable future. It never was.

What are the specifics of Project 2025, Agenda 47, and the larger right-wing plot to end American democracy? These plans include removing any checks and balances on Dictator Trump and his regime by purging any members of the bureaucracy who are deemed to be disloyal, i.e. they place the Constitution and the rule of law above personal fealty to Trump and the MAGA movement. The Department of Justice will also be politicized and used to attack the enemies of the Trump regime.

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The Republican Party will basically be made into the country’s official national party. Voting for the Democrats or other political parties that are deemed to be a threat to the MAGA movement will be made prohibitively difficult through voter intimidation, nullification and purges. White Christianity will be made into America’s official state religion. The civil rights of Black and brown people, the LGBTQ community, and women will be severely curtailed. Women will have their reproductive rights and freedoms taken away. There will be mass deportations and concentration camps targeting non-white migrants and refugees. Homeless people and other “undesirables” will also be imprisoned in these camps. As promised, Trump and his forces will target the human “vermin” who are polluting the “blood” of the nation, including but not be limited to non-whites, Muslims, Jews, and disabled people.

The United States military will be ordered to occupy Democrat-led cities and other “blue” parts of the country to combat "crime." There will be a national “patriotic” education program where dissent and intellectual freedom and otherwise challenging “conservative”/neo-fascist orthodoxy and dogma will not be allowed. High-quality public education will be ended and replaced with indoctrination programs to create compliant subjects who lack the intellectual training to be critical thinkers and responsible citizens in a real democracy. Universities and colleges will be targeted with censorship, lawsuits and other efforts to defund and close them down – as well as to threaten and intimidate faculty and administrators – if they do not sufficiently support the Trump regime and the larger right-wing reactionary and revolutionary project.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech will be severely limited. President Biden and other leading Democrats, Republicans deemed to be disloyal, and any other individuals and groups who are targeted as the enemy will face the possibility of being put in prison for “treason” and then being executed. Donald Trump and his propagandists and other agents and allies have repeatedly made such explicit threats and promises of “revenge” and “retribution”. As part of that project, Trump will pardon the January 6 terrorists (a group he describes as “soldiers” and “heroes”) and other violent right-wing extremists who will then become his personal brownshirts.

Donald Trump will personally exercise control over the United States economy by making himself the de facto head of the Federal Reserve board. Trump, like other autocrats and authoritarians, will use federal tax policy and other laws to reward his business allies. In turn, these business interests will give Trump and his family and other designated recipients vast sums of money. Trump’s first term in office was but a preview of the vast corruption that will take place when/if he takes power in 2025. To that point, at a fundraising event, the former president recently told fossil fuel industry executives to give him one billion dollars. In return, they will be permitted to pollute and ruin the world.

There are prominent voices among the news media and political class (and general public) who will push back that this is all “hysterical”, “doomsaying”, and that “the institutions” and “the rule of law” will stop aspiring dictator Donald Trump and Project 2025 and his Agenda 47 and the other plans to end the country’s democracy. Plus, Trump could not implement his desire to become a dictator during his first regime because he is “stupid” and “disorganized” and his Jan. 6 coup failed, and he is now a convicted felon which all means that the “guardrails held”. And of course, there is this talking point: the American people are basically good! Donald Trump is a bad man! The American people will get it right because they always do in the end!

Such responses and denials are so much hopium happy pill balderdash and immature thinking that are at odds with reality as it actually exists.

The following new interview in Rolling Stone with Trump MAGA operatives should sober up such voices – it will not.

“OF COURSE WE aren’t fu**ing bluffing.” That’s the message one close Trump adviser and former administration official — who requested anonymity to speak candidly — wants to get across to the press and public, when asked about Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign vows of “retribution,” unprecedented force, and militaristic action.

Indeed, this sentiment is shared widely among the upper echelon of Trumpland and the MAGAfied Republican Party, with various officials and conservatives with a direct line to the former president insisting that so-called “moderates” or alleged “establishment” types will be tamed or purged, if Trump retakes power next year.

