Trump's agenda is to destroy democracy in America, and the GOP and their billionaire donors are going along with it while much of the media are treating it like politics as usual. It's a two-part plan that involves both corrupting our election processes and fomenting a violent "rebellion" by white supremacists to shatter our society.
Part one is to end free and fair elections in America.
The latest bombshell has become the most under-reported and misunderstood story of the week, when Donald Trump threatened the Republican Party.
Wednesday afternoon I got a fundraising email (he averages around 5 fundraising pitches a day) from firstname.lastname@example.org that included this statement:
"If we don't solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in '22 or '24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do."
But the media treated this threat of Trump's as either 1) a tantrum demanding more fealty from Republicans or 2) a sign that Trump is losing his grip and probably going to alienate the Republican Party before he's done. It was neither.
This statement from Trump was, instead, a clear and open declaration of war on democracy itself.
What he was really saying was, "If the rest of you Republicans who still hold office don't do like a few states have already done and pre-rig the 2024 election results, you are going to lose office and lose power…and I'll lose my chance to get back into the White House."
Which is true, particularly in swing states. So they're stepping up their game.
"Election Fraud" is the canard Republicans have used since the 1960s and William Rehnquist's Operation Eagle Eye to justify preventing largely Democratic voters — mostly BIPOC, urban, poor, young and elderly people — from either voting or having their votes counted if they manage to get their hands on a provisional ballot.
Now, though, it has an entirely new meaning: they're using it to destroy democracy altogether.
In addition to amplifying the usual barriers to voters in mostly Democratic neighborhoods (long lines, harsh ID requirements, short hours, limiting mail-in voting, etc.), Republicans are now putting open advocates for a Trump Oligarchy into positions to determine which votes to count and which to reject.
Trump and the Republicans going along with him (which is almost all of them now) are playing an old game. Instead of voters selecting their politicians, these Republican politicians are selecting their voters.
Boris Bazhanov was Joseph Stalin's personal secretary from 1923 to 1928, and later served as secretary of the Soviet Political Bureau. In his memoirs published in 1980, he recounts something Stalin told him about voting.
"I consider it completely unimportant who in the party will vote, or how," Stalin said. "But what is extremely important is this – who will count the votes, and how."
Despite never having to worry about surviving popular elections, and not being a fan of democracy, Stalin nonetheless knew the trick to subverting a republic wasn't in getting your people to vote, but instead was in making sure the votes were counted in a way that made sure your side won.
And now Republicans are setting things up so when they flip elections, à la Stalin, it'll just seem like a normal part of politics. They tried it last year and it failed by a whisker, so now they're setting things up to pull it off in 2024.
Trump and the GOP know that if a dozen or so Republican officials, from local election boards in Michigan to the Secretary of State in Georgia, had simply done what Trump wanted and refused to certify Biden's win in their precincts, counties, or states, the election would have been thrown to the House of Representatives.
There, each state gets one vote, and that vote is determined by the state legislatures back home, who tell their congressional delegation how to cast it. With 26 states solidly in Republican control, Trump wins.
It's the essence of John Eastman's memo, and echoes an article I wrote back on March 13th of last year, warning of exactly this ploy eight full months before the 2020 election. Now they're going to try it again, because they know their time is running out.
And they're getting financial support in it from rightwing billionaires and some of America's largest corporations, just like Franco, Mussolini and Hitler were funded by the wealthy and corporate elite of their countries and their day. (See German industrialist Fritz Thyssen's tragic book I Paid Hitler.)
After all, making money doesn't require democracy. In fact, if you have the ear of those in power, democracy or not, they can rig the rules of crony capitalism to favor you and your companies. Billionaires are regularly made in countries that aren't even remotely democratic; China is probably the most well-known example.
Thus, as Trump really just reiterated, their only hope is to declare war on democracy itself.
College students, for example, are notoriously Democratic in their voting. So the good Republicans of the Montana legislature wrote and passed SB319 and Gov. Greg Gianforte signed it into law on May 12. Section 21 of the bill explicitly outlaws campaign activities on college campuses:
"A political committee may not," the law reads, "direct, coordinate, manage, or conduct any voter identification efforts, voter registration drives, signature collection efforts, ballot collection efforts, or voter turnout efforts for a federal, state, local, or school election inside a residence hall, dining facility, or athletic facility operated by a public postsecondary institution."
