"Despite her encouraging words, she has yet to take action"

During a rally last Friday in South Dakota, Donald Trump continued with his violent and apocalyptic language, telling his followers like a conquering dictator that “They’re just destroying our country….And if we don’t take it back — if we don’t take it back in ’24, I really believe we’re not going to have a country left.”

Detailed plans for how Trump will become America’s first dictator are already in place in the form of Agenda 47 and Project 2025. As detailed by Guthrie Graves-Fitzsimmons in a new essay at MSNBC, Trump’s second regime will also be a White Christian theocracy.

Conservatives often frame their policy crusades as part of an effort to expand “religious freedom,” a narrative deployed across the Trump administration to gut civil rights protections. But now “Project 2025” is saying the quiet part out loud: Right-wing groups do not want to ensure all Americans have religious freedom, but want to impose conservative Christian views on our religiously-diverse country.

The federal government does not need to worry about saving souls.

Instituting “biblically based” policies, saving souls and inducing Sabbath observance constitute a direct attack on religious freedom, a freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment, which keeps the government out of religion.

If Trump and his neofascist allies get their way, the human and civil rights of black and brown people, gays and lesbians and transgender people, women, Muslims, Jews, atheists, Democrats, liberals, progressives, the poor, the disabled, migrants and refugees, and others identified as “enemies” of the Trump regime and larger neofascist project will be taken away.

In an attempt to make sense of what comes next with Trump’s escalating threats of fascist violence and bloodshed, the country’s ongoing democracy crisis, and why the news media continues to ignore and normalize the clear and present dangers, I recently asked a range of experts for their thoughts and insights.

Their answers have been lightly edited for clarity

Steven Beschloss is a journalist and author of several books, including “The Gunman and His Mother.” 

We have seen over and over the reluctance of the courts to hold Donald Trump accountable for his virulently violent attacks on judges and prosecutors, fueling this dangerous climate of stochastic terrorism and intimidating witnesses and tampering with potential jurors. Is it any wonder that he is escalating his attacks by promising retribution against Joe Biden if he retakes power and redoubling his hostility toward Special Counsel Jack Smith in recent days (calling him “deranged” and engaged in “unchecked and insane aggression”)? 

The media’s general reluctance to report on and amplify the crazed posts further empowers him to keep pushing the limits, especially as the legal vise tightens and his fear rises.

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U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has made clear that criminal defendant Trump’s right to free speech is “not absolute” —and she insisted that she would accelerate the trial date in the election interference case if he continues to obstruct justice with his dangerous comments. But despite her encouraging words, she has yet to take action. Once again, this only intensifies the malignant Trump belief that the law does not apply to him. And more, with the release of his mugshot and his heightened criminal “status,” he’s discovered a new way to convince his cult to give him their money. With anyone else, a gag order or taking him into custody would be the obvious direction this is heading. But so far, the sad fact is that no one, including Judge Chutkan, has been willing to employ the power of the judicial system to stem the violent incitements and the danger they are to the process of justice and democracy. That should change, no matter how loud the cries of political persecution from the criminal defendant or his followers (or the worries from Democrats that this will only strengthen him as a presidential candidate).

Either there is rule of law or there isn’t.

Wajahat Ali is the author of “Go Back To Where You Came From.” He is also a columnist for The Daily Beast, MSNBC Daily and co-host of the Democracy-Ish Podcast.

The GOP is now a radicalized, weaponized authoritarian cult that is marching towards minority, anti-democratic rule. I realize that’s a lot of words to basically say a modern fascist movement. This description might be dismissed by centrist stenographer of power as hyperbole, but I’d retort that those people are willfully ignoring all the signs that are blinking red and storming the US capitol wearing MAGA hats. MAGA is a monster fed and created by a conservative movement that forfeited its better judgment for the sake of short-term power in the form of Trump. However, Frankenstein’s monster has swallowed its creator. The man who is the leader of the GOP is now a 4 times indicted, twice impeached vulgarian with 91 criminal counts against him who incited his mob against a free and fair election. Despite his litany of carnage, or, more accurately, because of it, his base is further drawn to him as their warrior avatar who will deliver them vengeance, retribution and victory.

Just this week, Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, said 2024 will be “the last election decided by ballots rather than bullets” if Trump doesn’t win. Sounds like a threat, right? Dialogue a terrorist would say in a cheap Hollywood movie. And yet the majority still treats this extremist movement as a normal, rational, political party. Why? We are witnessing the rise and normalization of antisemitic conspiracies that are parroted by Elon Musk, Trump, and GOP leaders who have also radicalized terrorists to commit violence against POC and Jewish communities. Teachers, doctors, poll workers, law enforcement, and elected officials have all been threatened by MAGA supporters. If this modern GOP movement can’t win at the ballot, they’ll bring their AR-15s and bullets. The question is how will the majority respond?

Federico Finchelstein is a professor of history at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College in New York. His most recent book is “A Brief History of Fascist Lies.”

