You didn’t have to be Machiavelli or Karl Marx to know that Trump would defend himself by going on the offense. The key to understanding his offensive lies in the speech he gave at the UN on September 24, as the Ukraine scandal was just starting to make the news. In that speech, among other things he said: “Like my beloved country, each nation represented in this hall has a cherished history, culture, and heritage that is worth defending and celebrating, and which gives us our singular potential and strength…. The free world must embrace its national foundations. It must not attempt to erase them or replace them.” He talked about “the differences that make each country special.”
Trump knew exactly what he was doing. Such comments are actually dog whistles for extreme nationalists and outright fascists. Certain fascist traditions such as those of American fascist theorist Francis Parker Yockey (1917-1960) talked a lot about cultural traditions. Today, a leading figure who plays that tune is the Russian fascist and Putin ideologist, Alexander Dugin, who talks a lot about a “multi-polar world”. While that may sound very democratic and “anti-imperialist”, as Alexander Reid Ross explains (Against the Fascist Creep), what it really means is “national apartheid” – each nation steeped entirely in its own “national/cultural traditions.” We see the real meaning in Zionism in Israel or Indian “Hindutva” (Hindu nationalism, whose ideology lies behind Modi’s invasion of and repression in Kashmir).
In other words, Trump is again moving to shore up his base. This move has a logic of its own, and it is recognized by some of the more serious capitalist commentators.
The usually blunt Charles Blow commented: “Trump is now on a warpath against everything that threatens him…. This will not end well…. The walls are closing in on him; his options to avoid are nearly nil…. Before Trump will allow himself to be chased from the temple, he’ll bring it down. (emphasis added).
Take note of what he said: “Nearly” but not completely nil.
Another NY Times columnist, Thomas B. Edsell, is more explicit: “We should not assume that either a 2020 election defeat or impeachment/conviction will remove Trump from the White House.”
Edsell quotes David Leege, professor emeritus of political science at Notre Dame University: “Both before Trump was elected in 2016 and during his term, he has made frequent references to “my 2nd Amendment friends”’ and increasingly the “patriots” who constitute the military.” He was not referring to the top generals, as he has rid himself of those representatives in his administration (Mattis, McMaster and Kelly). He was referring to a lower level and more radical element.
On Sept. 22, the largest police “union” endorsed Trump and the cops’ online journal Law Enforcement Today explained why: “It’s hard to argue that there has been a President in recent history that has been more publicly supportive of Law Enforcement than the current one. Love him or hate him, President Donald Trump has stood with law enforcement officers, vowing to bring them back to a position of honor and respect.”
Trump, himself, has commented on the significance of his support from this wing of the government before. In May of this year, he commented “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad,” he said.
He more or less repeated the same threat on September 29, when he retweeted a comment of right wing preacher Jeffress. Trump wrote: “If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.”
The armed and dangerous Oath Keepers, which has many links to both the police and the lower levels of the military, picked up on this. “This is the truth. This is where we are. We ARE on the verge of a HOT civil war,” they wrote. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which keeps close tabs on the violent far right groups, writes that the Oath Keepers “claims tens of thousands of present and former law enforcement officials and military veterans as members.” SPLC evidently takes their claims seriously.
Notre Dame professor Leege goes further, even talking about a possible coup. “Coups are usually backstopped by colonels, not generals. Thus, major barracks could provide him with support. Probably his best strategy to keep all levels of the military loyal to him rather than to the Constitution would be to embroil us in a major war,” Edsell quotes him as saying.
An outright Pinochet-style military coup seems highly unlikely. For one, few in the capitalist class would like it. Leege, himself, seems to think the same. As he says, “I think the legal profession, finance, and corporate business would resist Trump’s efforts toward a coup. They need stability to make profits.”
As for a war: Trump parted ways with John Bolton over exactly that issue, especially in regard to Iran, as oaklandsocialist wrote at that time. He knows that a war with Iran would not be popular among many in his base. It doesn’t mean he won’t go to war, but that too seems unlikely at this time. (Things could change, though.)
