Thinking the unthinkable

by John Quiggin on October 27, 2021

If the last five years have taught us anything it’s this: the fact that something being unimaginable doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen. So, it’s worth considering the prospect that Donald Trump becomes President after the 2024 election whether by getting enough votes to win the Electoral College under the current rules, or by having a Democratic victory overturned. Trump has made it clear that, in such an event, he would wish to secure at least a third term in office and perhaps a life presidency.

Even if Trump chose not to attempt the necessary constitutional change, by 2028 he would be in a position to nominate a family member as the Republican candidate and to ensure that his candidate was declared President regardless of how Americans voted. After that, the Trumps would have effectively untrammeled power, with a compliant Congressional majority and a far-right Supreme Court. There’s no obvious reason why they couldn’t rule for decades as Putin and others have done.

What would life be like in the US and elsewhere in such a case? I’ve tried to think about the political options for resistance, both through electoral politics and through direct action, and concluded that there is no obvious prospect of success. So, I think of something like the US South before and during the Civil Rights struggle, with one-party government and resistance suppressed by extra-legal violence.

The big difference is that, unlike in the Civil Rights era, there will be no federal government to step in and change things. And emigration won’t be a serious option for most.

Maybe life would continue more or less as normal, particularly in cities and in Democratic states, assuming that state-level democracy survived. Or maybe things would get a lot worse. The literature of dystopia (1984, The Man in the High Castle, The Handmaids Tale) offers one way of thinking about life in such a world. Less dramatically, we could look at Russia and Hungary as possible models – certainly the Republicans are doing so.

At the global level, what’s left of the post-Cold War global order would be replaced by a system of competing, or co-operating, autocracies. The remaining democracies, like Australia and the EU would need to keep their heads down and avoid attracting too much attention.

I don’t want to spend too much time discuss the plausibility of this scenario. What I want to do is to imagine what life would be like for people in the US and elsewhere in the event of a Trump Presidency for Life or hereditary rulership, and what, if any, responses would be possible.

{ 135 comments }

1

Brett 10.27.21 at 9:58 pm

I don’t think it would be a stable foundation, which would make it all even more dangerous. The foundation of Trump’s power would be heavily gerrymandered legislatures in “red” states, the Supreme Court, and conservative media. He might be able to push that further if he tries to purge federal law enforcement and the top ranks of the military, but in the case where he’s stolen an election that could also backfire and lead to him being just outright deposed by the top military brass.

If him stealing an elections to aggressive counter-organizing and political violence that flouts the legal side of his regime, then they lose a lot of its power. They’re not like Modi in India, with a huge grassroots organization that can basically serve as street fighters and muscle in a conflict with liberals and the left.

2

Sophie Jane 10.27.21 at 10:05 pm

I’d expect my trans friends in the states to emigrate or die (from hate crime, suicide, or lack of care) for a start. Communes for mutual aid might be an option, but with the police giving a free hand to right wing militias it’d be touchy.

3

William S. Berry 10.27.21 at 10:22 pm

That’s depressing as all hell, JQ.

I’m seventy now, but fairly healthy for an old codger, so I might manage to live through some of this crap (if it actually happens).*

Back in the day, I was a union officer and sometime Democratic activist. I didn’t do enough. I’m doing very little (donating a bit, and proselytizing) right now and starting to feel guilty about that.

I really need to get back in the fight, but one wants to make a meaningful contribution, and it just seems really hard to figure out where to start.

*Well, I have kids and lots of grandkids, so I guess I should try to hang around for as long as I can!

4

Jim Harrison 10.27.21 at 10:29 pm

Since Trump’s advent, the challenge fo me has been unthinking the thinkable, at least on the nights when I want to fall asleep,

5

Ronald 10.27.21 at 10:34 pm

As Sophie J mentioned, things could get very bad for people who are people but not people according to the people in charge of the people who have guns. I expect race will be a major boogeyman of the future Trumpist Maladministration. But rather than the “purity” of one race being the obsession that gets people killed it will be the “impurity” of whatever group or groups Trumpists focus their bile on — and I’m pretty sure I can guess which main group that will be. This is because in modern America it will be necessary to have a brownshirt Coalition of what would have been considered “lesser races” in 1940s to get the numbers up. (But some elements of the Coalition of Oppression could always get long knifed as in Germany.)

6

sab 10.27.21 at 10:40 pm

Second presidency he might win, but I doubt.Terrifies and makes me ill to contemplate. Lifetime not so much. So very many constitutional hurdles to clear.

7

Sergio Lopez-Luna 10.27.21 at 10:41 pm

#1 — Trumpers have a pretty significant cadre of thugs that would serve as “street fighters and muscle in a conflict with liberals and the left.” I don’t think the Law Enforcement will arrest anybody bashing leftists and POC heads.

8

jal 10.27.21 at 11:07 pm

Far from unthinkable, I think something like that scenario is the most likely future. It is one reason I’m seeking a way to leave the US.

I suspect it will not be Trump in ’24. It will be someone competent in ’28, and at that point we’ll look something like a more violent Hungary as the Proud Boys and related brownshirt-wannabe militias are normalized for controlling the streets. (A substantial fraction of our cops are already aligned with them in some parts of the country.) The corporate world will only fight to avoid pain, and could end up with massive upsides for playing along, so I think the liberals who recently got the idea that they’re maybe a bit more progressive these days are probably in for a shock.

I do think it is time for anyone who realistically can to get out.

9

J-D 10.27.21 at 11:14 pm

The remaining democracies, like Australia and the EU would need to keep their heads down and avoid attracting too much attention.

Would they? As a Foreignanian myself, that’s the kind of question that runs through my head when I read American speculations about this kind of scenario: what would be the reactions from the governments of (say) Japan, Germany, Canada, South Africa, Chile, Ireland, Costa Rica, …

10

Mitch Guthman 10.27.21 at 11:18 pm

Sab at No 6:

I think if we look at Russia, etc as the model, the constitution would continue as before but it would be interpreted strictly according to the wishes of the maximum leader. It would be essentially an autocracy or kleptocracy by dressed in the garb of a democratic republic. Putin has changed job titles and done other things to follow Russia’s legal requirements but with the universally accepted assumption that they would not impede Putin retaining all power of the state.

Think if it like the scene in Casino where Ace Rothstein is told that his inability to get a casino license wouldn’t stop him from actually running the casino as the “food and beverage manager”. On the organizational chart, the “food and beverage manager” reports to the manager of the hotel but in reality it would be the other way round.

And if the nominal boss of the hotel didn’t understand how the world works, the people who really ran things would show him a hole in the desert so that he’d understand that what the “food and beverage” manager says is what goes. Capiche?

11

Chetan Murthy 10.27.21 at 11:20 pm

Sophie Jane: I would hope that any LGBTQ folks just hop on over to majority-minority states like CA. It’s a shit-ton cheaper than becoming an exile, and I cannot see the population here putting up with any sort of bullshit from stormtroopers.

The knowledge of how to find and doxx family members, make IEDs, etc, is widely-distributed.

12

J-D 10.28.21 at 12:01 am

If the last five years have taught us anything it’s this: the fact that something being unimaginable doesn’t mean it isn’t going to happen.

You’re older than I am; how had you not already learned this lesson from the events of the years from 1989 to 1991?

13

KT2 10.28.21 at 12:05 am

JQ said “The remaining democracies, like Australia” until your scenario of Trump gets up.

JQ asks ” imagine what life would be like for people in the US and elsewhere in the event of a Trump Presidency for Life or hereditary rulership, and what, if any, responses would be possible.”

Very black for the ‘others’.

Life with “a Trump Presidency for Life” will be like global warming. Most frogs / sheeple won’t feel the heat until it is too late. They will squirm alot but have little except the Constitution to push back.

Can you see a ‘class (pun) acton’ taken by the have nots getting a win in the even more conservative “Trump Presidency for Life” Supreme Court? Or, just abolish the Supremes as Trumps would be The Supreme Leader.

Fiona Hill says of Trump;
‘If He Makes a Successful Return in 2024, Democracy’s Done’
… and …
“I’m not saying that every politician seeks office for personal gain or professional advancement, but certainly a lot of people do. I mean, Trump thinks of himself as a king and wants to create a new dynasty. I saw that firsthand.”

“Talking Trump, Russia and the wage gap with Fiona Hill.
…” as when the former president mistook her for a secretary and then-chief of staff Reince Priebus referred to her as “the Russia bitch.” In response to the book, Trump emailed an angry statement to supporters this week calling her “a Deep State stiff with a nice accent.”
https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/10/08/fiona-hill-book-donald-trump-515660

14

John Quiggin 10.28.21 at 12:28 am

“You’re older than I am; how had you not already learned this lesson from the events of the years from 1989 to 1991?”

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, since Poland had already shown that the system was on its last legs. The immediate aftermath was a bit better than might have been expected.

15

Mark Heath 10.28.21 at 12:45 am

Any thoughts on where this would leave the US’s “exorbitant privilege”?

16

Russell Arben Fox 10.28.21 at 1:10 am

I’ve tried to think about the political options for resistance, both through electoral politics and through direct action, and concluded that there is no obvious prospect of success.

Define “success,” John, and define “direct action.” I’m not saying your scenario is unthinkable, but if you do think about it, you need to think about how, among other things, there a lot of guns in America…and despite what some liberals tend to assume, they are not all in the hands of either Trump’s rural/suburban base or the police. (Consider gun ownership rates among African-Americans, for example.) I’m not saying it would be fair or easy fight, nor that there wouldn’t be endless angst and desperate attempts to make the peace, but despite all that I’m fairly confident that, if the extremes you suggest came to pass, between 2024 and 2028 we would see an enormous amount of low-level armed resistance, of the sort that would put the uprisings in response to George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020 to shame. Would such guerilla fighting be easily squelched by a police force and military which Trump’s people would have under their thumb? Again, I am doubtful; surely our experiences in Mogadishu and Ramadi have shown us how difficult it is to pacify a city, and Los Angeles and Chicago and Portland and Houston would not make it easy on the Proud Boys and the cops and the national guard. One might also assume that most Americans–at least the majority that wouldn’t be targeted as enemies of Trump’s American Way–will be too fearful, to determined to protect their property and their kids’ college educations, to fight. Perhaps. But my guess is that your scenario would result in an America in 2030 that is widely considered by wealthy tourists from Canada or Western Europe or Japan to be, in essence, a Syria or a Sierra Leone. Sure, there will be safe tourist sites waiting for you, if you plan carefully and stay close to the cops and your hosts, but broadly speaking, a place much to dangerous to regularly travel to or do business with.

17

Cranky Observer 10.28.21 at 1:14 am

” I’ve tried to think about the political options for resistance, both through electoral politics and through direct action, and concluded that there is no obvious prospect of success. “

Things don’t change – until they do. 2028 is another kettle of fish, but if the 2024 election is flat-out stolen by Trump I expect an outbreak of violence that may work up to a full-scale civil war. And I don’t expect much to be much of US civilization left after that, so don’t see any potential for ‘how would life go on’ scenario building.

18

Chetan Murthy 10.28.21 at 1:22 am

John Quiggin: Huh, I wouldn’t draw the parallel between what’s happening in the US today, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. After all, the US economy isn’t falling apart, and the people who are gearing-up for civil ware aren’t the losers, but the longtime winners, who are gearing-up because for the first time in their lives they’re being asked to share. It’s not “economic anxiety” but “racial resentment” that drives these Deplorables.

The right parallel, it seems to me, is the demolition of Yugoslavia and esp. Bosnia.

19

J-D 10.28.21 at 1:25 am

I wasn’t particularly surprised by the collapse of the Soviet bloc, since Poland had already shown that the system was on its last legs.

Okay, that’s a fair point (although it does point in the direction of a further question about how surprising the rise of Solidarity was).

