In refusing to accept the verdict of 75 million voters, Donald Trump and his Trump-owned and operated Republican Party (Team Trump) may be sowing immediate confusion. They may be creating further conditions for new, violent right wing terrorist attacks and bloodshed. But even more ominous, it is a warning of what is to come in 2022 and beyond.
Trump may be too dense to have consciously thought through the original strategy, but some of his advisors like Stephen Miller are not. That strategy was to sow enough confusion as to delay final vote tabulations enough to allow a few key Republican state legislatures to step in and appoint the electors from their states. If it had boiled down to just one or two states – Pennsylvania especially – that could have succeeded in overturning the election results. (That strategy is detailed in Oaklandsocialist’s September 26 article Is a “Shitstorm” Coming?)Losing not only Pennsylvania but also Wisconsin, Michigan, Georgia and (apparently) Arizona means that that strategy cannot succeed. A further legal detail is the fact that in some states (Arizona and Michigan) the later tabulated votes were running in Trump’s favor. That means that his legal team is in a bind as far as arguing that votes should not be counted after November 3.
Demise of Mark “Yesper”
That does not mean that he and his brand – the Republican Party – will not try, and recent firings and hirings in the military and intelligence apparatus are ominous. First and foremost is Trump’s tweet announcing the firing of Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Despite being known as “Yesper” because of his tendency to being a “yes man” for Trump, he wasn’t able to go far enough. Mocking the likes of Mike Pence, he had defended himself, saying “My frustration is I sit here and say, ‘Hm, 18 Cabinet members. Who’s pushed back more than anybody?’ Name another Cabinet secretary that’s pushed back.” Have you seen me on a stage saying, ‘Under the exceptional leadership of blah-blah-blah, we have blah-blah-blah-blah?’ ” That in itself must have raised Trump’s suspicions, but the real turning point came last June when Esper opposed use of the Insurrection Act to put army troops on the streets in order to suppress the Black Lives Matter protests. All reports are that Trump was furious.
The firing of Esper is only the most prominent of such moves. Also fired have been: Joseph Kiernan, former undersecretary of defense for intelligence. He was replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, a former aide to he erratic and Islamophobic Michael Flynn; Esper’s former chief of staff, Jen Stewart, was replaced by Republican operative Kash Patel.
A signal of who is in the Trump galaxy was the promotion of personal valet Johnny McEntee to head Trump’s Presidential Personnel Office. From that position, McEntee touched off a storm when he tried to promote Anthony Tata and Rich Higgins to influential positions. They have recently been promoted. Both men are as extreme Islamophobes and conspiracy theorists. Among other things, Tata had claimed that former CIA Director John Brennan had used coded messages to order the assassination of Trump. Although the promostions of Tata and Higgins did not sail through, they give an indication of the types that Team Trump has been and continues to promote.
Barr and Department of (in)Justice
To return to the present: On the legal front, Trump’s in-house attorney general Barr has ordered the (in)Justice Department to investigate any “substantial allegations” of voter irregularities. This order is not that different from anti-Communist former senator Joe McCarthy’s investigations into Communists hiding under every rock. They are an attempt to gin up claims of vote fraud that have no existence in reality. Even the Wall St. Journal admitted that “no evidence of widespread voter fraud has surfaced.” Barr’s order is so blatant that Barr’s man in charge of overseeing investigations of voter fraud, Richard Pilger, resigned in protest. As with so many others, Pilger is looking out for his future career A.T. (After Trump).
The road down which Team Trump has been trying to travel is to try to create enough delay, chaos and confusion that they would have an excuse to bring in the military. In order to achieve this, they would have had to have a compliant intelligence service that would submit enough “reports” to justify this and a compliant military that would carry out Team Trump’s orders.
There is almost no chance that this can succeed. At present. As shown by the firing of insufficiently compliant “Yesper”, the entire top command of both the military as well as the intelligence service is more loyal to the needs and the strategy of the US capitalist class than they are to Team Trump (that is, the Republican Party). The entire capitalist media is up in arms. Trump’s loyal supporters on the Wall St. Jorunal’s editorial board have been silent, and even Fox “News” is split, with one newscaster cutting off Trump press secretary and professional liar Kayleigh McEnany while Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have dutifully parroted the lies.
With one court challenge after another being thrown out, it is virtually certain that Team Trump will be unable to delay certification of the election for long enough and in enough states that the results can be successfully overturned. This strategy does, however, heighten two very real dangers, one immediate and the other more long term.
On second thought
On second thought, a more extreme idea cannot be rejected out of hand: The capitalist class is worried about an international crisis in this transition period while the incoming Biden administration is locked out of the most confidential internal security and intelligence information. If there were, for example, a terrorist attack against the US in some overseas location, could a national state of emergency be declared and that used as an excuse to delay Biden’s inauguration? Is it possible that mass protests, or even the threat of them, would enable Trump to use the Insurrection Act to put troops on the streets? We should not forget that the focus of the US military and intelligence apparatuses has shifted away from the Islamic terrorist groups and towards the rivalries with Russian and Chinese capitalism. However, those that Trump has promoted, such as Tata, are known to retain the previous focus. Such a development seems very unlikely, to say the least, but we should keep it in mind, maybe more for the future than the present.
