Would Americans enjoy living in a dictatorship? We might find out if Donald Trump is elected president in 2024, according to an in-depth piece published Monday (7/15/23) at The New York Times. Is this serious? Based on analysis by experts at numerous media outlets, it is extremely serious -- especially when you consider that from 2017 to 2021, Trump proved to be a failed president by almost any measure. According to The Times, Trump and his Republican allies are planning to go way beyond the incompetence, recklessness, and dishonesty that marked his first term to reshaping our fundamental form of government, making American democracy something we likely will not recognize -- with massive amounts of power placed in the hands of a president who was bad at his job the first time around.Based on a reading of analysis from a wide range of experts - academics, syndicated columnists, network analysts, even bloggers -- I would say now is the time to take this with utmost seriousness. In fact, The Times reports, Trump and his minions started working on a plan to reshape American government during his first term, but a number of matters got in the way, so they put it off until 2025, after an election that Trump intends to win -- one way or another. If Americans don't grasp this grim reality now, we run the risk of waking one morning to a "democracy" that has vanished from under our noses. How are various news outlets treating The Times report? Here is one example, from Salon, under the headline ""Authoritarianism will be on the ballot": Experts worried over Trump's "alarming" 2025 plot." Gabriella Ferrigine writes:
Former President Donald Trump and his allies are already scheming up plans to significantly expand his presidential power if he wins back the White House next year.
The New York Times reported on Monday that Trump and his inner circle have a "broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president's authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him."
This wide-ranging plan would include bringing independent agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency, directly under the president, the return of "impounding" funds — a strategy banned during the Nixon administration that empowered a president to refuse to spend Congressionally-allocated money on programs they dislike — as well as the removal of employment protections for thousands of career civil servants and an intelligence agency purge of officials he holds personal vendettas against and has deemed to be "deep staters" and "the sick political class that hates our country."
"We will demolish the deep state," Trump said at a rally in Michigan. "We will expel the warmongers from our government. We will drive out the globalists. We will cast out the communists, Marxists, and fascists. And we will throw off the sick political class that hates our country."
Why is Team Trump so open about its radical plans? Ferrigine explains:
Under Trump's plan — which was drafted during his first term — independent agencies would be required to submit actions to the president for review, in an effort to consolidate such organizations "under presidential authority." The order was ultimately not enacted due to internal concerns such as how the market would react if the Federal Reserve was stripped of its independence.
"What we're trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them," Russell Vought, who headed the Office of Management and Budget during Trump's administration, told The Times. Open discussion of such political strategies is rife in Trump's rallies and campaign Websites, according to the report, a tactic Vought described as planting "a flag" ahead of the election.
Former White House personnel chief John McEntee, who is credited with initiating Trump's 2020 efforts to expel officials he personally opposed, also did not mince words regarding the ex-president's scheme.
"The president's plan should be to fundamentally reorient the federal government in a way that hasn't been done since F.D.R.'s New Deal," McEntee said. "Our current executive branch was conceived of by liberals for the purpose of promulgating liberal policies. There is no way to make the existing structure function in a conservative manner. It's not enough to get the personnel right. What's necessary is a complete system overhaul."
Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung observed that Trump has "laid out a bold and transparent agenda for his second term, something no other candidate has done."
"Voters will know exactly how President Trump will supercharge the economy, bring down inflation, secure the border, protect communities, and eradicate the deep state that works against Americans once and for all," he added.
Not everyone who has worked closely with Trump agrees with this approach:
Former White House chief of staff John Kelly said he felt the strategy would be "chaotic" because Trump would "continually be trying to exceed his authority but the sycophants would go along with it. It would be a nonstop gunfight with the Congress and the courts."
Experts on the presidency are warning Americians to pay attention. From the Salon report:
Experts raised major concerns over Trump's "alarming" plot.
"Anyone who opposes a Presidential autocracy in America should read this closely," warned presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
"The conservatives who are pushing this should imagine for one second the panic they would express if Biden did it," tweeted national-security attorney Bradley Moss.
"In 2024, authoritarianism—unchecked, unembarrassed and undisguised—will be on the ballot," wrote Bill Kristol, a longtime Never-Trump conservative and founder of The Weekly Standard.
"Be afraid. This is on the verge of happening 18 months from now," tweeted MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan. "Now ask yourself this question: Are cautious, in-denial, business-as-usual establishment Dems equipped, or even willing, to address this anti-democratic, autocratic threat?"
Here is how The New Republic examines the story, under the headline "Inside Trump’s Fascist Plan to Control All Federal Agencies if He Wins;Trump has a detailed plan to consolidate power if he retakes the White House." Writes Torri Otten:
How outside the American norm are some of these ideas? Let's start with the idea of Trump ordering a criminal investigation of Joe Biden. The New York Times emphasizes this issue, noting that it breaks down a traditional wall between the White House and the U.S. Department of Justice and opens the door for political prosecutions. The Times also notes Trump's intentions to control how Congress spends money:
Donald Trump is planning to completely overhaul how the government works if he wins the 2024 presidential election, which would clear the way for him to do pretty much whatever he wants. . . .
One of the central parts of Trump’s fascist plan to consolidate power is to bring independent agencies under presidential control, including the Federal Communications Commission, which regulates television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces antitrust law and consumer protection rules.
But that’s not all: Trump also wants to be able to impound funds, meaning refuse to spend money appropriated for programs he doesn’t like. The tactic was banned under Richard Nixon, but Trump insists on his campaign Website that presidents have a constitutional right to impound funds. He says he will reinstate the practice, even though it could spark a lengthy legal battle.
He also plans to eliminate employment protections for tens of thousands of civil servants, making them easier to replace. He would then purge intelligence agencies, the State Department, and the defense agencies of officials whom he has deemed members of “the sick political class that hates our country.”
Trump has already said he would launch a criminal investigation into President Joe Biden if he takes back the White House. But his new plans would go a step further and centralize power under the executive branch.
It’s unclear just how much of this Trump would get away with. Congress could pass laws to block him, and many of his plans would certainly get locked up in the court system. But the point is less whether he can succeed and more that Trump is willing to do absolutely anything to get and stay in power.
He has already shown a willingness to act with impunity. Trump repeatedly claimed that presidents can declassify materials whenever they want, “even by thinking about it.” And now, even after he’s been federally indicted for allegedly mishandling classified documents, he still insists he’s done nothing wrong.
Donald J. Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in 2025, reshaping the structure of the executive branch to concentrate far greater authority directly in his hands.
Their plans to centralize more power in the Oval Office stretch far beyond the former president’s recent remarks that he would order a criminal investigation into his political rival, President Biden, signaling his intent to end the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence from White House political control.
Mr. Trump and his associates have a broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.
He wants to revive the practice of “impounding” funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.