I suspect it will not be Trump in ’24. It will be someone competent in ’28 …

Far be it from me to suggest that such a scenario is unreasonable, but I’m still curious about how you’d join up the dots. Are you suggesting a scenario in which Donald Trump does not seek the Republican nomination in 2024, or one in which he seeks it but does not get it, or one in which he is nominated but not elected President? Any one of those would have to have significant effects of some kind on the Republican Party (I haven’t thought about what they might be, except that they’d be different for each of those three possibilities) and therefore on what happened in 2028.

20

Phil H 10.28.21 at 2:09 am

I realise that this is US-focused, but it might be useful to look at other countries to see what’s gone on there. In the UK, for example, Labour seems to have collapsed, and there’s no prospect of anything but Tory rule for a while. And incompetence seems to be gradually increasing in the cabinet, which I assume will ultimately lead to some kind of crisis… but it could be a very long time.
In China, the president legislated the possibility of a third term for himself a few years ago, and it seems likely that he will use it. Governance here remains competent for the moment, though Covid hysteria could turn into a very odd ongoing state of crisis.
I’m afraid both of these comparisons suggest that there will be no quick solution.

21

Jerry Brown 10.28.21 at 2:34 am

“and what, if any, responses would be possible.”

One response is to become less governable. Not go to work. Or if you do go, just not do much of anything productive. Society can only handle a very small percentage of people who flout the laws openly.

I’d tell you the full plan but then the Maga people would come after me first.

22

nobody 10.28.21 at 3:34 am

The US is close enough to being an authoritarian kleptocracy that putting a despot-for-life in the White House would make very little difference alone. How bad things get will depend on surrounding circumstances rather than just Trump and his wims.

With regard to socio-economic conditions: Trump-for-life in the White House will not change the fact that the American government is already too deeply compromised by corruption and elite self-dealing to address the needs of its people. Expect the 40 year neoliberal policy status quo to continue as crises continue to be ignored and living standards decline while the well-connected capture even more wealth. This is the trajectory of the United States even without a Trump in the White House (see: Democratic use of Manchin as cover to excuse their unwillingness to pass BBB).

With regard to human rights: how bad the human rights situation becomes for non-Republicans will depend on how secure GOP is in power once the US stops holding competitive elections. The trajectory of human rights in the United States depends far more on the extent to which the oligarchs encourage eliminationist politics–through propaganda and astroturfing–rather than on what Trump himself may do.

If the GOP believes it faces no substantive opposition (no, the Democratic Party does not count) then the GOP will have little incentive to abuse human rights more than is the historical norm for the party. On the other hand, if the GOP feels its grasp on power is insecure, there is every risk of escalating violence up to and including genocide. As a result, the danger of severe human rights abuses is not high during the first few years of Trump-for-life but may grow over time if organized opposition emerges.

The best case outcome–which will likely happen even if Trump is not returned to the White House–is for the United States to fully embrace becoming a Russian/Hungarian-style kleptocracy. The worst case looks very much like the Cambodian genocide.

23

J-D 10.28.21 at 3:53 am

In the UK, for example, Labour seems to have collapsed, and there’s no prospect of anything but Tory rule for a while.

If you had written in 1979 that there would be nothing but Tory rule ‘for a while’, it would have been true, so long as what you meant by ‘a while’ was about eighteen years. If you had written in 1986 that there would be nothing but Tory rule ‘for a while’, it would have been true, so long as what you meant by ‘a while’ was about eleven years. If you had written in 1992 that there would be nothing but Tory rule ‘for a while’, it would have been true, so long as what you meant by ‘a while’ was about five years. If you had written in 1996 that there would be nothing but Tory rule ‘for a while’, it would have been true, so long as what you meant by ‘a while’ was about twelve months.

24

marcel proust 10.28.21 at 4:08 am

I understand that simplification is a useful tool, but I think this happening at the same time as repeated waves of Covid (not clear why we should not expect it to continue through 2024 at this point) and intensifying climate change (definitely still around by 2024) complicates the … forecasting? speculation? war-gaming?

25

nobody 10.28.21 at 4:13 am

Cranky Observer, #17:

Who do you imagine organizing armed resistance to a Trumpist takeover? No one in the Democratic party would do this, and without a level of elite buy-in equal to Biden making a TV address calling on Democrats to take up arms, a large scale civil war is not realistic.

The US of 2024 is not the US of 1861, nor is it a variant of the former Yugoslavia. There are no ready-made armed groups ready to spring into action the moment a Trumpist tripwire is breached. At most, a Trumpist takeover could provoke disorganized violence by disaffected Democrats. Hhistory is clear that these kinds of revolts end with the insurgents being ignored, arrested, or executed.

When the Republican party drops the remaining pretexts and stops holding fair elections entirely, the party will take over without anyone firing a shot.

26

nastywoman 10.28.21 at 4:56 am

‘thinking the unthinkable’

Y’all mean I’ll win again 22.000 $ and a bottle of Champagne and a bottle of Aperol against Crazy Right-Wingers in my homeland the US – who think that ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for: Utmost Right-Wing Racist Stupid Science Denying)
– will win a second time?

Good Lord – I’ll invite all of you guys to a Party to Matera -(where the last James Bond was shot) and we restage the Scene where ‘the good CIA dude Felix Leiter says’:
It’s getting harder to tell the difference between good and evil, villains and heroes.

27

nastywoman 10.28.21 at 5:24 am

and –
‘For John’
https://youtu.be/RzpP8F5ELS0

If Trump REALLY will feel like having another… e…rection in 2024 –
WE seriously will have ‘QUEEN ANNE’ running against him –
and as so many our ‘conservative’ fellow Americans have told US – that they much rather vote for an ‘armoire’ – than for ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for: ‘Utmost Stupid’)
perhaps?
my beautiful homeland finally will turn into a monarchy and I can serve the Queeny until I’m as old as you guys.

And how is that about: Unsinkable?
UUUUps –
I meant:
‘Unsinkable’!

28

MFB 10.28.21 at 7:47 am

OK, let’s think the unthinkable.
The U.S. goes on holding elections over the next decade or so, and as before, the public has no role in what parties do when they gain power.
The U.S. continues on its path of relative economic decline, and probably moves over to a path of absolute decline, as a result of non-investment in infrastructure and excess investment in technologies and policies which favour oligarchs rather than the national interest.
The U.S. continues to pick fights with foreign powers while each U.S. party continues to dynamise its support-base by demonising selected ethnic or political groupings at home. (The original post is entirely based on the assumption that Donald Trump is a malevolent demonic force, instead of a half-bright businessman who managed to capture a party nomination because his competitors were conspicuously worthless and he was not afraid to attack them.)
Nobody in the U.S. does anything substantive about the declining income of the bottom 80% of the population, the brutality with which the repressive state apparatus keeps down the mob, or global warming.
How does all that look like turning out? And what difference would it make if Donald Trump, Satan or Bernie Sanders were President?

29

J-D 10.28.21 at 8:00 am

The US is close enough to being an authoritarian kleptocracy that putting a despot-for-life in the White House would make very little difference alone.

The idea that there is no significant difference between the Republicans and the Democrats is not novel; it is one that goes back over a century. It was the position, for example, of the Socialist Party when their candidate received 6% of the popular vote in 1912. There were probably people in 1936 who said that it made no significant difference whether Franklin Roosevelt or Alf Landon won: and, of course, there’s no definitive way of testing whether they were right, since there’s no way of demonstrating what a Landon Presidency would have been like (just as there is no way of demonstrating what Hillary Clinton’s Presidency would have been like and therefore no definitive way of testing whether it would have been significantly different from Donald Trump’s).

In the present instance, though, one obvious way of exploring your thinking is to ask ‘What kind of developments would you think likely if the Democrats win* the Presidency again at the next election?’

*For the avoidance of doubt, what I mean by this is not ‘if the Democratic ticket gets the most votes’, but rather ‘if a Democrat takes over the job of President on Inauguration Day in 2025’.

If the GOP believes it faces no substantive opposition (no, the Democratic Party does not count) …

The Republicans’ behaviour shows that they consider the Democrats to constitute a substantive opposition.

30

Sophie Jane 10.28.21 at 8:28 am

@Chetan Murphy

I would hope that any LGBTQ folks just hop on over to majority-minority states like CA

I didn’t notice the people I know in Seattle were any less afraid than anyone at the last election. And, really, everyone can’t do that. It’s only easy if you’re a young able-bodies white professional – not so good if you’re a teenager in high school or a student at a Christian college, to choose specific (and quite privileged) examples of my acquaintance.

And when you get to California? The cops are still mostly Trump supporters, and have friends in the white supremacist groups when they’re not members themselves. Hate crime’s still a real risk anywhere but the expensive parts of expensive cities. Doesn’t matter what the local laws say if the cops don’t enforce them.

I’d like to shift back from “LGBTQ folks” and “people who are people but not people according to the people in charge”, too. I’m talking about trans people specifically because we were and are being specifically targeted by hate campaigns from the people who support Trump, and because it seems worth making the point that the lives of actual people I’m friends with would be at stake in this airy bit of speculation from a bunch of privileged people with opinions on a website. Play if you like, but do try to remember this is less of a game for some people than others.

31

Thomas P 10.28.21 at 10:38 am

I think a key issue is if the dollar can remain the de facto world currency in any of these scenarios, and what will happen if it doesn’t. Not only the US economy may crash, but it might take much of the world with it. If no one trusts where USA is going, who are going to want to buy low interest US bonds that are used today because they are treated as the safest deposit possible?

32

MFB 10.28.21 at 10:56 am

JD, merely because an idea has been around for a while does not automatically make it false.

I’m worried about the fact that Democrats believe that Republicans cannot be permitted to take power — the fact that Republicans believe that Democrats cannot be permitted to take power is also worrying, but I’ve never seen the Republicans as a source of beneficial ideas or policies. However, the Democrats seem to have adopted almost all of the bad political policies of Republicans (such as conspiracy theories and using cultural fantasies to trump economic realities).

Appealing to the New Deal as an example of what Democrats do routinely is extremely foolish, simply because the New Deal a) didn’t work effectively — it being World War II which made it possible to bring about a genuinely New Deal; and b) was reversed as soon as convenient by the Truman administration, paving the way for the Eisenhower administration to take matters further to the right. Democrats, historically, had been panderers to the ruling class while pretending to help out the poor, and became so again after Nixon left office.

I accept that transgender people would have a worse time under a Republican administration than under a Democrat. However, unless I’m very much mistaken, that amounts to about one ten-thousandth of the population. Surely it should be possible to campaign for the rights of a tiny minority without at the same time declaring that it doesn’t matter that 95% of the population is under attack from both parties? For, so far as I can see, the record of the Democratic Party in immiserating the bulk of the population is only better than the Republicans in that the process of immiseration they undertake is slower, outside times of crisis like 2009, when Democrats and Republicans marched in lockstep to serve the rich and screw the poor as much and as fast as possible.

The Democrats control the Presidency and Congress. If they are actually doing anything beneficial with this control, then they deserve support. If they aren’t, then they deserve to be opposed. And if you say “But that is inconceivable, for it means allowing the Republicans in!” then you are calling for a one-party plutocratic state under the dominion of the rulers whom you adore as they kick you in the teeth.

33

Chris Bertram 10.28.21 at 11:17 am

It seems likely that some states would secede, or try to, under such a scenario. Which ones: California, Washington, Oregon, Massachussets, Vermont, New York all seem possible. Alternatively, there’s a kind of de facto secession in such places which the Trumpists choose to tolerate in return for a free hand elsewhere.

34

John Quiggin 10.28.21 at 11:26 am

MFB @28: On the assumption that Hitler lies somewhere between Trump and Satan, you appear to be restating the position of Ernst Thaelmann. That position didn’t work out so well for Thaelmann, or the world.

35

SusanC 10.28.21 at 11:30 am

There are at least two really rather different scenarios in this:

A) Trump wins the Presidency fairly, following normal constitutional processes, because the voters like his opponent even less. Has happened before.
B) something really unconstitutional happens. Third Presidency; President for life; armed revolution by Trump supporters goes full French Revolution/last days of the Romanovs of the democrats

The OP has ruled out comments on the likelihood of any of this happening as out of scope, so we can just take them as read, and view this as a kind of Harry Turtledove novel.

