It’s our democracy, America! A second Trump presidency would be nothing like the first

Think a new Trump term will be like the old one? Think again

Published July 10, 2024 5:20AM (EDT)

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson joins the stage with former U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally at The Farm at 95 on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson joins the stage with former U.S. President Donald Trump during a rally at The Farm at 95 on April 9, 2022 in Selma, North Carolina. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Just when you wonder how MAGA world’s love affair with violence could get any more torrid, they show you it can. On Friday, the New Republic’s Greg Sargent reported the shocking speech given last week by Mark Robinson, the “pro-life” MAGA Republican nominee for governor of North Carolina. “Some folks need killing!” he said to a church audience in White Lake, a small town in the state’s southeastern corner. 

“It’s not a matter of vengeance,” he emphasized. “It’s a matter of necessity!”

This is the ugly permission slip for violent speech and action that Donald Trump has issued in America. Extreme right politicians out-MAGA one another for attention from the base. 

Such horror-laden escalations will not stop if Trump is elected. The history of 20th-century totalitarianism shows that despots accelerate intimidation and savagery. Their threats become official government policy.

While MAGAworld has long told us where this is heading if we elect Trump, some in the non-MAGAworld who have been sleep-walking are finally waking up. Each of us can be the alarm clock on the bedside table.

Spread the word. It matters. Sensible Americans do not want to lose their freedoms. We do not want a country where exercising our rights could risk the end of our lives. Or those of our parents, spouses or children.

The looming threat is an infinitely worse-than-the-first Trump presidency, as former Republicans at the Lincoln Project are urgently showing us. And our anxiety understandably rises during the short window when President Joe Biden makes his final decision about whether he will continue his campaign. 

It’s his decision, as many have rightly said. There is nothing we ordinary Americans can do to influence it. He will decide, with his wife and perhaps two or three closest advisories.

Americans who value their liberties are in the enterprise of defeating Trump’s existential threat to constitutionalism and law. We’re ridin’ with Biden, if he chooses to stay. We’ll ride with whomever the nominee becomes, if Biden decides that is better for the country. 

In the meantime, those who grasp the threat Trump poses have an understandable urge to speculate about which course is better for staving off the worst case scenario. Here are two questions I have sometimes forgotten to ask myself in our current moment of alarm: “Are you distracting yourself with discussion of matters in which you have no agency? Is there something more useful to do?”

In the 2015 film, “Bridge of Spies,” Tom Hanks played a heroic lawyer representing the Russian super spy of the early 1960s, Rudolf Abel. When Abel’s jury was about to come in with its verdict, and later, when Abel faced the prospect of Siberia as he was returned to the Soviets, Hanks’ character asked Abel, “Aren’t you worried?” 

Abel answered: “Would it help?” 

Likewise today, we can have long conversations over what might happen atop the Democratic ticket, but do they help? Better to stay inside what author Steven R. Covey calls our “circle of influence” – what we actually can affect – while decisions get made by those whose choice it is. 

We need your help to stay independent

One way is to support grassroots organizers who talk to potential voters. Unlike the decision before President Biden, we have agency about organizing, sending postcards encouraging citizens to register to vote, using social media, talking to neighbors or writing letters about what is at stake in this election.

If the risks to reproductive freedom and personal privacy are your issues, you could share messages about them, including the looming threat of big brother monitoring women’s menstrual cycles. Looking for hope? To date, state-by-state abortion rights ballot measures are seven-for-seven, and as many as 10 more may be on the ballot in November.

In truth, it’s ALL of our rights on the ballot. So remind others of Trump’s expressed wish to terminate the Constitution, to be dictator on Day One, or that generals like Mark Milley, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, be executed for reassuring China about America’s stability after January 6. The menacing statement about Milley sounds a lot like Robinson’s, “Some folks need to be killed.”

What makes it all worse is that Trump’s wishes seem to be the Supreme Court majority’s command. If elected, he will appoint more justices like the ones who just protected him in Trump v. United States. It effectively put presidents above the law, making real the specter of a president with a scepter.

One last subject to amplify. Attention is growing over the dangers in the rightwing Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025, a roadmap to a post-constitutional nation under a second Trump presidency. In a pre-July 4, premeditated statement, Kevin Roberts, president of Heritage, unmistakably threatened violence if there was resistance to his project’s ideas: “We are in the process of the second American Revolution, which will remain bloodless if the left allows it to be.”

The iconic 1992 campaign meme of James Carville – “it’s the economy, Stupid!” requires reframing today: “It’s our freedom, America!” Including if we speak out to resist tyranny, our freedom to live, as Mark Robinson is screaming to us.

By Dennis Aftergut

Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor, is currently of counsel to Lawyers Defending American Democracy.

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