I think we got to this point because of the ongoing transformation of populist politics into something closer to fascism. Fascism defended a divine, messianic, and charismatic form of leadership that conceived of the leader as organically linked to the people and the nation. Any situation which the leader conceived as a threat was equated with the idea of the people and the nation being in danger. This was of course a lie because a person’s crimes or faulty choices cannot the expression of the collective will. But this is how fascist leaders explained their problems, including their crimes, to the people. They lied that they acted in the name of the community. They had an extreme conception of the enemy, regarding it as an existential threat to the nation and to its people. Such an enemy had to be first persecuted and then be deported or eliminated. This sounds familiar to Trumpism because Trump shares this conception of the divine leader as well as the transformations of those he opposes into enemies of the people.


Trump’s campaign rallies could bring legal consequences: “Might turn off a lot of jurors”

Trump’s promises of revenge need to be taken seriously. Trump echoes a classic technique: fascists tend to deny what they are and ascribe their own features and their own totalitarian politics to their enemies. The first and foremost of these features is the threat of violence. He is not a typical populist in the sense that his threats against his enemies (and against the functioning of democracy as such) go beyond the standard populist downplaying of democracy. He represents a fascist danger.

Victor Ray is the F. Wendell Miller Associate Professor in the Departments of Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies at the University of Iowa and a Nonresident Fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution, and a Carr Center Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School. His first book “On Critical Race Theory: Why it Matters & Why You Should Care” was recently published by Random House.

Trump’s deviance has been normalized by the Republican party (which he has captured) and the media. The right has worked the refs in the media for years by screaming liberal bias in response to accurate reports of the party’s increasing right-wing radicalism. The right has also essentially created their own media ecosystem, which the Republican party is often following instead of leading.

Mainstream media has responded to these developments by doubling down on notions of objectivity and unbased reporting that aren’t up to the task of dealing with a constantly lying demagogue. The media’s inability to adapt to new political realities paid off for Trump when, for instance, during first campaign the media often downplayed the obvious bigotry fueling Trump’s support.

These media failures, and the related failures of accountability measures such as impeachment, have only emboldened Trump and his base of support. Experts on authoritarianism often argue that would-be strongmen learn what a polity will except, in part, based on the level of resistance their power-grabs face. One lesson Trump has clearly learned is that the GOP will not push back on even the most blatant lies and threats, and that (so far) the legal system has been unable to constrain him. What’s next is always an open question but I’m hoping some of the many indictments of the former President finally hole him accountable. It’s clear that the Republican party is incapable of reigning him in, as he is trouncing potential competitors in the polls.

Ford Fischer is a primary source documentarian, videojournalist, and the editor-in-chief of News2Share, an independent platform for raw videography of political activism and extremism. His work has been featured in Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winning films.

President Trump ran in 2016 with a platform that partially included “locking up” his political rivals on the basis of assorted grievances generally such as corruption, etc, but once actually in office, I think he lacked the motivation to actually follow up on that. The grievances and anger that he channeled into his campaign were abstract, and he would frame Americans as the victim of them. Following his presidency, former President Trump has faced actual prosecution, and is now *personally* vindictive. Meanwhile, he tells his base that “it’s not me they’re after, it’s you, and I’m in their way.” By doing this, he has created a condition where among his own base, there is an anger and thirst for revenge that would absolutely manifest into a popular mandate to *actually* prosecute his opponents if given a second term.

Joe Walsh was a Republican congressman and a leading Tea Party conservative. He is now a prominent conservative voice against Donald Trump and the host of the podcast “White Flag with Joe Walsh.”

Donald Trump last week said publicly that if he’s President again, he’d put Joe Biden and his political opponents in jail. And the world yawned. And not one Republican said sh*t. And Americans went off to enjoy a long Labor Day weekend. How did we get to this point? How did we normalize an avowed autocrat running for President of the United States? Easy. The American people long ago abandoned their part, their role, in defending this democracy, in, as Benjamin Franklin said, doing what we must do to “…keep it.” The American people quite some time ago, ceased staying involved, engaged, and informed in this great experiment in democracy.

Oh sure, it’s easy to blame gutless politicians, and fearful Republicans for allowing us to get to this point where Donald Trump is on the verge of becoming President again. But I’m tired of doing that. We are preciously close to losing our democracy, and I think it’s time we point the finger at we the American people.

What’s next? That’s easy too. Trump wins the nomination going away and in all likelihood takes on Joe Biden in 2024, and as things stand now, Trump would be the odds on favorite in such a matchup. Yes, an ignorant, cruel, cultish, moronic, corrupt, criminal, autocrat, and traitor would be the better than 50/50 bet to become President. And if that were to happen, all bets are off, our democracy, now hanging by a thread, would snap, retribution would be the only order of business out of Washington, DC, and plenty of us who are enemies of Trump’s would leave the country.

in the meantime, the next 14 months leading up to the 2024 election promise to be ugly, dangerous, and violent. And unless, that uneasy coalition of all us, the NeverTrumpers and independents and progressives and Democrats lock arms again and come out in force again, Trump wins.

And the American people will have clearly deserved putting an autocrat back in the White House. And maybe then the American people will wake up. Except by then, it will be too late.

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