A meta comment, though: this kind of SF is arguably part of what is wrong with current political discourse. Direly unpopular candidates who can only get elected by arguing that their opponent is even more terrible than they are, sometimes to an implausible extent,

36

John Quiggin 10.28.21 at 11:43 am

SusanC @35 There seems to be an implicit assumption that (a) is followed by “and upholds the constitution once in office, allowing a fair election in 2028”. That seems a lot more like SF than anything in the OP.

37

SusanC 10.28.21 at 12:30 pm

SciEnce fiction option (a) probably also includes the idea that the POTUS is not an absolute monarch; and senior officers in the Department of Defense remember that their oath of allegiance is to the constitution, not the President; said senior officers have demonstrated that they will refuse orders that are blatantly illegal or unconstitutional. So you have a set up where the President suggests a bunch of crazy stuff, and the executive ignores him.

The way this can go wrong is if the President has a private army like the Sturmabteilung, who are loyal to him and not the constitution. In fiction (a), such private armies are too small to be able to overthrow the government of the United States.

38

Tm 10.28.21 at 12:30 pm

SusanC: “Trump wins the Presidency fairly, following normal constitutional processes, because the voters like his opponent even less. Has happened before.”

You are half right: trump has won the presidency once “following normal constitutional processes”, but emphatically not because voters liked him better than the opponent. You omit to mention that the “normal constitutional processes in question” are arranged so that the Republican candidate is declared winner even when he wins three million fewer votes than the opponent.

These “normal constitutional processes” are largely responsible for the deep shit that the US is caught in. And we can do nothing about it. However, we should at least avoid to conflate the Electoral College, hands down the worst electoral system in the world, with the will of the voters, as you so carelessly did SusanC.

MFB: “The Democrats control the Presidency and Congress. If they are actually doing anything beneficial with this control, then they deserve support.

The answer is clear enough: yes and yes. Your framing seems to suggest that you don’t agree but why not? Is what they have been doing so far (ARA, Afghanistan withdrawal, restoration of national monuments, Covid vaccination program, lots of executive actions, nomination of a qualified cabinet and judges, …) not beneficial, or is it not enough for your expectation? Because that is a difference and should lead to different conclusions.

39

Jake Gibson 10.28.21 at 12:58 pm

You have to realize that a sizable and influential portion of Trump’s support comes from people who believe their reward for a virtuous life is eternity in a totalitarian Theocracy. And would be happy to institute one on Earth.

40

tm 10.28.21 at 2:10 pm

Phil 20: “In the UK, for example, Labour seems to have collapsed”

I don’t wish to contradict you but I’m curious what exactly you mean by “collapsed”? In the last election, Labour won 32% of the vote (Tories 44%). That this is not a good result is obvious but “collapsed”? By what standard? Both Labour and the Tories have at various times in the last few decades received as bad or worse results (Labour in 2015, 2010, 1987, Tories in 2005, 2001, 1997). As a case in point, the 1992 result (42-34) is not far from the 2019 result and yet in 1997, the electoral fortune turned around completely.

Btw Johnson’s approval rating is totally under water (https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/trackers/boris-johnson-approval-rating).

41

tm 10.28.21 at 3:10 pm

[typo in the last paragraph of 38: should be ARP (American Rescue Plan), not ARA]

42

tm 10.28.21 at 3:20 pm

Anything beneficial?

Bidenomics Is Working
By Eric Levitz
“The U.S. economy has real problems, and inflation is certainly one of them. At the same time, America is enjoying an exceptionally swift economic recovery, rising household wealth, falling income inequality, a resurgence in labor’s economic power, and soaring capital investment. In these respects, Bidenomics has proved to be a smashing success.”
https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2021/10/bidenomics-inflation-approval-rating.html

43

nastywoman 10.28.21 at 3:44 pm

@42
is ALL what’s wrong with THE homeland as
Nr.1
NOBODY has to be worried about the fact that Democrats believe that Republicans cannot be permitted to take power —
as the actually fact
IS –
that any Believer in Democracy –
(US Democrats or even European Conservatives) –
is worried that Crazy Undemocratic Right-Wingers cannot be permitted to take power in a Democracy –
AND that Crazy Undemocratic Right-Wingers believe that people who believe in Democracy cannot be permitted to take power is TRULY worrying.
And about some ‘conspiracy theories and using cultural fantasies’ there is absolutely NO comparison between the completely unhinged conspiracy theories and cultural fantasies of Crazy Right-Wingers (worldwide) and something which Crazy Right-Wingers like to call the ‘conspiracy theories and cultural fantasies’ of the so called left.

And about (Social and Empathetic) New Deal politics –
COME ON DUDE!!!
(if you are a ‘dude’?)
If even so called ‘christ-conservatives’ like Angela Markel could do IT –
ALSO Americans can do it –
AGAIN!!!

And about accepting that ‘transgender people would have a worse time under a Republican administration than under a Democrat’ – you somehow forgot that EVERYBODY who isn’t a Crazy Right-Wing Science Denier has a worse time under any Republican administration too –
AND that includes ALL of my surfer friends in California who really LOVE the Ocean –
AND even if that amounts to just about one ten-thousandth of the population.
Surely it should be possible to campaign for the rights of a such a tiny minority without at the same time JOKING? that 95% of the population is under attack from both parties?

As the 95 percent of the Americans I know ONLY got attacked by the Crazy Right-Wing Racist Science Deniers – lately.

Right?
(Wingy-Winky?)

44

Richard M 10.28.21 at 4:11 pm

It still looks pretty good compared to:

https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/trackers/keir-starmer-approval-rating

BJ’s goes up and down, up and down, like a walrus making love. I guess that represents a PM in a time a lot of things are happening, not all of which are specifically his fault. Opposition leaders have a lot fewer opportunities to reverse a negative opinion once it forms.

The question of whether Labour could recover given a better leader is open; there is a reasonable argument to be made that the state of division inside the party does not permit the existence of a better leader. Clearly articulating and presenting any feasible policy has the unavoidable downside that you have clearly articulated and presented those policies to people who dislike them

45

Starry Gordon 10.28.21 at 5:08 pm

I think the short form of Russell Arben Fox’s contribution @16 is ‘Liberals etc. can buy guns too’ and this should be remembered as you all fantasize about the coming Trump dictatorship or whatever it is supposed to be. Not that a descent into Syrian conditions isn’t possible; but it’s not going to be simple or easy for whoever is trying to take over. The present ruling classes, incompetent and Weimarish as they may be, would have to make a lot of continual, serious, dumb mistakes to get themselves overthrown. You need at least two sides with armed forces, a supply, logistics, communications, and coherent command structure, and defensible bases for a serious civil war.

46

SusanC 10.28.21 at 5:32 pm

The “unthinkable” option, in the sense that a significant part of the CT crowd appears to be unable to conceive of it, even in a thread allowing SF options, is the one where the Democrats just lose, without a coup or funny business.

The conspiratorial options, on the other hand, seem eminently thinkable, in that people are in fact thinking them.

In a SF frame, “the Democrats just lose the election” is kind of boring, in same way that a conspiracy theory where it turns out that actually there are no space lizards would be boring, The oddness in our current political discourse is that the unthinkable option is the boring one,

47

John Quiggin 10.28.21 at 6:23 pm

SusanC @46 Reread the post. It starts with exactly the case you mention

“Donald Trump becomes President after the 2024 election whether by getting enough votes to win the Electoral College under the current rules … ”

On current opinion polling that looks like the most likely case. It’s certainly thinkable, and is getting plenty of discussion already (which is why I didn’t want to derail the thread by debating it)

The bit I find unthinkable, or at least hard to think is “In 2028, Trump completes his second term and goes quietly into retirement, the Democrats win the election and everything returns to pre-Trump normality”. Do you see that happening?

48

lordkoos 10.28.21 at 7:12 pm

It’s interesting that many commenters here assume that we still have a democracy, while it is increasingly clear that we do not. We have an oligarchy. The two parties are fighting over spoils, while neither party really gives AF about the American worker. This is easily surmised by the recent failure of the Democrats to pass the “Build Back Better” bills without gutting them to the point where they are meaningless. Most of the policies in the bill are very popular among the American people but our politicians work for their donors, not for the people who elect them.

49

Mr Spoon 10.28.21 at 7:31 pm

It’s hard not to see lazy parallels with Gibbons’ History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Capture of the state and economy by ruthless venal interests, bitterly contested religious (and cultural) distractions, and mass movement of “barbarian” (I dislike that word, but what can you do) peoples who through sheer numbers overwhelm the vitiated remains of imperial order.

It wasn’t a quick process: it took centuries of disorder and suffering. And there’s never a Hari Seldon around when you need one.

50

Chetan Murthy 10.28.21 at 8:22 pm

Sophie Jane: I certainly cannot argue against exile, come the worst. But exile is costly, and many Americans (including trans Americans) will not be able to afford to do this. For those Americans, moving to a place that is majority-minority is a viable second-best choice.

They can’t kill us all: we outnumber them. And sure, the po-po are a home-grown-and-paid-for Sturmabteilung-in-waiting. But we outnumber them. Vastly so.

51

Tomonthebeach 10.28.21 at 8:54 pm

The difference between Democrats and Republicans is not as substantive as a lot of commenters here seem to assume. The difference is more in temperament than ideology and values. Wall Street en$ure$ enough balance that profits are not impacted.

There will be no antifa resistance to a right-wing coup because the temperament of liberals is to work things out civilly. Of course, the Republican party is not only uncivil, it is mindlessly amoral. In that regard, they look like Nazis just before the Reichstag fraud. Clearly, Trump had hoped that Jan 6 would be his Reichstag moment.

History taught us all what comes next. I had hoped that Vietnam would be the last time I would have to kill human beings to stay alive. In my mid 70’s, I might not be up to it anymore. Truth, Justice, and the American Way – our three frauds.

52

Alex SL 10.28.21 at 8:59 pm

As others have pointed out, there is nothing unimaginable or unthinkable about this scenario. I have been thinking for years that the USA are on the way to a Hungary- or Russia-style arrangement. The following seems to make for a powerful combination:

Gerrymandering – the senate already comes pre-gerrymandered, only need to draw the boundaries for the lower house so that the other side never wins again.
Voter roll purges, voter ID laws, and strategic closures of poll stations.

Those two together, if done well, mean that one can ‘legitimately’ stay in power for decades with only c. 40% public support, maybe less, while still saying, “what do you mean dictatorship, haha, we have free elections, it is just that we are a Republic, not a Democracy”.

Saturate the judiciary with party members.
Compliant media. Can shut down non-compliant ones once enough support from police and judiciary are available.

The thing is, on all of these fronts the USA are already 80% there, and it is considered perfectly legal and not causing major unrest. The senate is gerrymandered by design, and many house seat districts have boundaries that are blatantly unfair. Voters are often randomly purged already, convicts can’t vote in many states plus minorities are disproportionately put into prison for minor infractions plus the USA have a disproportionate part of their population in prison, and the undersupply of polling stations in strategically chosen areas regularly makes the news (at least here). The judiciary is already heavily politicised, because the senate has blocked so many dem appointments and then rushed through many rep ones when it could. And is there any need to talk about Fox News, OANN, local radio and TV stations, Facebook?

The only point I disagree with is the personalisation of this conversation around Trump. It wouldn’t matter if he and his entire family left politics tomorrow; with support from the relevant media, the next proto-autocrat can be popularised sufficiently to replace him within months. There are enough of them waiting for their chance in the ranks just behind him.

53

Ray Vinmad 10.28.21 at 9:06 pm

One thing to consider is that this particular movement is a cult of personality and a bona fide cult is essential for the numbers we’re seeing.

The bona fide cult is a bit out of control–i.e., willing to turn on Great Leader

Those opposed to it are vehemently opposed.

