Let’s look back to that long-ago time known as yesterday:
One of Donald Trump’s favorite riffs is a wish, cast as a warning, that his supporters inside and outside the state security services will unleash violence on his political opponents if they continue to oppose the administration. The specifics of the riff don’t vary much. Trump laments that his opponents are treating him unfairly, praises the toughness and strength of his supporters — a category that combines the police, military, and Bikers for Trump, which he apparently views as a Brownshirt-like militia — and a prediction that his supporters will at some point end their restraint.
He does it again in a new interview with Breitbart:
“I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you 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.”
Early warnings that Trump could undermine the Constitution have not been borne out, which has produced a certain complacency about the issue. It is true that Trump is only an aspirational authoritarian, and to date has failed to bring his most illiberal dreams to life. He has used the government to punish independent media, prevailing upon the Post Office to raise rates on Amazon in retaliation for Jeff Bezos’s ownership of the Washington Post, and repeatedly told his staff to order the Justice Department to block a merger in order to punish CNN. So far, this has had little effect.
On the other hand, if Trump wins a second term — a prospect that, under current economic conditions, is close to a toss-up — his presidency will only be a quarter of the way through. Already his authoritarian rhetoric is so thoroughly normalized that it hardly even registers as news any more. Anybody whose political efforts involve helping Trump gain more power, rather than opposing that project, is playing Russian roulette with the Constitution.
Apparently Ivanka or somebody got access to Daddy’s twitter account, because after today’s slaughter in New Zealand, yesterday’s tweet is gone.
It’s a great mistake to imagine that just because Trump is intellectually ignorant and undisciplined in the extreme, he can’t “really” be a fascist. As Umberto Eco argues, fascism itself is defined by ideological incoherence and inconsistency, that resolves itself into a series of family resemblances, rather than some rigorous set of doctrines.
And, as Jon points out, a second-term Trump would be far less constrained by whatever forces continue to keep his authoritarian desires from being realized.
That can’t be allowed to happen.