Trump’s Plan To Go Full-On Fascist If He Wins In 2024

If elected, the former president and his allies are planning a wholesale restructuring of the executive branch that would give him sweeping presidential power.
Former President Donald Trump speaks Aug. 4 at a fundraiser for the Alabama GOP in Montgomery.
Former President Donald Trump speaks Aug. 4 at a fundraiser for the Alabama GOP in Montgomery.
Butch Dill/Associated Press

There are several compelling reasons to keep Donald Trump from returning to the White House. But one reason is more crucial than the rest because its prospect is frighteningly real despite being wholly antithetical to our nation’s founding principles.

No, I’m not talking about the latest indictment against him by the special counsel on four counts related to attempts to overturn the 2020 election (which eventually led to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol). Or the case a Georgia prosecutor is expected to present to a grand jury next week. It’s actually something worse. If he’s elected president again.

Trump and his allies are planning a wholesale restructuring of the executive branch that would give him sweeping presidential power over the entire machinery of government with near complete impunity.

Put simply, every part of the federal government, every agency, every department that has always operated independently from political interference by the White House — that will end, according to a detailed New York Times review of Trump’s campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him.

I suppose one should be skeptical of any headline that includes the words “Trump” and “plans,” as the Times headline does, but it certainly appears the emperor wants new clothes.

The Plot

The basis for this effort is a political thesis called the “unitary executive theory,” long popular with conservatives, which posits that the Constitution gives a president the authority to control all executive action. It is a theory, one not codified in law. It has one recent Supreme Court case in its favor, but barely, vaguely, and far too narrowly to be a slam dunk. Even the Framers, when crafting our founding laws granting certain presidential powers, didn’t mean those powers to be unlimited. Indeed, many feared that a president would overstep those designated powers and become like the very king they had rebelled against. This is why they created a tripartite system giving each branch of government the power to check the other two branches.

None of that seems to matter to these conspirators, dare I use such an appellation. It cannot be stressed enough: If Trump’s wishes come to fruition, regulatory federal agencies like the Department of Justice, the State Department, the intelligence community, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and every tentacle of the Defense Department would all be under the direct presidential control of Donald Trump.

That’s not all.

Trump, who has always viewed the civil service as a giant nest of “deep staters” and “rogue bureaucrats,” wants to strip employment protections from career civil servants and fire anyone he deems an obstacle to his agenda. In this case, the word “obstacle” means “if they don’t like him,” or as Trump has put it, “the sick political class that hates our country.”

Schedule F, a controversial job classification system, would give Trump the power to fire workers at will who would then have no recourse for appeals. His aides drafted the order near the end of his presidency, which he signed but never implemented. President Joe Biden rescinded the order, but Trump wants to bring it back, and his aides have identified 50,000 current employees for possible dismissal. Relax. They hope to only fire enough to create a “chilling effect” that will force everyone else to fall in line.

Jawohl, mein Anführer!

Trump has already shown a propensity for this sort of vindictiveness. After being acquitted in his first impeachment, he went on what Vox Media called “a personnel replacement tear,” a purge, firing and threatening to fire officials he saw as disloyal.

It would be more than just power; it would be a revenge agenda, something Trump has promised on the campaign trail and a midterm promise that House Republicans are keeping with single-minded zeal. A true weaponized government.

Call all this what you like: a dictatorship, authoritarianism, fascism, a monarchy — I imagine Trump would prefer to be thought of as a king. Whatever you choose to call it, you won’t be able to call it the country the Founding Fathers crafted and envisioned.

The thing is, Trump and his allies aren’t even trying to hide any of this. It’s out there, in Trump’s rallies, online and in white papers. They are openly describing it to the media industry’s most respected news organization, The New York Times.

Trump’s critics often cite his autocratic desires, but as I read the Times article, the proposals therein and comments by some of Trump’s allies, I couldn’t help feeling as though I was reading about some of those populist leaders Trump has praised, like Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, China’s Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un.

It is stunning just to read some of the statements from people behind this effort that the Times had interviewed. They’ll tell you this is about democratic reform. You decide:

The notion of independent federal agencies or federal employees who don’t answer to the president violates the very foundation of our democratic republic. — Kevin D. Roberts, president of the Heritage Foundation, who added that supporters are committed to “dismantling this rogue administrative state.”

What we’re trying to do is identify the pockets of independence and seize them. — 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.

Our current executive branch 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. — John McEntee, the White House personnel chief who launched Trump’s deliberate and methodical effort to remove officials deemed to be disloyal in 2020.