That doesn’t look like a great model for the institutionalization that you’d need for lasting hereditarian one party rule.

Also, various interests appear to be pulling the strings from the back.

It probably won’t be the Trumplings who rule in the end is my guess. Various would-be authoritarians are doing try-outs right now to see if they’ll be the ‘smart Trumpling.’

The question is will they be able to create a univocal movement with 1) a bunch of cultists 2) the corporations paying for the culty field trips and other accessories 3) any foreign powers in the mix.

To lead the cult we have a bunch of narcissists and various corrupt would-be rulers and their backing isn’t necessarily perfectly aligned but it still remains essential. Government overthrow is complicated. Then you have to rule the majority.

They’re going to fight amongst themselves quite a lot.

If they can iron out those wrinkles it will be seamless power. If not, there will be cracks and fissures and whatever regime results won’t last that long.

So we could also have chaos–but not one where we return to normal but one where authoritarian regimes come and go and things gradually devolve into sporadic or sweeping violence.

Either way, we’re sunk as far as I can tell. We should be able to beat them and I cannot understand why we don’t try. Is it that the people best in the position to do this are paralyzed because they ‘believe in the system’ and are so attached to norms they’d let anything happen even at the cost of breaking a norm? Is it simply a lack of courage?

To me, that’s the bigger question.

54

Timothy Scriven 10.28.21 at 10:08 pm

Your scenario is plausible, and there are many other ways we could go into autocracy to be sure.

I am afraid because the conditions that allowed for the emergence of democracy, which had a lot to do with the affordability and possibility of a bunch of people just buying a gun and forming an army, are gone. The disparity in potential military power between a state and its people will continue to grow, even as the capacities of surveillance grow as well.

In other words, if democracy is lost, it may be impossible to regain it. We could be locked into autocracy without end, held down by the powers of a state that are impossible for us to challenge.

55

Mike Furlan 10.28.21 at 10:37 pm

I am more concerned that the majority of White Americans want to destroy our current form of government. And the increasing number of Hispanic Americans who want to identify as “White” and will join them.

If Trump has a stoke tomorrow, the nightmare scenario is still in play.

56

PatinIowa 10.28.21 at 10:49 pm

I’m going to go further in the future.

In 2224, historians (if there are any) will delineate this period as beginning with Reagan’s election in 1980, and continuing in more or less the same direction through the end of whatever regime replaces what we’ve got now. Undergraduates (if there are any) will resent having to remember whether Clinton was a Democrat or a Republican, because from that distance, the difference will be completely imperceptible to all but the specialists. (Guelphs and Ghibellines, if you will.)

The debates will concern how much the right anticipated and intended the course of events, as well as whether specific events were “part of a plan,” or whether things simply stumbled along as the sclerotic empire crumbled. There will be arguments about periodization, “Did it start with Goldwater? Truman?” There will be discussions of in what proportions the American center and center-left was complicit, intimidated, or stupid.

Meanwhile, historians of science and medicine will read the DSM-V and laugh and laugh and laugh.

57

Chetan Murthy 10.28.21 at 11:34 pm

John,

So, the trolls, the “not a dime’s worth of difference” idiots, the apologists-for-Fascism, are back. And since there’s no way to either shut them down or clearly mark them as such, your comment section will descend again into a cesspool of Trumpist and Trump-apologist slop. Ah, well.

58

Alan White 10.28.21 at 11:38 pm

I have been essentially hopeless since 2016, being a person who generally was optimistic about the progressive nature of history, but no longer am. Trump catalyzed long-suppressed White nationalism into something truly horrifying at a national and historic scale, as your OP riffs on.

It does feed on perpetuating extremely high levels of negative emotion though. My last wisp of optimism surrounds the viability of continuing to do this effectively on huge segments of the population over periods of forthcoming years. But of course with extreme right-wing media with fairly hard-core audiences, maybe even that optimism is misplaced.

59

Dr. Hilarius 10.28.21 at 11:56 pm

SusanC at 37 touches upon an important point, the role of the military. Even if local police favor Trump and authoritarianism they are not capable of putting down significant protest or to stop local governments from refusing to comply with federal directives. State National Guards are made up of citizen soldiers and likely to be as divided in loyalty as the constituency they are drawn from.

At some point, Trump would certainly try to use the US military to put down resistance. Having grown up in a military family I would place more hope in the military refusing to follow illegal orders than I would in the courts declaring anything out of order. The military leadership also is aware that 42% of the troops are non-white. The entrance of the military into domestic politics would risk intra-service conflict.

60

Omega Centauri 10.29.21 at 12:18 am

I think it can still be avoided. But we have to be a lot more strategic. That means we have to admit that all of our political allies aren’t our friends. Woke-overreach is a powerful red pill -even if much of it is made up from scratch strawmen. And I have learned that a plurality of people will go for a strongman, if they think that the badguys are going unpunished. As much as police and judicial reform is needed, we have to be careful that it can’t be successfully framed as letting the bad guys go unpunished. The alternative is growing support for the strongman type ruler. Note that according to recent polls already a plurality of Republicans would rather sacrifice democracy than lose the next election. If we aren’t careful and keep allowing the strawmen sustenance then antidemocratic tendencies on the right will get increasingly worse.

If the takeover is blatantly against the constitution there would be a good chance that the military would intervene on the side of democracy. It's even possible the Supreme court might intervene on the side of the constitution. But we shouldn't count on either.

61

J-D 10.29.21 at 12:21 am

Any measurement of distance depends on a frame of reference and is meaningless without that specification.

The answer to the question ‘Are the differences between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party significant or negligible?’ depends on the point (or points) of reference.

If somebody’s point of reference is a desire for the reintroduction of Prohibition of alcohol in the USA, then those differences are negligible. If somebody’s point of reference is a desire to crush the union movement, then those differences are significant.

In the absence of a point of reference, the question is meaningless.

I can’t tell what MFB’s points of reference are, or what nobody’s points of reference are.

I’m worried about the fact that Democrats believe that Republicans cannot be permitted to take power — the fact that Republicans believe that Democrats cannot be permitted to take power is also worrying, but I’ve never seen the Republicans as a source of beneficial ideas or policies.

It’s always been true that Democrats don’t want Republicans to take power, just as it’s always been true that Republicans don’t want Democrats to take power (by ‘always’ I mean ‘as long as the Republican Party has existed’). It’s also true that many Democrats (and many other people as well, like John Quiggin and like me) think that the Republicans taking power now would be much worse than Republicans taking power in earlier periods. It’s not clear what MFB means by suggesting that Democrats believe that Republicans ‘cannot be permitted’ to take power. The evidence does not support the conclusion that the Democratic Party is prepared to break the law to prevent the Republican Party from taking office. On the other hand, there is strong evidence that significant elements within the Republican Party (including Donald Trump) are prepared to contemplate breaking the law to prevent the Democratic Party from taking office (that is, after future elections). It would be ludicrous and pernicious to suggest that a high standard should be set for judging the conduct of the Democratic Party and that they should be judged harshly for falling short of it, while the Republican Party should be judged less harshly because the bar should be set lower for them.

However, the Democrats seem to have adopted almost all of the bad political policies of Republicans (such as conspiracy theories and using cultural fantasies to trump economic realities).

I accept MFB’s assertion that this is the way it seems to MFB. It does not seem that way to me. If the way it seems to me and the way it seems to MFB are different, how can the discussion proceed from there?

The Democrats control the Presidency and Congress. If they are actually doing anything beneficial with this control, then they deserve support. If they aren’t, then they deserve to be opposed. And if you say “But that is inconceivable, for it means allowing the Republicans in!” then you are calling for a one-party plutocratic state under the dominion of the rulers whom you adore as they kick you in the teeth.

So, what course of action are you calling for?

62

Omega Centauri 10.29.21 at 12:36 am

What impact will demographic changes have? A recent study predicted that during the upcoming endemic phase of COVID, the unvaxed can on average expect an infection every 16 months. This is disproportionately affect those on the rightside of the political spectrum. If the death rate for re-infections stays around 1%, this could have a small but significant effect on the demographics.

What will be the impact if ten to thirty percent of police are fired over vaccine mandates? Will they simply be rehired a few months later, or will their law enforcement careers be over? And what effect will this slow-going significant event have on the political views of the rest of the population? Similarly for the military.

63

J-D 10.29.21 at 1:17 am

However, we should at least avoid to conflate the Electoral College, hands down the worst electoral system in the world …

Have you checked the other electoral systems of the world to be sure of this? In Iran, the mullahs effectively have the power to disqualify in advance any candidate they don’t like: isn’t what worse than the electoral college? The electoral college is a bad idea, but I’m not sure it’s the worst.

The two parties are fighting over spoils, while neither party really gives AF about the American worker. This is easily surmised by the recent failure of the Democrats to pass the “Build Back Better” bills without gutting them to the point where they are meaningless. Most of the policies in the bill are very popular among the American people but our politicians work for their donors, not for the people who elect them.

I do not think the word ‘surmised’ means what you think it means.

It’s a strange position to praise the Build Back Better bill and then to deny all credit to the people who wrote it and the people who are pushing for it to be passed.

There will be no antifa resistance to a right-wing coup because the temperament of liberals is to work things out civilly.

Antifa are not liberals and it is not the temperament of antif to work things out civilly.

The only point I disagree with is the personalisation of this conversation around Trump. It wouldn’t matter if he and his entire family left politics tomorrow; with support from the relevant media, the next proto-autocrat can be popularised sufficiently to replace him within months. There are enough of them waiting for their chance in the ranks just behind him.

It would make a lot of difference how they left politics. For example, the effect if they all left politics as a result of a family gathering being wiped out by something like the Tunguska impact event would be different from the effect if they all left politics as convicted felons.

I am afraid because the conditions that allowed for the emergence of democracy, which had a lot to do with the affordability and possibility of a bunch of people just buying a gun and forming an army, are gone.

It’s not clear that the conditions that allowed for emergence of democracy in those countries where it has emerged are correctly summarised as ‘the possibility of people just buying a gun and forming an army’. Whatever plausibility this may have as an account of US history, what other countries does it apply to?

64

William Berry 10.29.21 at 1:33 am

“there’s never a Hari Seldon around . . .”

History has given us a surfeit of Hari Seldons (or, at least, wannabes).

If there is ever a real Hari Seldon (or some entity of that capacity), it will be either a super-advanced AI (a singularity caliber, godlike thingamajig), or just another fraud.

We don’t need, nor should we want, another HS. What we need is an intelligent and engaged citizenry.

Come to think of it, we might be sh** outta luck.

65

Austin George Loomis 10.29.21 at 2:47 am

We should be able to beat them and I cannot understand why we don’t try. Is it that the people best in the position to do this are paralyzed because they ‘believe in the system’ and are so attached to norms they’d let anything happen even at the cost of breaking a norm?

It sure looks that way to me. In the words of a great American poet, they respect and prize the covenant; they respect the process, they respect the rules.

66

John Quiggin 10.29.21 at 2:47 am

I’m going to block any future Thaelmann-style comments to the effect that Dems are as bad as Repubs, and would request no further rebuttals to them. In particular, this applies to MFB and TomOnTheBeach.

67

derrida derider 10.29.21 at 4:23 am

On the weird notion that Trump may ignore the constitution and somehow get himself a third term in 2032, you might care to note that if he is still alive then he would be aged 86. As he is already showing distinct early signs of Alzheimer’s I don’t think he’d even know his own name then.

My own bet is that Trump is some chance to get elected in 2024, but by 2028 the decline of the US generally, and its middle class in particular, will be clear even to the stupidest Jesus freak. I think he would have no chance of reelection, even if compis mentis, which he probably won’t be.

68

J-D 10.29.21 at 4:28 am

What I want to do is to imagine what life would be like for people in the US and elsewhere in the event of a Trump Presidency for Life or hereditary rulership, …

As a possibly interesting comparative point of reference, here’s one science-fiction writer imagining what it might have been like if US history had taken a much worse turn than it actually did in 1968 (yes, a worse version of 1968):
https://apex-magazine.com/dispatches-from-the-revolution/

69

John Quiggin 10.29.21 at 5:02 am

DD “On the weird notion that Trump may ignore the constitution” is not a promising start to an argument.