Rolling Stone spoke with a dozen sources who are playing roles in Trump’s “government-in-waiting” or are in regular contact with the ex-president, including GOP lawmakers, Trump advisers, MAGA policy wonks, conservative attorneys, and former and current Trump aides. They universally stress that the former (and perhaps future) U.S. president and top allies are serious about following through on his extreme campaign pledges. These promises run the gamut from siccing active duty military units on not just American cities but also Mexican territory, all the way to prosecuting and potentially imprisoning Trump foes.

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Rolling Stone continues, "Yes, we do really want to burn it all down,” says another Republican close to Trump, referring to the so-called GOP “establishment” remnants who may wish to shackle Trump’s hard-right impulses. When asked about potential court challenges in a Trump second term, this source simply replies: 'Who cares?”'

Are you afraid? You should be.

Where is the massive public resistance to aspiring Dictator Donald Trump and the other neofascist forces and enemies of American democracy and freedom? As compared to how Europeans are responding to ascendant neofascism in their own respective countries, the mobilization (or lack thereof) by the American people can reasonably be described as pitiful. On this William Bunch writes at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

With far-right populist movements and strongman leaders on the rise across the globe in 2024, France’s marchers aren’t unique in fighting back. Earlier this year in Germany, large crowds took to the streets to voice their opposition to their country’s up-and-coming ultraright movement, Alternative for Germany (AfD). For many critics in Germany, AfD — with 16% of the vote in recent elections for the European Parliament — carries dangerous echoes of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party, which plunged their country into World War II and executed the Holocaust against Jews.

The first part of this story should sound familiar to U.S. voters. Donald Trump’s Republican Party is running in November on a mass deportation proposal that would round up a million or more immigrants in the dead of night and ship them to large, sweltering detention camps on the southern border. Trump’s anti-immigrant plan — a first cousin to the extreme nativism of France’s RN or Germany’s AfD — is just one chapter in a 900-page blueprint for an American dictatorship called Project 2025 that would guide a second Trump administration.

So ... where are the protesters?

An anti-democracy comet is heading straight for Washington, D.C., in four-and-a-half months, and in a chilling case of life imitating art, we are living large in the United States of Denial (where, as I write this, the story at the top right of the New York Times home page is about a U.S. couple’s struggle to find a Rome apartment on their $950,000 budget).

The insanity of doing the same thing over and over — begging millions of utterly tuned-out voters to like the (undeservedly, in my opinion) unpopular President Joe Biden and expecting a different result on Nov. 5 — isn’t working. With the American Experiment on the line, the political slogan of 2024 is “Don’t Look Up!”

What’s weird is that it’s not that America doesn’t have a tradition of political protest.

Bunch continues:

So, here’s a crazy idea — what about protesting and, more importantly, organizing before the wrong guy wins? That’s not the American way, I know, but I think the distinctive crisis in 2024 makes a case for changing things up, and maybe taking some inspiration from our friends in Europe. Just like over there, Trump’s MAGA movement — from the mass deportation scheme to plans to call up troops with the Insurrection Act to the candidate’s alarming echoes of Hitler — is a threat like we’ve never seen before. But also comparable is that — much like France’s Emmanuel Macron or Germany’s Olaf Scholz — our traditional neoliberal leader in Biden is neither popular nor inspirational.

There is perhaps a glimmer of hope. The New York Times recently reported on plans being developed and implemented by pro-democracy activists and organizations across the country to resist Dictator Trump and his regime’s agenda.

But such plans will be limited in their success if pro-democracy Americans do not organize and mobilize by the tens of millions, instead of surrendering through tacit consent and learned helplessness and exhaustion or alternatively waiting for the elites and their other leaders and influentials to save them.

[Here is a spoiler: the elites will not save you].

The American people would be wise to prepare for the worst and hope for the best. At this point, given the early 2024 polls, fundraising, and other measures – most notably the enduring if not growing popularity of convicted felon and aspiring dictator Donald Trump, the worst is the far more likely outcome. Given the obvious and growing danger, the American people cannot say that they were surprised or not told what awaits them and their democracy if Dictator Trump and his regime take power. They chose to sleepwalk eyes open into a disaster.

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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