Meanwhile, in Georgia, Arkansas and Kansas (and probably soon in Arizona, Texas and Florida) Republicans have passed laws that allow them to remove Black or Democratic-aligned election officials and replace them with Trumpy white Republicans who are newly empowered to decide whose vote gets counted and whose gets rejected.
"Across Georgia, members of at least 10 county election boards have been removed, had their position eliminated, or are likely to be kicked off through local ordinances or new laws passed by the state legislature. At least five are people of color and most are Democrats — though some are Republicans — and they will most likely all be replaced by Republicans."
Nineteen Republican-controlled states have, as the Brennan Center for Justice documents, passed over 30 laws to make it harder for Social Security-age, college-age, and BIPOC folks to vote, and in many of those states politicians who are now in charge of elections can simply refuse to certify results they don't like.
The goal of these Republicans is simple: to replace democracy in the United States with a Trumpy strongman autocratic oligarchy along the lines of Russia or Hungary.
Given the demographic changes happening all across American right now, the 2022 and 2024 elections may well be their last chance. In 2004, for example, Texas became a majority-non-white state; those babies will be able to vote for the first time in 2024 and many are unlikely to embrace an openly white supremacist party like the GOP.
Part Two: But the plan to destroy democracy and replace it with rule-by-the-rich strongman oligarchy doesn't stop with voting. Part two is to tear our society apart by creating enough chaos they can pull it all off.
Along with an avalanche of voter-suppression and election-overturning vote-subversion laws, rightwing billionaires are funding groups that are scaring the hell out of school boards across the country, as documented by Judd Legum's Popular Information.
Their goal is to shatter Americans' faith in our nation's institutions and set up an apocalyptic Armageddon-style battle between the "good" white "Christian" Republicans and the "evil" blood-drinking, CRT-promoting Democrats as their next step toward eliminating democracy in America altogether.
And they're getting more and more militant, some now declaring their willingness to kill their own neighbors.
As social media algorithms continue to amplify the most hysterical and frantic of the race-baiting Republican claims, a symbol from the Civil War is reappearing all across America. The so-called "Black Flag" — an American flag made entirely out of black fabric (and ironically made in China) — is flying from homes and at armed rallies around the country.
The "no surrender, no quarter" Black Flag, the opposite of a white flag of surrender, was used by Confederate soldiers to signal that they would never be taken alive and would murder any prisoners of war they took. It flew over several massacres of Black people during and shortly after the Civil War as well, including Olustee, Fort Pillow, Poison Spring, and the Crater.
Michelle H. Davis wrote for Living Blue in Texas an article titled: "Are Your Republican Neighbors Planning On Killing You?"
The answer, she writes, is: "Yes, they say civil war, and they say it's already started." And she brings the footage to back up her assertion.
As Gregory J.W. Urwin documents in painful detail in his 2005 book Black Flag Over Dixie: Racial Atrocities and Reprisals in the Civil War, "When the Union's Black defenders responded in kind, the Civil War descended to a level of inhumanity that most Americans prefer to forget." Slaughters of African Americans became the norm for Confederate soldiers, often under the banner of a Black Flag.
This movement to replace American democracy with oligarchy didn't just appear overnight and it's not just Donald Trump. It was kicked off in the 1950s in reaction to the Brown v Board SCOTUS decision back in the days when Fred Koch was funding the John Birch Society to put up "Impeach Earl Warren" billboards; it took flight in the 1970s.
Rightwing billionaires got together in response to Lewis Powell's 1971 "Memo" call-to-arms and created a network of think tanks, media outlets, takeovers of college Econ and PoliSci departments, and political action astroturf groups (like what became the Tea Party).
In the beginning they mostly just wanted to keep Black people out of American schools and business, get their taxes cut, and free their companies from the expensive burden of cleaning up their toxic emissions.
What they've created, though, has taken on a life of its own and is now tearing America apart. This week Steve Bannon, in an echo of Hitler's promise of a Reich that would last 1000 years, predicted, "We're putting together a coalition that's gonna govern for 100 years."
As Bannon and his billionaire backers will be the first to tell you, 2022 and 2024 is probably their last chance to replace American democracy with an oligarchy they can fund and benefit from. And we can't let that happen.