Let’s go through those statements one by one. Roberts talks of dismantling a rogue administrative state. Didn’t we have four years of that when Trump was in office? If Roberts thinks the Biden administration is a rogue entity, just try giving, not some like last time, but all the power this time to an undisciplined puerile narcissistic protofascist like Donald Trump.

Vought says they plan to seize pockets of independence. Oh, you mean like French Resistance fighters of World War II or those crazy revolutionaries who threw British tea into Boston Harbor? This is the kind of language you use when talking about coup attempts, not democratic reforms.

And then there’s the complete system overhaul of the executive branch that McEntee envisions. Why, is the government so broken that we need to craft a new one in Trump’s image? Much of what’s “broken” is because of him.

And what’s this business about wanting an executive branch operating in a “conservative manner”? You mean, in addition to canning officials who didn’t bend their knee to your Dear Leader, we should dismiss anyone who might be interested in a government structure that also — not exclusively, but also — addresses the concerns of liberal-minded citizens? You do realize, Mr. McEntee, that the structure of this government was crafted more than two centuries ago by far better Americans than you and your breed. Those men took up arms against precisely the “manner” of government you are proposing.

Frankly, I don’t think any of this is Trump’s doing. It may be his desire, but these “allies” are more than just allies. Instead, people like Vought and Edwards are his handlers. Trump is too damned dumb, or lazy or both, to understand how our government is supposed to work. He’s simply a useful idiot for the people plotting to restructure the executive branch. They are the ones who want the power. Trump is just a proxy, a patsy. What else could he be, as evidenced by this typically bumbling response to a question on a subject about which he knew nothing? Watch the moment. He’s even worse at covering up how clueless he is, yet one wonders how many Trump worshippers might think, “Oh, that answer makes a lot of sense.”

If Donald Trump has a unique gift, it’s his ability to make his devoted followers look like complete dimwits and worse when they spout their usual righteously rehearsed defense of him.

The Puppet Masters

So who is pulling his strings, the power behind the throne? It’s a well-funded network of conservative think tanks and policymaking groups stacked with former senior Trump administration officials, many of them sure to play key roles in any second term. The groups include the Heritage Foundation, which has steered conservative personnel and policy since the Reagan administration, the America First Policy Institute (I wonder where they got that name from) and Project 2025, a transition operation in which Vought and McEntee are involved that has positioned itself to influence and guide the Republican winner in 2024 whether it’s Trump or not. So far, none of the other Republican primary candidates has offered much, if any, disapproval.

“These groups are operating on multiple fronts, Axios reported, “shaping policies, identifying top lieutenants, curating an alternative labor force of unprecedented scale, and preparing for legal challenges and defenses that might go before Trump-friendly judges, all the way to a 6-3 Supreme Court.”

Conservative retired federal judge J. Michael Luttig put it more bluntly in a scathing opinion article for The New York Times:

No assemblage of politicians except the Republicans would ever conceive of running for the American presidency by running against the Constitution and the rule of law. But that’s exactly what they’re planning.

Don’t think any of this is beyond the realm of possibility. They could easily trick people into thinking such a connivance would be OK in a second Trump administration. Conservatives already have willing surrogates in cable, print and online. It took almost no effort to dupe millions of people into a cult mindset, believing in stolen election conspiracy theories or that Trump broke no federal laws in taking classified documents.

Control of all federal branches would mean control of the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television, radio and internet companies. You can imagine an effort to neutralize the power of a media that routinely has exposed Trump’s well-documented lies and improprieties.

“Domesticating” the media is a priority of autocrats, as is crafting a compliant judiciary, something Hungary’s Viktor Orbán succeeded in doing after taking office in 2012. It should surprise no one that in their 2019 White House meeting, Trump praised Orbán for doing “a tremendous job in so many different ways.”

Imagine the Federal Reserve losing its independence and having its regulatory functions subjected to White House control.

“It’s very hard to square the Fed’s independence with the Constitution,” Vought told the Times.

This is an institution Trump publicly assailed during his presidency. What if he could order the Fed to lower interest rates before elections, despite their warnings that such a move would hurt the economy? Imagine a person with no intellectual capacity to understand how an economy works and whose entire history has been pockmarked by an endless string of business failures dismissing monetary policy professionals and Nobel-winning economists.

Who cares? As long as it keeps me and my political allies in power! Hell, who needs the Senate to confirm all those agency heads (as required by law)? Sure, that’s part of our government’s checks-and-balances design, but let’s not trifle over such conceits. Let our great leader pick all his cronies, roughly 4,000 of them, in case you’re counting.