Far Right Vigilante Threat
Immediately, Team Trump is knowingly stirring up the violent far right, armed-and-dangerous vigilante groups and individuals. Two conspiracies have already been uncovered. The first was the one prior to the elections with the plan to kidnap and assassinate Michigan Governor Whitmer. The second, barely hours after the election, was the plot of a few QAnon followers to ride arms in hand on the center where votes were being counted in Philadelphia.
The permeation of these violent far right terrorist supporters into law enforcement is exemplified by the likes of then chief of police in Marshall, Arkansas Lang Holland. He had posted notes on the right wing messaging site Parler, asking “Will you and several hundred more go with me to D.C. and fight our way into Congress and arrest every Democrat who has participated in this coup? We may have to shoot and kill manyof the Communist B.L.M. and ANTIFA Democrati foot soldiers to accomplish this!!!” He also posted “Death to all Marxist Democrats. Take no
prisoners leave no survivors!!” The Ozark Mountain Proud Boys were reportedly involved with Holland. After being exposed by Quinn Foster of the anti-racist Ozarks Coalition, Holland was forced to resign. Foster received death threats.
The lesson that the bigoted and violent vigilante groups will have learned from the arrests will be that any wider plot involving more than just one or two people is likely to be exposed and the plotters arrested. Combine that with the atmosphere being stoked and the likely result is terrorist attacks planned and carried out by ones and two’s.
More long term, the even greater danger is the continued strategy and goals of Team Trump. Having won 71 million votes, they will not just disappear. On the contrary. A thoughtful article in Atlantic magazine explained that while the political success of Trump as an individual was partly due to luck (including his having first run against a very unpopular individual), what he represents is part of a longer term and global development. It also explains that his 2020 election loss is as much a creation of his own political incompetence as anything else. The transformation of the Republican Party into Team Trump did not start under Trump and it will not be reversed upon his leaving office. It will remain as a white nationalist populist populist party. What Trump and Co. are doing is creating a myth to hold the base together and allow it to grow. While not exactly the same, this myth will serve a purpose similar to the myth that Hitler used to rise to power – that Germany was defeated in WW I due to betrayals at home. Again, to emphasize: The threat of an outright fascist takeover in the US is not real. The threat of authoritarian, right wing populist rule based science denialism, hysteria and bigotry is, however.
Biden’s plans are not reassuring. He based his campaign on what could be called the Rodney King school of politics. After getting off for having beaten King nearly to death, and after that sparked a series of uprisings, King famously appealed “People, can’t we get along? Can’t we all just get along?” That could be considered the Biden mantra aimed at Team Trump. He fantasizes that the clock can be turned back and Team Trump can be returned to the safe, sane representatives of the capitalist class that they were 25 years ago. That train has long left the station, and Team Trump is making clear that they will do all in their power to overturn the elections in the form of stymieing any moves of the coming Biden administration, just as they did during the Obama years. They will do this through their control of the Senate, if they succeed in keeping just one of the two races in the upcoming Georgia senate runoff election. Even if they lose both seats, thereby losing control over the Senate, they will still have the Supreme Court and the entire federal judiciary to rely upon. They will also have their control of state legislatures around the country. Republican control of those legislatures will tend to be strenthened after they increase gerrymandering following this year’s census and subsequent redistricting. As well, they can rely on Biden and Co. making once concession after another to them. These were the conditions during the Obama years that led to the acceleration of the right wing populist mood in the first place. It will further that mood and open the way for new and more competent “Trumps” in the coming years.
A working class alternative
The result will also be mounting frustration from below, especially within the black working class. A wider working class movement, sparked by black workers and other workers of color, is the avenue for the rise of a broader working class movement that could lead to the start of the development of a mass working class party. Such a development can only be understood in its global context. On the one hand, we have seen the rise of right wing, authoritarian and nationalist leaders and movements globally. On the other hand, there has been a series of rebellions against this tendency, from the protests in Lebanon to those in Belarus and elsewhere. Which way the general trend swings is far from determined. The return to power of another Trump, but this time one who is more “competent” would tend to be decisive in one direction. The rise of a radical, mass working class party in the United States would also be a decisive development in the opposite direction. It is for the latter that every serious socialist and working class fighter must work. For those forces to anticipate and play a role in such a coming movement, a clear program and perspectives are necessary first and foremost.
Update: Just minutes after this article was posted, CNN reported that Team Trump posted a list of supposedly fraudulent voters in Nevada. It turns out that these were either active duty soldiers or their family members who are posted either out of state or out of the country entirely. This sort of thing will help politicize the rank and file of the military in a way similar to what happened during the Vietnam War.