Trump is a threat to democracy -- even if he loses

He's clinging tight to his base in case he doesn't win re-election. He'll be further unleashed and dangerous.

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Here we’ve been for almost four years, worried that Donald Trump will destroy us if he wins re-election in two weeks.

But what about if he clearly and decisively loses? Prepare yourself for the fact that none of us is going to be able to take a vacation — even if he does accept the loss and vacates the White House in January.

Right now, Trump is projecting an air of invincibility. “We are going to win,” he told his campaign staffers yesterday. Later he told reporters, “I’m not running scared. I think I’m running angry. I’m running happy and I’m running very content ’cause I’ve done a great job.”

But this seems like damage control meant to stop the media from continuing to focus in on his rallies over the weekend, in which he pondered what would happen if he lost (“Maybe I’ll have to leave the country”) and begged suburban women for their votes (“Suburban women, please like me”).

According to the Associate Press, quoting three campaign and White House officials, “Trump himself has alternated between disbelief and anger at the idea that he could lose to a candidate whom he views as washed up and incompetent.”

He’s freaking out. Even Trump, who often seems so out of touch with reality, sees what’s happening quite clearly. My hunch is that he knows it’s highly unlikely that he can turn things around this late in the game by switching positions, reaching out to women and people of color and others he’s losing badly, since voters are locked in and many despise him. And if he even tries, he’ll depress and possibly enrage his own base.

Another politician in such dire straits might just take that chance — certainly we’re seeing some GOP senators doing that, moving away a bit from Trump, though it’s likely far too late — but for Trump, a loss of support among his base after his re-election bid failed would be a loss of what he sees as a protective mass movement that will do anything for him.

Trump has got to be worried about investigations and prosecutions, and would no longer have the Justice Department, the military or the pardon power to wield as tools. And even if he tries to pardon himself for any crimes, which would ultimately go to the courts — or enacts the scenario his former fixer Michael Cohen envisions, in which he steps down in the lame duck, and Mike Pence briefly becomes president and pardons him — that won’t protect him from state charges.

And there could be many charges from many states across the country. Already New York has him under at least two investigations. And Congress could investigate him, as could the Biden Justice Department, for crimes we don’t even know about yet and thus which he can’t be pardoned for now.

That’s why Trump is keeping his often violent, cultish base close to him and throwing them more red meat. He’s right now inspiring even more violence against Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, in what almost seems like a threat against further actions against him. Just two weeks ago it was was revealed Whitmer was the target of a domestic terrorism plot, in which a group of Trump-supporting thugs had planned to kidnap her, hold a mock trial, and execute her, after intense training exercises and securing explosive which they were going to use to blow up bridges and other structures. They’d planned to attack and kill police as well, and had been plotting to attack Virginia’s governor too.

On the campaign trail now, Trump is calling for “locking up” Biden and Democrats, doing everything he can to foment hate and violence as he promotes the idea that the coronavirus pandemic is “rounding the corner” — while it actually explodes out of control — furthering the growth of the pandemic. He’ll no doubt push a lie-filled narrative if he loses, claiming the pandemic was under control under him but Biden has now made it worse. And he’ll direct his followers’ loss, grief and anger at Biden and away from the homicidal neglect he’d engaged in.

In his mind, Trump needs his supporters to be ready for action if he loses. A lot of people have warned he might inspire violence on Election Day or in the days after if he’s not winning the count and attacks the ballot process, or that he might try to use the military — or paramilitary groups — to keep himself in office, refusing a peaceful transfer of power. But even if Trump realizes that something like that is futile, especially if it’s a clean win and is not held up in the courts, he could still threaten that violence in attempts to keep anyone from holding him accountable.

He’s already setting the groundwork for delegitimizing any new government in the eyes of 40% or so of the population, many of whom will literally give their lives for him. Trump has fostered and promoted QAnon, a dangerous conspiracy to which many of his supporters adhere and which views the Democratic establishment and the GOP elite as part of a “deep state” Satanic cabal engaged in nefarious actions, including promoting pedophile rings.

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The terrible possibilities are endless, as Trump has already become an inspiration for white supremacists and domestic terrorists. In the past 20 years we’ve learned to differentiate terror attacks planned and plotted directly by major foreign terror organizations and leaders, and those that security experts called, for example, “ISIS-inspired,” in which individuals or small groups carried out actions on their own, inspired by the message of leaders and an ideology.

Trump’s already been the inspiration for that kind of violence, which directly links back to his words. From the violence in Charlottesville to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, right up to the El Paso mass shooting and this plot against Whitmer, Trump’s words and orders have been connected to horrendous actions.

On top of that is a Republican Party engulfed in Trumpism and which will be in disarray but likely still taking orders from Trump, who will have a grip on the GOP base even in defeat, doing anything to take down a Biden administration. Already Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is laying the groundwork to send the country lurching into a further economic decline and stall any economic relief just to hamstring Biden. And if Democrats don’t win back the Senate McConnell will block anything from being done.

So, none of us can be complacent, both before and well after the election.

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