70

nastywoman 10.29.21 at 8:03 am

@
‘I’m going to block any future Thaelmann-style comments to the effect that Dems are as bad as Repubs, and would request no further rebuttals to them’.

and can we stop the nonsense about ‘trump’ only can get elected by arguing that his opponent is even more terrible than he is – as any real trumpfan we ever talked to elected
the stupid racist science denier because of LOOOOVE for him – and everything he stands for.

71

Tm 10.29.21 at 8:29 am

J-D 63 You have a point, as usual ;-) Although it has to be said that the election procedure as such in Iran is pretty fair. The US is to my knowledge the only country where a candidate with a majority of votes can still “lose” the election. The British system has a similar problem but it doesn’t pretend to be a direct election.

Anyway more re SusanC. I think it is important to understand that while an open coup in the US is definitely on the table and there has already been a test run, an authoritarian power grab could well happen by pseudo constitutional means, as has happened before in several countries. The many anti-majoritarian mechanisms in the US constitution, reinforced by gerrymandering, unrestrained voter disenfranchisement, and a judiciary dominated by the Extreme Right, offer plenty of opportunity for such a takeover.

I reiterate that Trump never been popular, has never won and likely never will win a popular majority. He and his policies are unpopular. The GOP is unpopular, has lost the popular vote 7 of the last 8 presidential elections. Without gerrymandering and the Senate, they would have very little power on the national level and be restricted to a handful of backward states.

Really their only chance to win or keep power is by subverting democracy, and that is what they do and will continue to do. It’s their only game and they are gonna play it.

72

Tm 10.29.21 at 10:21 am

P.S. When Bush became president in 2001, the Iran had a democratically legitimate president and the US did not.

73

steven t johnson 10.29.21 at 12:53 pm

Merrick Garland today is resisting Trump’s attempt to seize power. We don’t need to speculate, we can see now what the resistance will look like.

74

Eszter Hargittai 10.29.21 at 1:31 pm

Just here to say that this is an incredibly depressing post, but I get it. I was going to suggest you look at Hungary, but then I got to that part of your post. Of course, whatever happens there, while a blue print for some other places, ultimately has much different repercussions from such scenarios unfolding in the US. That said, I saw an interesting – and rather terrifying – talk by Kim Lane Scheppele about how Hungary and Poland can dismantle the EU from within legally given how the system is set up. (Don’t ask me for details, I don’t understand enough of it to restate, but it was scary and depressing.)

75

Jonathan W Siegel 10.29.21 at 5:06 pm

No one has mentioned Napoleon III’s 2nd empire as a potential analogy. Basically an authoritarian political regime imposed on top of a civic culture that was increasingly democratic–in the sense of 19th century liberalism–whose base of support even by the 1860s is beginning to rot from within and, my sense, would have collapsed in the 1870s and been replaced by a version of the 3rd Republican even without the Franco-Prussian war. That seems to me the most likely tendency for a right-wing regime beginning with Trump returning to power in 2024. Not pleasant, not anything I want to live with, but not the end of politics or in the broader sense democratization.

76

JimV 10.29.21 at 7:11 pm

This post is a good opportunity to vent–thanks for that. Most of what I would vent about has already been covered by previous commenters, though.

As bad as our (USA) political systems are, and I think they have some obvious room for improvement, they still have enough functional ability that we have to accept that many of us thought Trump was a reasonable choice. We have to acquaint more of those people with the facts somehow. I hope that is not an unthinkable prospect.

77

Tm 10.29.21 at 8:04 pm

„Hungary and Poland can dismantle the EU from within“

Dismantle or sabotage? Dismantling the EU is not in their interest, they want the billions. The EU now seems intent on withholding the money until they comply with the rules, and that will work.

78

Alex SL 10.29.21 at 8:31 pm

derrida derider,

My own bet is that Trump is some chance to get elected in 2024, but by 2028 the decline of the US generally, and its middle class in particular, will be clear even to the stupidest Jesus freak.

The question is not if the decline is clear, but who people blame and what they see as the way to reverse the decline. I see no reason why large parts of the public in the USA (or elsewhere) would any time soon stop blaming immigrants, minorities, or the unemployed, plus the EU in the case of the UK, for everything from increasing inequality to their personal feeling that things aren’t as nice now as when they were kids. It has been a winning formula for decades; why would that change?

79

Chetan Murthy 10.29.21 at 9:10 pm

Some thoughts:

(1) A few years back, I read a column arguing that “once you move up, you can’t go back down”. This was in the context of high tech — that basically you can’t go back down to older-era technology, b/c all the easily-extracted energy and minerals are gone: you need high-tech to survive at that point. An example was energy: more and more, the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) of fossil fuels is lower and lower, so you need solar, wind, etc. But those require massive energy investment to create. So you’re stuck in this high-energy equilibrium.
(2) One might make the same observation about globalization and about industrialization within the US. Others have observed that what’s happening to Kansas (for example) is just the same thing that’s happening in every other factory in America: modern industrial methods and economy-of-scale are being applied to further improve the labor productivity of agriculture. But that requires high-tech machinery, seeds, chemistry, biology, surveillance, etc. Sure, Kansas may think that they produce the stuff that feeds California. But if California breaks down, if trade with China breaks down, then pretty quickly Kansas will stop producing food. And this repeats itself everywhere, at every level. Undoing this interdependence — both at the global and continental level — will take a lot of time and a lot of care. In a way, it’s what the UK is finding out with “hard Brexit”: you can’t rip it down quickly.
(3) Here in California, we’re majority-minority. And there are areas that are very majority-minority. A significant percentage of citizens are related to undocumented immigrants, and lots of us are indistinguishable from undocumented immigrants, aside from a stamp on a piece of paper in a book (a passport).
(4) I remember reading (in Gellately’s Backing Hitler) that he tried a nationwide boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses in 1933: it didn’t work, b/c the German population wasn’t ready for that kind of hatred. But eventually he succeeded, and by the end, Germans were pretty much all-in on hating Jewish people and blaming everything that happened on them. Hitler started off with power and educated his base to hate.
(5) By contrast, the GrOPers and Trump have (because their grasp on power was so weak, but also because that’s their method at this point) been educating their base to hatred more and more. By the time the GrOPers regain power, their base will want significant oppression of the people they hate — the untermenschen like me, Sophie Jane, and a lot of others. They’ll demand it, and won’t take “hey, wait a bit” for an answer, not to speak of “no”.
(6) Look at the antivaxx/maskers. Look at the anger and the racial and homophobic content of their screeching. The GrOPers are turning everything toward their central message, which is that “those people”, (((those people)), and Teh Ghey [sic] are all conspiring to rob “real Americans” of their lives and livelihoods, rob their children of their educations.
(7) Everything that happens, everything, is being used to drum up more and more anger, more and more obstruction of the proper function of government. And then the malfunction of government is used to drum up even more anger.

You don’t light such a fuse, and then expect it to just gutter out.

What’s my point? If the GrOPers take power, there’s a good chance that their base starts pogroms and serious physical oppression everywhere they can. And there is no way that people in majority-minority areas will stand for that. Sure, maybe the po-po/Sturmabteilung will try to put down the protests; that’ll just produce real violence, and the knowledge of how to make IEDs is widely-distributed. Once that starts to happen, intercontinental trade will cease, and within weeks, food supplies will be exhausted. At that point, it’ll just become war for survival.

And now, I want to write specifically about the prospects for trans Americans, because, as our President said, “rights for trans Americans is the great civil rights issue of our time.” But also b/c I remember Father Niemoller’s confession. I live over the hill from the Castro here in SF. Let’s suppose that the po-po start arresting trans SFans; how long do you think that’ll be allowed to happen, before we invade and destroy the Mission police station, before people start making molotov cocktails ? Yes, California is expensive. But in this timeline where the GrOPers retake power, money simply isn’t the issue: survival will be, and vulnerable people will need to GTFO Dodge. And the more of them (of US) there are in California, the harder it will be for the po-po/Sturmabteilung to succeed.

Just for numbers: we’re 39m here in CA. And over half nonwhite. In the big cities, the disproportion is much greater. 2.6m of those people are undocumented immigrants. 11m immigrants. These are massive populations, and large numbers of them are indistinguishable from undocumented, not that the MAGAts will care either way — they’ll attack anybody who looks brown, or Asian, or whatever.

OK, to sum up: I think that if the GrOPers retake power, it will be impossible to resist overreach, and they will start a campaign of oppression everywhere they can. And that will produce the inevitable counter-reaction, and it will be bloody. The best thing truly vulnerable people can do, is to gather together in places where they can be safe, and where there will be supply lines overseas. B/c things can and will get very messy, as majority-minority states areas literally disconnect from Red states and areas.

P.S. Let’s suppose that I’m being overly dour. That majority-minority areas will not experience physical oppression of vulnerable populations. The Red states most certainly will: we have sufficiently many incidents already in Red areas to know where things are heading. All the anger and madness you see from covidiots will be directed at vulnerable people in their areas. This is still a good reason to GTFO Dodge, and to an area where you’ll be safe.

P.P.S. At the very least, make sure to vote early/absentee and be in a Blue area of a Blue state, for the week-or-two around the 2024 election. B/c the MAGAts will not feel restrained from driving into Dallas and finding [epithet for some minority] to beat up or worse.

80

Chetan Murthy 10.29.21 at 9:17 pm

Eszter Hargittai: Do you have a link to that talk?

Also: yes, it’s incredibly dour. And for the entire world, b/c if the US succumbs a third time, I think it’s over for US financial hegemony. And from what I’ve read about what actually caused the Great Depression and the Great Recession, the lack of a financial hegemon to actively manage the global financial system, will be catastrophic.

P.S. obviously I think US military hegemony is terrible almost everywhere.
P.P.S. I encourage everybody to read Brad Delong’s Slouching Toward Utopia: An Economic History of the Long 20th Century, 1870-2016. It’s relevant not just to the economics, but also to the politics of our moment. He discusses why Fascism arose, and why it’s rising again. The 21st-century parts are ill-formed compared to the rest, but that’s only natural, given that we’re still in the middle of it.

81

John Quiggin 10.29.21 at 9:44 pm

JWS @75 The Second Empire occurred to me as a possible model, but I know very little about it, and I suspect that some of what I do know ain’t so. I realise that I don’t even know if there were political parties or an elected legislature. Is there a good online source?

82

Chetan Murthy 10.29.21 at 9:52 pm

JQ: I think one thing that is implicit in your post, is “we are the majority, why can’t we govern?”

As the guys over at LG&M have exhaustively documented, there are a lot of structural factors at play.
But also, elected Dem officials continue to not fully-press their advantages to clean up the mess.
And why might this be? A lot of the senior Dems came up during the 90s, when the electorate was noticeably more right-wing than it is today. Also, sadly, money corrupts. Witness Sineman/Manchin, but also others.

But I actually question your premise: that “we are the majority”. I remember reading someone writing about the 1619 Project, that one thesis of the work was that America is a fundamentally racist country, and that the white population simply would not give up power, simply would not share equitably. I think that that is right. Sure, there are white people who will stand up for BIPOC and LGBTQ a bit. But when the shit hits the fan, they will not, and the White [notice capitalization] population will make sure, is making sure that the shit will indeed hit the fan.

Quite simply, I fully-expect that there will be no equitable sharing of power in our country, until after the white population has become a noticeable minority. Not sure how much after, b/c of those structural barriers, but definitely after.

On that thesis, it follows that “we” are unable to win for easy and simple reasons: because the majority will not allow “us” to win.

A simple example: it should be easy, it should be a slam-dunk, to eliminate qualified immunity for police. But that never happens, and why? Because those same suburban whites who voted against Trump, believe that the po-po protect them, and they’re not going to give that up. Even if it means that the po-po can murder Black people with impunity.

