During the final presidential debate, Donald Trump stunned Hillary Clinton and alarmed millions when he threatened to reject the results of the Nov. 8 election.
“I will look at it at the time,” said Trump. “I will keep you in suspense.”
This was the latest in a long list of shocking illustrations of Trump’s disdain for U.S. democratic institutions and rights as limited and imperfect as they may be. It parallels his disdain for international laws, treaties and conventions.
With each insistence that the “election is being rigged, ” Trump undermines confidence in democratic institutions and encourages violence by his supporters if he loses.
As numerous historians have noted, undermining confidence in democratic institutions is a key part of the process by which fascism came to power in Germany and dictatorships did so around the world.
“By placing blame for his likely loss on electoral fraud, (Trump) is telling his supporters not only that the results are flawed, but also that the democratic process has been seized by shadowy forces who are wielding it as a tool of oppression,” wrote Max Fisher in the New York Times.
Trump and the movement he represents intend to brand Hillary Clinton, were she to win, an illegitimate president. It is not hard to envision Trump setting himself up as president in exile.
This is a demented extension of the racist GOP treatment of President Obama. From the get-go they (and the Koch brothers and other billionaires) refused to recognize the legitimacy of his presidency, engaging in scurrilous obstruction and sabotage for eight years.
At a minimum it ignores the obvious. If the voting system is rigged, it’s the GOP that has accomplished this through cookie cutter voter suppression laws and gutting the Voting Rights Act by the then right-wing dominated U.S. Supreme Court.
For sure, Trump is the fruit of the seeds of hate the GOP and right-wing have been sowing for the past 30 years. Directed at white voters, extreme right ideology has found fertile soil in discontent, economic insecurity and fear faced by millions.
Trump is Tea Party 2.0. His statements are a clarion call to his supporters to engage in a struggle to overthrow the will of the majority.
When Trump hired former Breitbart News president Steven K. Bannon as his campaign chair and Roger Ailes of Fox News, he handed the keys to the Alt-right, the movement of political gangsterism with deep ties to Neo-Nazi, KKK, survivalists and those subscribing to anti-Semitic conspiracies of an “elite global cabal” and “international bankers” and an assortment of other fascist fringe and arch-authoritarian types.
With Trump’s nomination, these forces have taken over the Republican Party.
As Hillary Clinton starkly warned, “All of this adds up to something we have never seen before. Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, a lot of it rising from racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.”
This combination of the machinery of a major political party with the Alt-right mass media platform has created a new level of danger to democracy and peace.
These groups are enthralled each time Trump repeats their words and regurgitates their ideas in tweets and speeches, all the while denying with a wink and feigned ignorance any connection to them. He has brought their racism, Xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism into the mainstream.
They grow bolder when Trump eggs on violence at his rallies, threatens to investigate and jail Clinton if elected, suggests his “2nd Amendment” supporters assassinate her, vows to take legal action against those charging him with sexual assault and his appeal for thugs and vigilantes to intimidate voters.
If it were Trump alone it would be bad enough. But others are stoking the fires including Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) who stated, “blood may be shed” if Hillary Clinton is elected. It is easy to see how the right-wing extremism and authoritarianism of today’s GOP could morph into something far worse.
This ilk is no stranger to our history. We cannot forget the bestiality of the slavocracy, the genocide of Native people’s, the terror of the KKK and massacres of African Americans that followed the overthrow of Reconstruction, heinous lynching of people of color, the outlawing of communists, trampling of democratic rights and the act of “thinking” during the dark days of McCarthyism, anti-Semitism or the history of rampant police violence, killing, lawlessness and unaccountability, the rounding up of undocumented immigrants, the forced back alley abortions, or the gruesome murders and repression of LGBTQ peoples.
Regardless of the election outcome, the movement Trump started will continue. A new kind of authoritarian and fascist movement is emerging capable of engaging millions and funded by right-wing billionaires.
The thought that Trump stands poised at the White House door ready to usher into government these forces with one hand while grasping the nuclear trigger with the other, has generated widespread alarm.
The warning is not just coming from the left and progressive forces, but from sections of the U.S. ruling class itself, Democratic and Republican Party establishments, corporate media and even conservative opinion makers.
It is being met with an all-people’s rising across the political spectrum to defeat hate and defend democracy; a broad, loose multi-class alliance of millions with the labor-led people’s coalition at its center.
The first step to defeating this danger is a landslide victory on Nov. 8 that will inflict a devastating setback to Trump and the GOP majorities in Congress and statehouses and help to isolate it in the post-election period.
The unambiguous mandate must be sent – the American people will not stand for it. We reject hate and stand in solidarity with all those being victimized and to defend our democratic institutions.
But the struggle to unite the broadest array of forces to defend, expand and deepen democracy and erode Trump’s base of support will also continue after the election. The labor-led people’s coalition is already gearing up to win the Democratic Party platform, the most progressive of any major party in history. This includes a massive infrastructure project, building a sustainable energy economy, and expanding voting and democratic rights for all.
It should also include a new stage of building the labor-led people’s movements at the grassroots all across the country, especially deep within “Red States” and “Red Districts,” in white communities and communities of color alike, that will advance a united people’s agenda of radical reconstruction and transformation of the country’s economic, political and democratic system.