According to Robert Kagan, “a Trump dictatorship” is increasingly likely.
“There is a clear path to dictatorship in the United States, and it is getting shorter every day,” he wrote.
Yikes. What happened? “In 13 weeks,” Mr. Kagan warns, “Donald Trump will have locked up the Republican nomination.”
That’s probably true.
But weren’t we assured that President Trump’s winning the GOP nomination was just a clever Democratic plot?
Yes, we were. Over and over again, anti-Trump Republicans warned us that the American people hated President Trump.
And besides, even if a lot of people voted for him, the electoral map showed that he couldn’t win.
But Mr. Kagan is right. (There’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing.)
“The idea that he is unelectable in the general election is nonsense,” Mr. Kagan argues.
More and more people are waking up to that contingency, especially since more and more polls show him beating President Joe Biden in the general election.
Then there are the (to anti-Trumpers) mournful polls that show President Trump beating President Biden in five out of six battleground states.
It takes Mr. Kagan several paragraphs to get around to mentioning the Austrian corporal with the funny mustache, and even longer for him to drag in Julius Caesar.
But they’re both there, along with the tocsin that dictatorship is fluttering in the wings.
Along the way, Mr. Kagan admits that “on Trump’s watch, there was no full-scale invasion of Ukraine, no major attack on Israel, no runaway inflation, no disastrous retreat from Afghanistan.”
Ergo, “It is hard to make the case for Trump’s unfitness to anyone who does not already believe it.”
Indeed it is.
And we can mention many other things that serve to bolster the sense of President Trump’s fitness, not his unfitness, for office.
President Trump’s energy policies, for example, made America not only energy-independent but also a net exporter of energy.
Or maybe you’re interested in the judicial system, in which case you might want to remember the hundreds of federal judges and three Supreme Court justices that President Trump nominated and saw confirmed.
President Trump also made considerable inroads in rolling back the regulatory state.
His Middle East policy, beginning with the Abraham Accords, was a world-historic diplomatic achievement.
He cut taxes during his term and saw wages rise, especially at the lower end of the scale, and, before COVID-19 hit, saw unemployment fall to its lowest level in decades (for minority unemployment, it was the lowest level ever recorded).
That’s just for starters.
I mention these data points just to underscore Mr. Kagan’s observation that “it is hard to make the case for Trump’s unfitness to anyone who does not already believe it,” though I would substitute for that last bit the words “to anyone not blinded by an unjustified and irrational hatred of Donald Trump.”
Mr. Kagan’s essay is part of a curious and growing genre of political expostulation.
President Trump is portrayed as a fearsome authoritarian figure, a new Hitler, forsooth, and a threat to democracy.
Let’s think about that.
President Trump is a “threat to democracy,” therefore we must endeavor to keep him off the ballot.
Why? Because otherwise, people might vote for him, and that would be terrible.
How do you spell “contradiction” (or do I mean “hypocrisy”)?
Mr. Kagan worries that President Trump would usurp the judicial system and use it to go after his ideological enemies.
As I write, the former president is laboring under four indictments with a total of some 90 counts.
Hundreds of people who breezed through the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, are moldering in Washington prisons.
Of course, it isn’t only President Trump who has the establishment worried about democracy.
The Democrats are so worried about the political system in which the people are sovereign that they scuttled Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s possible place on the Democratic ticket because, otherwise, Joe Biden, their anointed candidate, might face a serious challenge, and that would be “anti-democratic.”
But there’s a sense in which the assault on President Trump is, if not justified, then at least understandable.
He really is a threat.
Not, I hasten to add, to democracy per se but rather to “Our Democracy™,” which is to say, to the oligarchy of The Swamp.
President Trump wasn’t able to do much to “drain the Swamp” in his first term.
He might have better luck in his second.
He represents an existential threat to the denizens and institutions that occupy the Swamp (the administrative state, the deep state, etc.).
By whatever name you denominate it, the lumbering bureaucratic leviathan that rules America is a deeply entrenched, self-engorging, and largely unaccountable confect.
It’s also profoundly undemocratic.
Should President Trump win, he will pose a serious threat to its perpetuation.
My advice would be that he do everything in his power to downgrade the place of Washington in the metabolism of American political life.
As I have written before, I think he should take up with renewed vigor his efforts to move large swathes of the government out of Washington.
He should also rethink the complacent institutions that may once have served the public but now are sclerotic agencies for which self-perpetuation is the prime directive.
And his first step should be to hold his inauguration somewhere other than Washington.
It wouldn’t have to be at Mar-a-Lago, though I’m sure the weather there in January will be more attractive than it will be in Washington.
It’s time to call out the malevolent farce in which the anti-democratic forces of the status quo complain that electing President Trump would be anti-democratic because he might do to them what they’re doing to him and to us.