The fix is in. To “protect democracy,” democracy is already being canceled. We just haven’t admitted the implications of this to ourselves yet.
On Sunday, January 14th, NBC News ran an eye-catching story: “Fears grow that Trump will use the military in ‘dictatorial ways’ if he returns to the White House.” It described “a loose-knit network of public interest groups and lawmakers” that is “quietly” making plans to “foil any efforts to expand presidential power” on the part of Donald Trump.
The piece quoted an array of former high-ranking officials, all insisting Trump will misuse the Department of Defense to execute civilian political aims. Since Joe Biden’s team “leaked” a strategy memo in late December listing “Trump is an existential threat to democracy” as Campaign 2024’s central talking point, surrogates have worked overtime to insert existential or democracy in quotes. This was no different:
“We’re about 30 seconds away from the Armageddon clock when it comes to democracy,” said Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, adding that Trump is “a clear and present danger to our democracy.” Skye Perryman of Democracy Forward, one of the advocacy groups organizing the “loose” coalition, said, “We believe this is an existential moment for American democracy.” Declared former CIA and defense chief Leon Panetta: “Like any good dictator, he’s going to try to use the military to basically perform his will.”
Former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the U.S. Department of Justice and current visiting Georgetown law professor Mary McCordwas one of the few coalition participants quoted by name. She said:
We’re already starting to put together a team to think through the most damaging types of things that he [Trump] might do so that we’re ready to bring lawsuits if we have to.
The group was formed by at least two organizations that have been hyperactive in filing lawsuits against Trump and Trump-related figures over the years: the aforementioned Democracy Forward, chaired by former Perkins Coie and Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias, and Protect Democracy, a ubiquitous non-profit run by a phalanx of former Obama administration lawyers like Ian Bassin, and funded at least in part by LinkedIn magnate Reid Hoffman.
Many who couldn’t stand Trump, would never vote for him, and have been willing consumers of the awesome amount of propaganda published on the Trump subject, now need to face the fact that they’ve been had. Transformed into the avatar of all bad things — a crude domestic combo platter of Saddam, Milosevic, Assad, and Putin — this vision of the über-villain, Trump, has been used to distract mass audiences from the erosion of “norms” at home. “Protecting democracy” in the Trump context will be remembered as having served the same purpose as Saddam’s mythical WMDs, the shots fired in the Gulf of Tonkin, or Gaddafi’s fictional Viagra-enhanced army. Those were carefully crafted political lies, used to rally the public behind illegal campaigns of preemption.
Voters, by voting, “protect democracy.” A politician who claims to be doing the job for us is up to something. The group in the current White House is trying to steal for themselves a word that belongs to you. Don’t let them.