If Russell Vought and his cabal are consistent in their beliefs, I’d be curious to get their thoughts on their unitary fantasies under the presidency of, say, a Bernie Sanders or Gavin Newsom. Whaddya say, Russ? Let’s see just how devoted you’d be then to “identify the pockets of independence and seize them.”

The Puppets

We’re talking about someone facing, at this writing, nearly six dozen criminal charges, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and violations of the Espionage Act, and who has another criminal investigation in the works over election interference. Yet an average of national polls from FiveThirtyEight finds Trump nearly 40 percentage points ahead of his next closest rival for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

That’s what makes this even more remarkable. MAGA Republicans see all the criminal proceedings against Trump as noise, but were the shoe on the other foot, had a Democratic president incited a mob to storm the Capitol to stop the constitutional process of certifying votes for a Republican president or sent a phony slate of electors to try to overturn his election loss or refused to return classified documents that had been strewn about his private residence, they would be storming the gates with pitchforks and torches.

It was Trump who pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify the Electoral College count. It was Trump who called Georgia’s secretary of state asking him to find — manufacture, really — enough votes to flip that state’s election results —11,780 more votes, in case you forgot.

And you want to insist on stolen elections? Who tried stealing what from whom here?

And now Trump basically wants to steal the government, your government.

How do you square that circle? They’ll try, and they’ll look utterly incoherent in the process. You watch the posts in the comments section — any comments section. It’ll sound like this daffy woman.

Or you might sound like J.D. Vance, the Republican senator from Ohio, who told HuffPost that such a power grab is “necessary to have a constitutional republic.”

“To have true separation of powers,” Vance said, “the president has to have the prerogative over the administration of laws. If you have all these alphabet-soup agencies where the bureaucrats can’t be fired and aren’t under [the] control of the president, you’ve effectively created a fourth branch of government totally unaccountable to the people. That’s a real problem.”

Um, no. That’s called authoritarianism, and that would be a problem. Presidential power is limited to protect our democracy from a power-hungry president. The prospect of removing guardrails and centralizing even greater power over government is directly at odds with what the Framers sought.

Do we really want to give more power than the office already holds to a person who, when he held office, was a chaotic, undisciplined train wreck?

But let’s try a simple mental exercise. Take Trump’s name out of what you’ve been reading and replace it with “Obama.” Change the party from Republican to Democrat and the ideology from conservative to liberal. Whaddya think, Trump voter? Mr. Vance? Still OK with this idea?

Responses from other Republican lawmakers who spoke to HuffPost were hardly reassuring. You’d think they’d be raising Cain over a power grab like the one Trump wants. Instead, their responses were cautious, understated pablum.

We know why. A strong response against Trump might cost them votes and/or incur Trump’s wrath. So the best we can get is meandering milquetoast that can easily be “clarified” later, as needed.

Where are the Democrats? Why aren’t they screaming about this? Their silence is deafening. And alarming.

But what the heck? Let’s give more unfettered power to this guy. We don’t need all those pesky agencies making regulations to protect workers, consumers, the economy, the environment, legal matters or international affairs. We need an all-powerful autocrat like Donald Trump to tell us exactly what we can and cannot do. And, of course, once we tire of this dictator, Trump or whomever, he or she will accept the will of the people as indicated at the ballot box in a free and fair election and step aside. That’s the way it works with dictatorships, right? Right!?

The Peril

Given his status as the runaway GOP front-runner, this is not a matter to be taken lightly. Revenge and a desire to increase power are not qualities of leadership; they are the qualities of petty men and reckless despots. And if voters think the same way and want Trump back in the Oval Office for those same reasons, consider this warning from a speech by Abraham Lincoln in 1858:

Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you prepare your own limbs to wear them.

This issue, this brazen attempt to take over the government and squash opposition by creating unlimited power in the executive branch, should be front and center in all of the Democratic Party campaign strategies. This is not something to be dismissed as fringe or party extremism; this is who the GOP is, providing us with a litmus test, debating freedom against authoritarianism. If those in positions of power on all levels do not see this as a credible threat to the democratic ideals that this country was founded upon, then we are doomed.

A little too hyperbolic for your tastes? Well, if you prefer a laissez-faire approach, thinking, “No worries, he’s not ever going to be president again,” just remember: That is precisely the attitude that got him into office the first time.

I’m not saying this is a future that will be, but one that might be. So how about we just err on the side of caution and keep Trump and his overlords out of power? Permanently.

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