Putsch comes to shove

So it seems that Donald Trump couldn’t wait until he lost the election in November to try out his dictator pose, which was on full display last night as he declared war on his domestic opponents.

As is perhaps typical of white, male, leftists, I had been so preoccupied with the threat that Trump poses to bourgeois democracy that I had overlooked the fact that the front line of US politics has always been situated in the struggle of super-oppressed minorities, for whom the state represents an ever-present threat to their very existence. The uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent police violence, has brought this to the forefront of national consciousness, though of course for the communities concerned it is simply their everyday reality.

This is not a recent development; the US was founded on slavery, and racial injustice remains intrinsic to the functioning of its society. Despite this the holder of the office of President is expected to at least pay lip-service to the idea of equality, so Trump’s break with this convention, and his willingness to fan the flames of intolerance, is a ominous development.

How far Trump is serious about this, rather than just rhetorically pandering to his base as part of his reelection campaign, is open to question. Even if he does invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, there are still plenty of legal, political, and institutional obstacles in the way of his plan to use the armed forces as his personal militia. The extent to which his polarisation strategy will succeed is also dependent on how his political opponents react, and whether any sections of the Republican Party lose their nerve and abandon him. Factor in the continuing epidemic, and widespread economic collapse, and it becomes impossible to predict how all this will play out, beyond saying that it will be a long, difficult summer.

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