The story is old and familiar. Hitler led the Nazi party in the last Weimar Reichstag. In the autumn 1932 elections, his share of the vote declined, but the Nazis remained the largest political force in the body. So when the last center-right to right-wing coalition fell, President Hindenberg named Hitler as the new Chancellor–the head of what was still, nominally, a coalition government.
And then he got to work, consolidating authority in his office, isolating non-Nazi figures in the government, exploiting the false-flag of the Reichstag fire, and then achieving a majority in the parliament in an election in the spring of 1933 in which unreliable sectors of the electorate were subject to all the varieties of voter suppression that Hitler’s men could come up with.
Today we learned via the New York Times of Trump’s men working along very similar lines to similar ends:
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.
That’s the overview. The details are worse:
“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,” said John McEntee, a former White House personnel chief who began Mr. Trump’s systematic attempt to sweep out officials deemed to be disloyal in 2020 and who is now involved in mapping out the new approach.
“Our current executive branch,” Mr. McEntee added, “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.”
“What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them,” said Russell T. Vought, who ran the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump White House and now runs a policy organization, the Center for Renewing America.
The Fuhrerprinzep is strong in Mr. McEntee and Mr. Vought, but it’s vital to recognize that Trump is the face of this effort, but the campaign is one as old as Reagan’s mainstreaming of the John Birch Society’s politics. This is what a substantial and now dominant fraction of the GOP and its oligarchs have been seeking for a long time–really since class-traitor FDR conceived of government as something that could serve the broad public.
The justification for this would-be coup is that hallmark of conservative argument–a bogus constitutional argument that requires those who advance it to ignore both the plain language of the text and 250 years of experience:
The legal theory rejects the idea that the government is composed of three separate branches with overlapping powers to check and balance each other. Instead, the theory’s adherents argue that Article 2 of the Constitution gives the president complete control of the executive branch, so Congress cannot empower agency heads to make decisions or restrict the president’s ability to fire them. Reagan administration lawyers developed the theory as they sought to advance a deregulatory agenda.
An aside: to call this a “theory” is a bit of MSM normalization of extremism. It was an ad hoc argument by radical right wing figures to provide a fig leaf of cover for their otherwise untenable claims.
Trump is in it for himself–as the article notes, “Personal power has always been a driving force for Mr. Trump. He often gestures toward it in a more simplistic manner, such as in 2019, when he declared to a cheering crowd, “I have an Article 2, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.”
That’s pretty clear. We already know from the actions of GOP figures in the states and on the Supreme Court that actual free and fair elections are a threat to their rule. A President that achieves the unitary executive model of government can shape elections any way he wants; Trump made it clear that he thought he could do that in 2020! If he gets in again that’s the starting point.
All of which is to say that though the NY Times piece does not IMHO state the fascist threat clearly enough, it’s still a clear and pretty unflinching account of the clear and present danger that Trump himself and the movement that is attempting to use him pose to the United States.
2024 really is an existential election.
Open thread, as per usual.
Image: William Hogarth, An Election Entertainment, 1755