However, an act of right wing domestic terrorism that exceeds anything we’ve seen to date does seem very possible. That includes an armed assault on some of Trump’s most prominent Democratic opponents, including Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff. Also a possible assault on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or any of the other members of “the Squad”. Assaultss on the left, possibly on anti-Trump protesters as well as on the most prominent of the socialist groups – DSA – is also possible. (The far right is unaware of the fact that DSA is socialist in name only.)
(Note: For our own protection, we want to make clear that we are not advocating any such assault. We are entirely opposed to such actions whoever commits them. We are simply commenting on possible perspectives.)
The chances for the Senate to remove Trump through impeachment are almost zero. That’s especially true as long as his approval ratings remain in or near the 40s (On Oct. 6, Realclearpolitics gave averages for polls released the previous week. Trump’s average approval rating was 44% approval vs. 54% disapproval. The most recent poll, a Gallup Poll completed on Sept. 30, shows a slight decline in support – to 40% approval and 56% disapproval. That trend will probably continue somewhat.)
These ratings, plus ratings in key swing states such as Wisconsin and Ohio, all of which show Biden, Warren and Sanders well ahead of Trump, continue to mean that Trump will be in trouble in any real general election.
He indicated how he intends to deal with that when the head of the California Republican Party, Harmeet Dillon, filed a lawsuit in California claiming that the state is allowing thousands of non-citizens to register to vote. That there is no serious evidence for this claim, and that both Dillon and Trump know that there is no real chance for him to win California is irrelevant. The purpose of the suit is to start laying the basis for challenging and/or refusing to accept a general election loss.
While few in the US capitalist class would support an outright coup, a significant sector would support such voter suppression, just as they have swung behind Trump after initial skepticism if not outright opposition. As politico.com wrote
last July, “After shunning Trump in the 2016 GOP primary, the big donor class is warming to him. The list of six-figure givers includes several longtime Trump friends, including investor Howard Lorber, Marvel Entertainment Chairman Ike Perlmutter, and Las Vegas casino executive Phil Ruffin.” The lure of increased profits from massive tax cuts as well as the deregulation and opening up of federal lands to oil and mineral exploitation overcomes any hesitancy many of them may have felt due to Trump’s erratic and self-centered methods.
The last time a presidential election was won due to fraud was when George Bush was “elected” in 2000. That was accomplished through fraud in Florida. At that time, the Democratic Party and their representatives in the working class – the union leadership – opposed any sort of street protests. Then, as Jane McAlevey, union bureaucrat, explained in her book “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)”, “The Gore campaign has made the decision that… they don’t want to protest. They don’t want to rock the boat. They don’t want to seem like they don’t have faith in the legal system…” (Good union bureaucrat that she was, McAlevey faithfully helped carry out this decision.)
The Democrats made a similar decision regarding the 2018 election in Georgia, where massive voter suppression enabled the Republican gubernatorial candidate to steal the election. (See: October Midterm elections: voter suppression, racism and chauvinism.) Nor is the “left” wing of the Democrats – as represented by Bernie Sanders – likely to be any different. During the government shutdown of earlier this year, Sanders’ only reaction was to call for people to sign a petition aimed at Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell. The union leadership, most of whom are tending towards Biden while others are tending towards Warren or Sanders, will be no different. Once again, they will fail to mobilize their members and the wider working class to fight in our own interests.
In the Bush v Gore voter fraud, the Democrats and their union leadership representatives relied on the US Supreme Court. Today, with a Supreme Court stacked with hard right Republicans, there is little if any chance of getting relief from such fraud/voter suppression. However, that wouldn’t stop the Democrats from putting all their eggs in that basket again.
So, it will remain to a spontaneous explosion from below to shift the general drift of US politics. It will most likely be through such an explosion that the start of organizing towards a new, mass working class political party can develop. That will be the real answer to Trump, and to his look-alikes around the world, including Boris Johnson (Britain), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Nerandra Modi (India), and Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), among others.