If anything, this assessment (from the 1619 Project) is even more dour than what you wrote: it predicts that even if we somehow “pull it out” in 2024, we’ll have to do so again and again until 2040-or-so, when whites become a minority. And that it will become harder to pull off, not easier.

83

Chetan Murthy 10.29.21 at 10:02 pm

John, also, I think this might be of interest to readers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOjJtEkKMX4

12min SLYT from Timothy Snyder about “sadopopulism”. His thesis is that the demonstrated inability of oligarchies to govern is not a problem for them; indeed, it leads directly to their picking scapegoats to point their base at — to blame for the incompetence and failures of government. We can see this play out in real-time around covid: the Branch Covidians and their electeds are acting to further the pandemic, to sicken and kill more people, and then directing their base to blame Democrats, people of color, gay people, etc, for the obvious sickness and death.

I also remember a 2018 comment here from commenter Glen Tomkins, about the progressive degradation of the souls of their base: https://crookedtimber.org/2018/06/20/not-in-our-name-2/#comment-734309

I’m not going to quote bits; it’s worth reading in full.

84

Doug 10.29.21 at 10:40 pm

Brett at #1

him being just outright deposed by the top military brass

that would almost certainly start a civil war. There are already Trumpists asking when they can start shooting liberals – this would push them over the edge. It would be a bloodbath.

85

Ebenezer Scrooge 10.29.21 at 11:08 pm

There have been a number of posts in this thread on US financial hegemony. I will submit two things. #1, if the dollar loses its exorbitant privilege because of some Trump-for-life scenario, it will be one of the lesser problems America will face. #2, The last 70 years of US policy have done their best to subvert US financial hegemony, and have not succeeded. I’m thinking of the decline of Bretton Woods because the US continually softened its currency, the weaponization of financial hegemony (i.e., unilateral sanctions), and the fine folks who brought you 2008. The renminbi will not displace the dollar because China is even less trusted than the US. The Euro–well, maybe, but I kind of doubt it.

86

J-D 10.29.21 at 11:34 pm

The Second Empire occurred to me as a possible model, but I know very little about it, and I suspect that some of what I do know ain’t so. I realise that I don’t even know if there were political parties or an elected legislature. Is there a good online source?

A sketch is recoverable in twenty minutes from half a dozen Wikipedia articles. Briefly: there was an elected legislative body; its powers were severely restricted, although the restrictions were incrementally loosened; the elections were heavily rigged, but opposition groups were never entirely eliminated.

87

J-D 10.29.21 at 11:48 pm

That said, I saw an interesting – and rather terrifying – talk by Kim Lane Scheppele about how Hungary and Poland can dismantle the EU from within legally given how the system is set up. (Don’t ask me for details, I don’t understand enough of it to restate, but it was scary and depressing.)

My reaction on reading that was that the governments of the other EU countries can stop the Hungarian and Polish governments if they want to. Then I searched and found this–
https://reeec.illinois.edu/news/2021-03-17/kim-lane-scheppele-europes-new-democracy-deficit-creeping-autocracy-hungary-and
–and read this–

Scheppele argued that Hungary and Poland have been left unpunished largely because of a lack of political will and …

Well, exactly! It is evident even to this casual observer that the EU has made rules about human rights which the Hungarian and Polish governments have defied the EU to enforce, and so far the response of other EU governments has been ‘Oh, we don’t want to make any trouble …’

… because of the deep economic entanglement between Hungary, Poland, and Germany. The fact that individual Member States have taken it upon themselves to sanction Hungary and Poland’s behavior threatens a possible dissolution of the EU because the states are not acting as a unified body. Scheppele concluded the talk with an urgent call for the EU to recognize that it is “a community of fate and that it is everyone’s business what happens inside each Member State.”

The question about what is possible legally is underlain (as perhaps all such questions are to some extent) by a question about what is possible politically.

88

J-D 10.30.21 at 12:00 am

„Hungary and Poland can dismantle the EU from within“

Dismantle or sabotage? Dismantling the EU is not in their interest, they want the billions. The EU now seems intent on withholding the money until they comply with the rules, and that will work.

Really? I guess I’m out of date. Good if true.

89

Mike Furlan 10.30.21 at 12:07 am

Chetan Murthy @80

From the draft version of Delong’s chapter on Nazism 12.3:

“Once Adolf Hitler had seized power in 1933 and consolidated it in 1934, Hitler was
by and large popular. Germany had recovered from the Great Depression relatively
rapidly once Hitler had taken power and broken adherence to monetary and fiscal
orthodoxy. With the Gestapo in the background to suppress agitation for higher
wages, better working conditions, or the right to strike, and with strong demand
from the government for public works and military programs, unemployment fell
rapidly in Germany in the 1930s.”
https://delong.typepad.com/teaching_economics/20th-c.html

Is something like that what you think our future will bring?

90

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 3:46 am

John, this might not be worth passing thru as a comment, but …..

If the GrOPers regain control, it’s a sure bet that any US efforts to combat climate change will go into the toilet. It’ll be up to Europe and China to do the work, and the US will be working against such progress. And that’s the best-case timeline after a GrOPer restoration.

91

nastywoman 10.30.21 at 3:55 am

@79
‘P.S. Let’s suppose that I’m being overly dour’.

Yes you are – as you write yourself ‘That majority-minority areas will not experience physical oppression of vulnerable populations’ – as any society which is as openminded divers and openminded multiracial as the Californian one does not suffer the Reactionary Racism and/or oppression in some Red States and as it has been proven with ‘the insurrection trial’ my fellow Americans are in general just not ‘organisiert’ or ‘diszipliniert’ enough to produce some ‘Horrific Type of Fascism as ONCE – ‘Made in Germany’.

Like my favourite country Italy – my homeland the US is in a constant state of –
COMPLETE CONTRADICTING CHAOS –
and each time when I’m in CA –
and together with all my (multiracial) friends –
where even the utmost ‘conservative’ of them – is as ‘climate conscious’ as an Arnie Schwarzenegger I’m sooooo far away from any type of Red State Science Denying or standard silly US politics – that I never could ultimately believe that a country with a State like California –
EVER –
FINALLY –
could fall for ‘trump’
(the worlds new word for: ‘Utmost narrow-minded Idiocy’)

92

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 4:21 am

Mike Furlan: No, and for the following reason: the Germans had competent people in office at the beginning. Over time, they got driven-out and replaced with more-and-more-incompetent people, but at the beginning, they didn’t do badly. In the US, the GrOPers are nearly all grifters (read Rick Perlstein’s “The Long Con”) and they simply don’t have a governing philosophy other than “take anything not nailed-down”.

It’s going to be just one massive clusterfuck after another, and as things fall apart, the people in charge will be whipping up even more resentment, b/c (as Tim Snyder explains in “sadopopulism”) it’s about the only thing that incompetent oligarchs can do: whip up resentment, to distract from their own incompetence.

nastywoman: I do hope I’m being dour, and living in California, yes, we’re crazily multicultural, and if there’s anyplace that exemplifies what a postracial democracy will be like, it’s California. But even if that happens, there’s going to be a real …. chasm between California and the Red Heartland. If the GrOPers take control of the national government and outlaw abortion, how do you think CA will respond ? Will the Feds try to enforce the law ? And if they do, how will Californians respond ? Ditto laws severely restricting the rights of the undocumented, of trans Americans, etc …..

At every step, the GrOPers are feeding their base more and more red meat to keep them coming out to vote, to threaten elected officials, getting angrier and angrier. When they take power, how do they turn off all that anger? Especially as, election-by-election, GrOPer officials are drawn more and more from that angry base. A best-case timeline after a GrOPer restoration is one in which geographically-contiguous groups of Blue States start defying the Feds. But that’s an unstable situation: too much stuff is shared (the military, the Fed, lots of other things). Something will make it fall apart, and it’ll be ugly.

All that said, I for sure believe that CA is probably the safest place to be, if that happens.

93

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 4:26 am

nastywoman: [separately] “I never could ultimately believe that a country with a State like California – EVER – FINALLY – could fall for ‘trump’”

TL;DR it’s not the population; it’s the po-po, b/c they’re a home-grown-and-paid-for Sturmabteilung.

The population wouldn’t fall for Trump, sure. We’re too many brown and Asian people, too many undocumented. And I’d hope, too many women who aren’t gonna take it. But do you remember the 2020 Sturmabteilung Summer Exercises ? [aka “the 2020 Police Riot” aka “the police response to the George Floyd proests”] ? The po-po went wilding here in the Bay Area too, and nothing, nothing happened to them. They went wilding in every major city, and nobody’s been fired/punished/indicted/convicted/imprisoned.

The danger isn’t that the population falls in line behind the GrOPers. Rather, the danger is that the po-po decide to execute a coup (they’re already pretty much immune to control by civil authority) and “make sure that local governments fall in line”, enforce the edicts of the GrOPer Feds, etc.

And, as I said, then when they start oppressing various vulnerable populations, the shit hits the fan.

94

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 4:31 am

Mike Furlan: another observation — delong is talking about the economic conditions. Obviously, along with those came repression, concentration camps (first for political enemies, then for “race enemies”), etc. But here in America, we have vastly more race enemies than the Germans had. The Jews were …. what? 0.75% of the population? In America, nonwhites are 40% of the population and rising. Eleven million undocumented immigrants, and many, many of them have citizen family. Many millions of brown and Asian immigrants.

Hitler could point at that vanishingly small group and name them the Enemy of the People, with impunity: the Jews couldn’t fight back, they were too few. But we’re 40% of the population, and the GrOPers are identifying us as the Race Enemy. When they start pulling over cars driven by little old brown ladies, demanding proof of citizenship [yes, that actually happened, and long before Trump’s candidacy], how do you think that ends?

Or if they burn the homes of interracial families, again, how do you think it ends?

95

Peter T 10.30.21 at 5:33 am

In the last three financial crises the US Reserve Bank has saved the system by acting as lender of last resort on a massive scale (Adam Tooze has the numbers). The crises have come along around once per decade. Would a Trumpist administration do so again – and do so without trying to favour their supporters and punish their opponents? I really doubt it. The global economic consequences would be dire.

As Umberto Eco observed, the right is very keen on starting wars, but very bad at running them. We could see a few Iraqs – to compound the economic problems.

By 2030 climate change will be further along, and probably accelerating. Again, would a Trumpist administration mitigate the worst effectively? Think a Katrina a year, maybe two.

The GOP base is old, and shrinking. Efforts to hold control would have to become ever more blatant and harsher – with the attendant risk of backlash.

Put all of the above together, and it could be a real shit-show.

96

Neville Morley 10.30.21 at 6:31 am

As an ancient historian, I’m delighted that we’ve had only one ‘is America the new Rome?’ comment, and that was referring to Gibbon’s version of events rather than making claims about historical reality.

Otherwise, I’m a little surprised that everyone seems quite sanguine about the fact that the President gets the nuclear codes. Assuming that the military will simply refuse to obey any order to nuke some godless city in Chetan Murthy’s secessionist California pour encourager les autres?

97

Tm 10.30.21 at 7:09 am

J-D 87 The European Court of Justice has declared Poland in contempt of its ruling regarding the Polish Justice Reforms and fined them one million a day until they comply.
But the EU commission also has important pressure points: Poland is entitled to some 40 billion in COVID relief funds that the Commission seems intent on withholding. The EU has recently adopted rules that tie all E.U. funds to rule of law standards like independence of the judiciary and anticorruption measures. These rules were after long debate adopted against opposition by Poland and Hungary. EU processes can be slow but unanimity is not required any more. The union can and does assert its interests against rogue members. Poland’s reaction has been talk of a Third World War. That sounds rather desperate.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/world/europe/hungary-poland-eu.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/26/world/europe/poland-eu-aid.html

98

lurker 10.30.21 at 7:13 am

@83, Chetan Murthy
The masochist part of sadopopulism is the people pandered to do not even care that government mismanagement of the pandemic (and other things) kills them in large numbers, as long as the government gives the despised outgroups a good kicking.

