By Miriam Raftery
November 11, 2023 (Washington D.C.) –A growing chorus of voices on both the left and right are speaking out to warn of threats to U.S. democracy if former president Donald Trump wins election in 2024. The warnings come after increasingly vitriolic statements by Trump threatening to arrest political critics, eliminate free press rights, eliminate independence of the Justice Dept. and FBI, order the military to suppress peaceful demonstrations, and support "termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."
The conservative Lincoln Club warns that America is in a “fight for democracy,” stating in a newly released ad, “The fate of your country, your family and your freedom are on the line” in the 2024 election. “We’re not liberals. We’re not progressives. We’re former Republicans who put country over party. We’re Americans who know that unless we stop Trump, he will end this democracy we cherish.”
Among those starring in anti-Trump Lincoln Club ads is Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).
In an interview on Univision last week, Trump said, ““If I happen to be president, and I see somebody who is doing well and beating me very badly, I’ll say, ‘go down and indict them."
The Washington Post on Nov. 5 reported that Trump has told friends and advisors he wants the Justice Dept.to investigate former officials who criticized him, despite no evidence that any of them committed crimes—and some sought to prevent Trump from breaking the law. Those he hopes to target include General Mark Milley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as Trump’s former attorney general William Barr, Trump’s former chief of staff John Kelly, and former Trump lawyer Ty Cobb.
To enable such actions, Trump has joined forces with the Heritage Foundation and other conservative groups to develop Project 2025, a plan that among other things would eliminate the Justice Department’s independence from the executive branch. Constitutional law professor Saikrishna Prakash at the University of Virginia says, “It would resemble a banana republic if people came into office and started going after their opponents willy-nilly.”
Such actions would be clearly unconstitutional, law professor Bennett Gershman at Pace University told Salon. Ultimately, he said it would be up to the Supreme Court to “step up and prevent Trump’s plot to abuse his power,” however the high court includes three justices appointed by Trump, making it unclear whether their loyalties would lie with Trump or their duty to uphold the Constitution.
The former President is facing 91 criminal counts in four different jurisdictions on serious charges backed by dozens of witnesses and reams of documents, including charges of conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election(fueling an insurrection), illegally retaining and sharing classified documents, obstruction of justice,falsifying business records, and more. He has called these prosecutions a “witch hunt” and vowed revenge if elected in 2025.
Associated Press on Aug. 29 reported that the 1,000-page Project 2025 also targets the federal “deep state” bureaucracy with plans for Trump or another supportive far-right Republican such as Ron DeSantis or Vivek Ramaswamy to fire up to 50,000 federal workers, gutting or eliminating a sweeping range of federal agencies. The plan would replace career civil service professionals, who are supposed to be nonpartisan, with political appointees beholden to the president who would appoint them. Currently, only about 4,000 federal workers are political appointees.
Trump, in a bizarre court filing in a Colorado case, actually argues that he did not take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution.” The filing was made in a lawsuit that seeks to keep Trump off the Colorado ballot based on the Fourteenth Amendment, which bans anyone who engaged in or supported insurrection from holding federal office. Trump’s actions in support of the January 6 capitol attack which sought to disrupt counting of votes and other actions to overturn legitimate election results should bar him from holding office, the suit claims.
Trump previously said parts of the Constitution should be “terminated” after he lost his reelection bid in 2020. On his Truth Social platform, Trump said he would support “termination of all rules, regulations ,and articles, even those found in the Constitution” to remain in power. Trump lost all legal challenges to the election results, with 62 judges finding no evidence of fraud in Joe Biden’s win over Trump, including three judges appointed by Trump.
He has praised dictators, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whom he admired for being “president for life.” Trump added, “I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday,” suggesting that the U.S. Constitutional limit of two presidential terms should be changed.
Trump has also increasingly invoked violence in vitriolic rants on social media and in interviews, even threatening witnesses and inciting threats of violence against prosecutors, prompting a judge to impose a limited gag order. On Truth Social, he suggested General Milley should be executed for speaking out against Trump.
He has also attacked press freedoms. In an unhinged rant on Truth Social, Trump’s disinformation platform, he threatened to end freedom of the press and the First Amendment if he regains power. He called for investigations of NBC, MSNBC and other major media outlets that have run coverage critical of Trump. “Why should NBC, or any other of the corrupt & dishonest media companies, be entitled to use of the very valuable Airwaves of the USA, FREE?” wrote Trump, who called these media outlets “THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!”
Attacking a free press is a hallmark of dictatorships.
So is deploying the military to quell civil unrest, yet Trump has recently said he would invoke the Insurrection Act not used since the Civil War to have troops occupy U.S. cities and quell protests.
In an article titled “Trump’s retribution plan: Becoming America’s First Dictator,” senior writer Chauncey DeVega cites historical evidence and books on how dictators have seized power in other formerly democratic nations.
“In a time of democracy crisis, the news media should be speaking truth to the powerful, shining a light on the threats to democracy and civil society,” DeVegas concludes. “Donald Trump is an objective threat to American democracy and civil society. That is a fact...Trump is getting worse, more dangerous, more bent on inciting violence. This is not a presidential candidate; this is a criminal defendant seeking to save his own skin, no matter how much damage it causes. The media must stop pretending this is a normal presidential horse race.”
Nearly one year out, it's time to stop pretending (Lincoln Club)