99

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 8:42 am

Neville Morley: It’s difficult to keep track of all the ways in which a former world hegemon, now in the clutches of incompetent Fascists, can wreak harm on such a country, and the world. Very difficult to keep up. For sure, they might do that. I suspect that it’s unlikely, if only because everybody realizes that the minute you start nuking productive areas of the country, you’re doomed.

But OTOH, one could easily imagine a confrontation with China spiraling out-of-control, or with NorK. Lots of ways for things to to pear-shaped.

100

J-D 10.30.21 at 9:13 am

J-D 87 The European Court of Justice has declared Poland in contempt of its ruling regarding the Polish Justice Reforms and fined them one million a day until they comply.
But the EU commission also has important pressure points: Poland is entitled to some 40 billion in COVID relief funds that the Commission seems intent on withholding. The EU has recently adopted rules that tie all E.U. funds to rule of law standards like independence of the judiciary and anticorruption measures. These rules were after long debate adopted against opposition by Poland and Hungary. EU processes can be slow but unanimity is not required any more. The union can and does assert its interests against rogue members. Poland’s reaction has been talk of a Third World War. That sounds rather desperate.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/24/world/europe/hungary-poland-eu.html
https://www.nytimes.com/2021/10/26/world/europe/poland-eu-aid.html

Well, I am pleased to find out that I was wrong.

Among other things, this will have given people some practice which may come in handy if they have to deal with a sharp turn for the worse in the USA.

101

Gorgonzola Petrovna 10.30.21 at 11:10 am

@99 “I suspect that it’s unlikely, if only because everybody realizes that the minute you start nuking productive areas of the country, you’re doomed.”

The problem is that the race of shape-shifting alien reptilians also known as ‘Trumpists’ thrive on radiation. We’re doomed, DOOMED, I tell ya!

102

SusanC 10.30.21 at 1:08 pm

“Otherwise, I’m a little surprised that everyone seems quite sanguine about the fact that the President gets the nuclear codes.”

The US military has been taking steps to reassure the public on exactly this point, I don’t references to hand, but various public statements along the lines that military officers don’t have to obey illegal orders have been made, with a clear implication that they have Trump in mind. It’s quite clear the military brass was getting ready to tell him no should he try and start global nuclear war.

Only some of the design documents for nuclear weapons have been declassified. But given what is publicly known, I would be amazed if there wasn’t a procedure document somewhere describing what to do if the President is a lunatic.

103

nastywoman 10.30.21 at 1:47 pm

@
‘The problem is that the race of shape-shifting alien reptilians also known as ‘Trumpists’ thrive on radiation’.

Really?
As I found out that they are NOT ‘shape-shifting’ at all and they just ‘thrive’ on
‘Owning Some Libs’.
(whoever they think must be ‘a lip’)

104

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 6:44 pm

Gorgonzola Petrovna: I noticed a while back that GP here started spewing Fascist bullshit again. And this here “contribution” is a great example. Joking about Trumpists and nuclear weapons, when we know very well that several times Trump had to restrained from starting wars with other countries. I mean, he wanted to send troops into Mexico, for God’s sake.

Back to nukes: another reason I would hope that nukes are off-the-table, is that the minute some madman in the US uses them, the stock market nosedives and doesn’t recover. I’d hope that every one of the US’ trading partners simply writes us off. And so, a grifter like Trump (and all the guys who want to replace him) would understand that it’s bad for their wallets. And at the end of the day, that’s all we can expect: we certainly can’t expect some sort of larger respect and care for the global system, b/c that’s not what they’re about.

I mean, let’s be real: the reason Cheney and her father stood against Trump, is that they saw him as a usurper, trying to take control the country that they already owned. You can’t have the jumped-up grandson of a brothelkeeper horning in on our birthright, she might have said. The Cheneys at least thought they owned the world and meant to keep it; the current crop of GrOPers are purely in it for whatever they can grab.

105

Chetan Murthy 10.30.21 at 7:24 pm

Regarding Gorgonzola Petrovna’s gaslighting: https://crookedtimber.org/2021/10/06/hierarchy-of-the-grift/#comment-813712

As they say, “Campus PC has never been more out of control”. Also “Time for a blogger ethics panel”.

106

Tm 10.30.21 at 11:21 pm

nastywoman: radiation does cause them to mutate at astonishing speed. It has been proven in the lab but don’t tell anybody, it’s classified.

107

KT2 10.31.21 at 4:49 am

Forget specifying x person.

You have to account for;

The Meta Rudder
[politicians don’t need to physically touch the social media rudder, yet use it actively].

Great line: ” it has become too technologically easy to steer the ship of the culture with the rudder of social media, and putting a hand on the rudder is irresistible for political parties.”
*

“Futurists have their heads in the clouds
On making good predictions for 2050

Erik Hoel

16. Soft totalitarianism will make the West more like China.

” Quite simply, it has become too technologically easy to steer the ship of the culture with the rudder of social media, and putting a hand on the rudder is irresistible for political parties. So there is nowhere to go but toward China, toward stricter speech laws and codes, toward state observation and censorship and policing of debate and ideas. Western political parties are like two people in a fight who have both seen a gun lying on the floor and are in the process of leaping to wrestle for it. There is now no chance it does not go off.”…
https://erikhoel.substack.com/p/futurists-have-their-heads-in-the

108

Tm 10.31.21 at 3:04 pm

This article, and the one it quotes, makes an interesting observation about Trump:

In Trump’s first term, the country was protected to some degree by his ignorance and ineptitude. He kept trying to do bad things, but it took him a while to figure out how the controls operated, where the kill-switches were located. …
In a second Trump presidency, however, the burglars will arrive already knowing how to bypass the alarms and disable the locks. He’ll understand that it’s not enough to install an ally as attorney general—he must control the secondary and tertiary ranks of the Justice Department too. He won’t allow himself to be talked into another chief of staff with an independent sense of duty, such as John Kelly, who averted much harm from the middle of 2017 to the beginning of 2019. It’ll be Mark Meadows types from day one to day last. And he’ll bring with them a new generation of Republican officeholders whose top priority will be rearranging their states’ election laws so that Republicans do not lose power even if they lose the vote.

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/10/el-dia-de-los-muertos

109

Tm 10.31.21 at 10:39 pm

We should think of the 2020 election and it’s aftermath as a kind of penetration test which the Trumpist GOP used to identify the weak points of the political system. While the test ostensibly failed, the GOP list no time at all, went to work to attack those weak points and get hurdles out of the way. I don’t mean this in the sense that it was consciously planned this way – that seems unlikely. But they quickly learned how vulnerable the US political system is and are intent on exploiting those vulnerabilities. After all, despite Biden winning 7 million more votes, a few tens of thousand more suppressed or uncounted votes, a few Secretaries of State, a few rogue judges, a handful of Senators could have overturned Biden’s clear victory.

The even more depressing part is that while the enemies of democracy have learned important lessons about the weakness of the system, part of the Center left have learned nothing and still won’t lift a finger to save democracy.

are working round the clock,

110

Tm 10.31.21 at 10:42 pm

(Correction)
We should think of the 2020 election and it’s aftermath as a kind of penetration test which the Trumpist GOP used to identify the weak points of the political system. While the test ostensibly failed, the GOP lost no time at all, immediately going to work to attack those weak points and get hurdles out of the way. I don’t mean this in the sense that it was consciously planned this way – that seems unlikely. But they quickly learned how vulnerable the US political system is and are intent on exploiting those vulnerabilities. After all, despite Biden winning 7 million more votes, a few tens of thousand more suppressed or uncounted votes, a few Secretaries of State, a few rogue judges, a handful of Senators could have overturned Biden’s clear victory.

The even more depressing part is that while the enemies of democracy have learned important lessons about the weakness of the system and are turning them into practice, part of the Center left have learned nothing and still won’t lift a finger to save democracy.

111

Chetan Murthy 10.31.21 at 11:37 pm

Tm: “part of the Center left have learned nothing”

We watch as months pass, and people caught on TV committing sedition are allowed to get away with it. We watch as people like Steve Bannon are allowed to skate on ignoring subpoenas — again, caught on TV (as in: he didn’t show up). We keep on getting told “Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small” and yet, none of these perps get ground up — none of them.

And so yes, it does seem that the center-left doesn’t have it in itself, to even defend democracy (by which I mean, whatever amount of democracy that we have in the US, which isn’t great, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise).

112

Chetan Murthy 10.31.21 at 11:38 pm

Tm: I wanted to add: the sentence for possession with intent to distribute a de minimis amount of crack cocaine is almost certainly greater than what any of these major conspirators to sedition will ever suffer.

It’s angering and infuriating.

113

Chetan Murthy 11.01.21 at 2:06 am

This is a harbinger of the future (in that the future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed): https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/10/campus-cancel-culture-is-suppressing-dissent

Oklahoma: Guy joins a Floyd protest. Driver of a big-ass truck with a horse trailer runs him over (pushing thru the crowd of protestors) and he’s permanently paralyzed (spinal injury). The po-po neither charge the driver, nor even release his name, b/c hey, he and his family are endangered.

114

Anonymous 11.01.21 at 2:06 am

“Trump has made it clear that, in such an event, he would wish to secure at least a third term in office and perhaps a life presidency.”

I have no doubt Trump would like this, but there is zero chance of it happening. Absolutely zero. Just like no one (who matters) supported his idea of having Pence nullify the election or whatever. Just like Republican officials would not and could not invent voter fraud to suit Trump.

“Even if Trump chose not to attempt the necessary constitutional change”

This is an interesting statement. If a constitutional amendment is lawfully adopted by 3/4 of the states then I don’t see the problem. Doesn’t seem possible, though.

“by 2028 he would be in a position to nominate a family member as the Republican candidate and to ensure that his candidate was declared President regardless of how Americans voted”

Lol, what? Where does this come from? No explanation required here? Not one of the hundred comments so far have questioned this bald assertion at all?

“After that, the Trumps would have effectively untrammeled power, with a compliant Congressional majority and a far-right Supreme Court.”

Why do you assume they would have a Congressional majority? They don’t have one right now. Is your claim that the Supreme Court is far-right as of this moment? What is your justification for such a claim? I think an unbiased assessment would be maybe slightly center-right. There are no Proud Boys or alt-righters on the supreme court.

“There’s no obvious reason why they couldn’t rule for decades as Putin and others have done.”

Maybe the obvious reason that they have no power base? Putin has the oligarchs but big business has abandoned the Republicans and is overtly and loudly left-wing. By the way, Putin has majority public support in Russia, something Trump has never had.

“What would life be like in the US and elsewhere in such a case?”

Stop even thinking about it, because it’s not going to happen. I voted for Biden and would never vote for Trump, but the hysterics in this comment section come off as completely unhinged. Just to give one example, who could possibly believe that trans people would be in danger in a Trump presidency? We already had a Trump presidency and nothing like a trans genocide happened, so what possible reason could you have to believe one would happen now?

It just seems like a bunch of people in a bubble who have been raised on a religion of right-hatred, who have never met a Trump supporter in their lives but are fully convinced that they drink the blood of trans babies.

I know my share of right leaning people and none of them wish any harm on trans folks at all. They might not want to be forced to use weird pronouns or for trans people to be competing with (and crushing) their daughters in high school sports but I’ve never heard one person who wants to harm trans people.

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Tm 11.01.21 at 8:50 am

To be fair, it’s not just part of the center left that is in denial. Do I need to mention CTs own political nihilist? https://crookedtimber.org/2021/03/13/what-was-the-is-trump-a-fascist-debate-ultimately-about/

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John Quiggin 11.01.21 at 9:26 am

@Anonymous : Reaching for “LOLs” and similar is usually a sign that you know you are on shaky ground. Taking a couple of examples:

” Just like no one (who matters) supported his idea of having Pence nullify the election or whatever. ” Do the majority of House republicans who voted to overturn the election, and of Republican attorneys-general, who took legal action with the same goal, count as “people who matter”. How about the people who stormed the US Capitol, and their many defenders, like Tucker Carlson?

“Just like Republican officials would not and could not invent voter fraud to suit Trump.”

You mean the Republican officials like Raffensperger, being primaried right now?

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J-D 11.01.21 at 11:51 am

I know my share of right leaning people and none of them wish any harm on trans folks at all.

Or they do but they haven’t told you about it; but even if they don’t, the only conclusion you would be justified in drawing is that the harm which certainly is being done to trans people is being done by some of the 300 million Americans you don’t know. I can’t think of a good reason for you to dismiss this possibility. I suggest you reason more carefully. You could try asking yourself whether there might be information from outside the domain of your own personal experience which is relevant to assessing how afraid trans people are, and why.

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tm 11.01.21 at 1:35 pm

America does look awfully like the Weimar Republic, at least in the heads of Republicans:

One in five Americans believe in the core QAnon tenet that “a storm is coming,” and one in six claim to believe the government is controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global sex-trafficking ring.
One in six say America is so far off track that resorting to violence may be necessary to save the nation. This includes 30% of Republicans and 11% of Democrats.
29% of Republicans say life has changed mostly for the better since the 1950s.

These numbers point to civil war. In the heads of the Far Right, the civil war has already started. Meanwhile, prosecutors in Oklahoma have officially stated that political violence against BLM protesters is legal, it’s their own fault of they protest.

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/11/strangers-in-a-strange-land
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/10/campus-cancel-culture-is-suppressing-dissent

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steven t johnson 11.01.21 at 3:36 pm

Anonymous@114 “’There’s no obvious reason why they couldn’t rule for decades as Putin and others have done.’

Maybe the obvious reason that they have no power base? Putin has the oligarchs but big business has abandoned the Republicans and is overtly and loudly left-wing. By the way, Putin has majority public support in Russia, something Trump has never had.”

The assertion that big business is left-wing is more stupefying than any worries about the physical safety of transgender people. The notion that politics is about a culture war, where the “left” is defined by tolerating personal behavior found horrifying and totally irrelevant to normal people, is a right-wing principle. It is a false-framing that disorients everyone who falls for it.

The fact that in practice many self-proclaimed leftists turn out to agree, just reversing the plus and minus signs, really only shows that many people are confused. Manners are not policies, and real politics is about policy and personnel. Big business may have no problem with advertising and concessions on social mores. It’s not just because hysteria about such things is ignorant and mean. It’s because none of it really threatens the social fabric, not like rises in workers’ wages. And it may even help sales.

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SusanC 11.01.21 at 6:05 pm

From the original post: “I don’t want to spend too much time discuss the plausibility of this scenario.” Attached to a scenario that is, in the eyes of at least some of the readership, wildly implausible.

I have some misgivings about this as a debating tactic – starting out with something the author thinks is true, but a good chunk of the audience think is insane, but ruling discussion of the plausibility or otherwise out of scope.

Now, it kind of makes sense if you’re discussing something knowingly ridiculous, like the US government being controlled by space lizards. In that case, pointing out that there are no space lizards kind of misses the point of the science fiction.

But once JQ has put this whole discussion into space lizard territory by explicitly bracketing off discussion of plausibility, its kind of cheating the rules of debate to then argue that there really are space lizards. You’ve kind of conceded to your opponents on plausibility as soon as you declare it out of scope.

====

This stuff does seem to me to be the leftist equivalent of QAnon.

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FL 11.01.21 at 6:28 pm

Perhaps our best hope is the secession of states that lean progressive.

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John Quiggin 11.01.21 at 6:38 pm

@SusanC It’s evident that while some in the audience think the idea is crazy, others do not. Why do you object to those of us in the second group having a discussion among ourselves?

I’d be more inclined to reconsider my position on this if the people who decided to debate the plausibility of the scenario anyway had offered some counter-argument more substantial than “space lizards” and “LOL”. As an example, can you point to movements in the Republican party designed to stop any attempt by Trump to overturn a future Democratic election win? If you can, I’ll be happy to start a discussion, possibly in a different thread.

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Tm 11.01.21 at 9:34 pm

Stj: „Putin has the oligarchs but big business has abandoned the Republicans and is overtly and loudly left-wing“

Please, let’s agree on the space lizards as the most plausible theory.

Btw you omitted to accuse our friends at LGM of supporting big business against the workers.

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steven t johnson 11.01.21 at 9:54 pm

I’m not finding your contributions to this thread very useful, stj, so nothing more on this one, please – JQ

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Kiwanda 11.01.21 at 10:10 pm

Contra SusanC (if explicitly put off-topic here), I think a Republican attempt to put Trump in office illegally in 2024 is pretty likely: more than three-quarters of Republicans are willing to claim to believe the Big Lie, and Republican officials unwilling to pay tribute to Trump and genuflect to the Big Lie are being purged. All it will likely take in 2024 is the Republican secretaries of state in a few swing states refusing to accept Democratic victories, and Trump is back in office.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 11.02.21 at 9:47 am

GP, I’m not finding your contributions useful. Nothing more from you on my posts, please

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afeman 11.02.21 at 12:26 pm

To hew closer to the OP, I wonder about the extrapolation of the Trump administration’s actions on various federal agencies that keep the larger machine running smoothly. The USDA agencies rusticated from DC to Kansas City lost about half their specialized workforce, losing their experience even as they struggle to rehire:

https://federalnewsnetwork.com/workforce/2021/02/after-the-relocation-gutted-its-workforces-usda-research-agencies-struggle-to-rebuild/

The EPA and Dept. of Interior sound like they have also likely lost people willing to put up with it all.

With Frum’s observations about Trumpists being better prepared this time around <worst_person_you_know.jpg>, one has to wonder how much more undermining institutions can endure. NOAA, as I put it, largely escaped the Eye of Sauron last time around, the last-minute installation of low-key climate denialists notwithstanding. But I can’t help wonder if he holds a grudge over sharpiegate (his impromptu hurricane forecast). The weather and climate end of the agency leans hard on satellite (read defense), high-performance computing, and contracting companies, which may protect it somewhat from outright devolution, but at the same time looks like ripe pickings for commercialization. This was the fear at the attempt at appointing the Accuweather guy as director. Like the USDA, much of NOAA depends on people with years of knowledge that is difficult to rebuild – it takes a year or two just to understand how the modeling systems work – and the prospect of chaos imposed by people whose natural habitat is bullshit might scare off the sort of people who also happen to get recruited to work as quants for a lot more money.

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afeman 11.02.21 at 12:51 pm

The larger point being that the decades-long secular trend in devolving the state’s capacity to do anything besides inflict violence would probably be topped off with an outright contemptuous bulldozing of it.

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Barry 11.02.21 at 7:05 pm

Afeman: “To hew closer to the OP, I wonder about the extrapolation of the Trump administration’s actions on various federal agencies that keep the larger machine running smoothly.”

It’s clear that the only thing which the right needs to function smoothly is looting.

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SusanC 11.02.21 at 7:27 pm

Stephen King’s “The Dead Zone” missing from JQ’s list of SF dystopias, although kind of alluded to later in thread.

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Chetan Murthy 11.02.21 at 9:43 pm

I was talking with a former colleague whose entire childhood was lived during the Sri Lankan civil war. He is a Tamil. He’s also quite technically well-educated, and didn’t involve himself in the war. Indeed, the first chance he got, he and his entire cousin-group emigrated.

He told me a lot of things that happened, and it was all a little disturbing to listen to, but one little snippet jumped-out: he described how one had to be careful where one went, esp. at night, b/c kids were getting picked-up by unidentified men in unmarked vans (death squads), and never seen again. Stuff like that. And this reminded me of how in Portland, unmarked vans with unidentified men were picking up protestors on the streets, holding them, and later releasing them. It’s not hard to get from there to the “rough ride” that Freddie Gray (Baltimore, murdered by the po-po) endured, and …. well, one can see how a racist reign of terror could easily begin.

As William Gibson once said: “the future is already here; it’s just unevenly distributed”.

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SamChevre 11.03.21 at 12:28 am

It seems to me that there’s a very significant difference between being able to win an election, and being able to govern.

I can’t recall any worries on the broad liberal-left in 2008 that there was a huge risk to democracy from the left. But in two terms, Obama and the democrats managed to lock in government control of an additional 10% of the economy (Obamacare) and a huge culture-war win (homosexuality) which had been repeatedly rejected when put to a vote, and to get almost all significant institutions to support those wins. (State-level resistance to gay marriage was much more effectively suppressed under Obama than state-level resistance to immigration enforcement was under Trump; very few top national universities, or fortune 500 companies, openly opposed it.)

I have a very hard time imagining that Trump, even if he had majorities in the House and Senate and the current Supreme Court, could make as much change in 4 years in a way that got the kind of state government, non-profit, and corporate support.

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J-D 11.03.21 at 9:55 am

It seems to me that there’s a very significant difference between being able to win an election, and being able to govern.

I can’t recall any worries on the broad liberal-left in 2008 that there was a huge risk to democracy from the left. But in two terms, Obama and the democrats managed to lock in government control of an additional 10% of the economy (Obamacare) and a huge culture-war win (homosexuality) …

Neither of those things are examples of not ‘being able to govern’, and neither of them are examples of a ‘risk to democracy’. They are both examples of governments doing things that large numbers of people were strongly opposed to, but governments all over the world, including democratic governments, have for a long time been doing things that large numbers of people were strongly opposed to, and that didn’t mean that they weren’t able to govern or that democracy was at risk. Governments of my own country, in my own lifetime, have done things that large numbers of people, including me, were strongly opposed to, but that didn’t mean they weren’t able to govern or that democracy was at risk.

I have a very hard time imagining that Trump, even if he had majorities in the House and Senate and the current Supreme Court, could make as much change in 4 years in a way that got the kind of state government, non-profit, and corporate support.

Do you find it easier to imagine that he could make as much change in a way that doesn’t get the same kind of state government, non-profit, and corporate support? If the changes are made without the same kind of support, they are still made, so it’s not clear why you’re including that qualification as relevant.

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afeman 11.04.21 at 12:57 am

SamChevre: I seem to recall worries from the Sean Hannity right about a “huge risk to democracy from the left” in what you describe. Which is appropriate, in its way.

Robin may have half a point in suggesting a lack of totalitarianism and centralized power in the last Trump administration, but circumstances also fit with his thesis of reaction wanting to bring power back in the direction of the household. State government support Trump already has: Republicans even without his encouragement seem quite happy to let at least the right state governments rule in certain ways as they please in opposition to the feds , and are putting in the capacity at the state level to disregard votes that go the wrong way (with a couple corrections for Republicans who don’t get the message). The history of corporate sector being willing to do business with somebody they regard with a certain distaste is not encouraging. As for non-profits, how many divisions does Brookings have? Meanwhile, he seemed to dabble in arranging an unmarked praetorian guard that was happy to dispense with those van rides, to say nothing of ICE, and what cops do when nobody seems to be watching. What more do you need for a bit of night and fog?

So we guess maybe the three-letter agencies probably aren’t that keen on him? How much would they hold back on an order to get dirt on somebody they also weren’t keen on? Hopefully there are enough people lower down in the Pentagon who think about some combination of oaths and the “unit cohesion” I heard references to last summer, but then we suddenly are in the refreshing and interesting position of developing an understanding of those countries where a military coup of a nominally elected leader has popular support. Which I guess is why the kids call it The Cool Zone.

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Phil H 11.04.21 at 1:43 am

@TM 40
Thanks, that is hopeful. Of course, you’re right that the fortunes of political parties ebb and flow, and the data is a very helpful reminder. I feel as though Labour has hit a horrible slump at the moment, as they don’t seem to be offering any alternative to the Tories’ disastrous mismanagement, so until some kind of renewal happens, we’re just doomed to a string of Boris-shaped buffoons. But renewal will surely come.

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