Fascism and the Current National Emergency

After the election it seemed to me that it would be a good idea to ignore what Trump tweeted or said, and wait to see what he and the people he surrounded himself with would actually do. We’ve been finding this out over the past few days, and today the nature of the problem we face is now clear. The actions ordered today that are now being carried out by US officials around the world are the product of a deranged and dangerous personality who has surrounded himself with similar others. This is a national emergency with no parallel in our history.

While the US has never seen the likes of this situation, Europe has, with Trump following a playbook familiar from the history of the 1930s. At this point the US may be one terrorist attack away from full-blown Fascism, this time with nuclear weapons. This needs to be stopped, now.

The Constitution does provide two ways to deal with something like this: either the impeachment process or removal under the Twenty-Fifth Amendment as “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Many of Trump’s recent statements are clearly the product of delusional mind that is incapable of dealing with reality, and these delusions are now reflected in his actions.

Removing Trump and those he has surrounded himself with will require the cooperation of a significant number of Republican legislators. Anyone who cares about US democracy should be trying to figure out how to get this to happen. Those of us in the US desperately need some good ideas about how to do this. Those in other countries should be pressing their governments and institutions to fight back against the US, as well as doing what they can to keep their own societies from following the US down this path.

I’m moderating comments here and will only post one kind of comment: positive ideas about what to do about this emergency situation. At this point I think what’s needed are ideas way beyond suggestions of a “scientist’s march” to promote rationality. We need to figure out how to fight a new form of Fascism that has just come to power and is starting to rule by decree.

Update: With the Republican Congress so far deciding to sit back and let Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller rule by decree, all hopes for now are with the Judiciary. Last night a judge issued an emergency stay on parts of the executive order, this was followed by a statement from Miller on behalf of the White House that the order “remains in full, complete and total effect.” The suggestion to donate to the ACLU is a good one, they are on the front lines here.

The President of my institution, Columbia University, at 1 am sent an email to the University community denouncing this executive order and involving the University in this in an unprecedented way:

As I have said on many occasions, it is critically important that the University, as such, not take stands on ideological or political issues. Yet it is also true that the University, as an institution in the society, must step forward to object when policies and state action conflict with its fundamental values, and especially when they bespeak purposes and a mentality that are at odds with our basic mission. This is such a case.

There is a petition being signed by academics here, which likely will have no effect, but I signed it anyway, and you may want to too.

Update: A small glimmer of hope: a joint statement criticizing the executive order by Republican senators McCain and Graham, and a Twitter response from Trump identifying any opposition from them as “looking to start World War III”. World War III between Trump and Republican senators is what we all need to root for.

Worth watching: news reports that the Trump administration is defying court orders requiring access to lawyers by detainees at Dulles airport. A decision by Trump and his people to defy court orders would provide grounds for impeachment.

Update: Just wrote the following to a correspondent, thought I might as well also post it here.

My advice would be to consider focusing on the following, and not getting distracted by the blizzard of appalling things one might reasonably find concerning about the current situation:

  • It was unclear who would actually be running things in a Trump administration (since Trump himself clearly neither knows nor cares about anything other than getting attention) until the past couple days. The answer now seems to be that it’s Steve Bannon of Breitbart. Bannon is a self-described “Leninist”, see for instance.

    His self-described goal is to tear the country apart: “to destroy the state… destroy all of today’s establishment.” This means he’s not just our enemy, but is also the enemy of much of the Republican Party, including for example John McCain and Lindsey Graham. He’s also not about to let himself be thwarted by the courts. I think we’re already seeing defiance of court orders, with a lot more of that to come.

  • There’s always the possibility of something like a military coup, but the only constitutional way out of this is impeachment or the 25th amendment route. This requires convincing a sizable number of Republican legislators that they have to abandon Trump and support his removal. To me, the big question here is what can be done to make that happen. How does one get the Republican establishment (legislators and/or Fox News, Wall Street Journal, etc.) to turn on Trump? My guess is that where they are now is that they know they have a problem on their hands, but are deathly afraid of Trump’s supporters, of ending up with their heads on a pike.
  • There’s not much time here. Looking at history, what happens next in this kind of situation is some episode of violence gets used to rally the country to the leader and justify his assumption of emergency power to rule by decree. We’re one episode of some enraged person shooting a lot of people away from that happening, in a country full of heavily armed angry people.
  • The best, most successful thing to hope for here is something I and maybe many of you find a depressing prospect: President Pence. But, there we are.

Hoping I’m wrong about all of this…

Update: Thanks to commenter Fred P. for the link to this. For something sensible from a conservative, see this by Eliot A. Cohen, which includes:

For the community of conservative thinkers and experts, and more importantly, conservative politicians, this is a testing time. Either you stand up for your principles and for what you know is decent behavior, or you go down, if not now, then years from now, as a coward or opportunist. Your reputation will never recover, nor should it.

Update: There was an incident last night (in Quebec City) of an enraged person shooting a lot of innocent people, killing 6 and wounding 8 others. Since the shooter was an Islamophobe and the victims were Muslims praying at a mosque, so this was of no use to Trump/Bannon, this has gotten just about zero attention.

Update: The Quebec City shooter was a Trump fan radicalized by Marine Le Pen.

Update: Terry Tao has a blog entry about this, emphasizing the damage to the math community.

: Leonard Susskind has also decided to issue a statement warning about Fascism and the Trump administration, using his YouTube channel.

Update: For commentary from historians of the rise of fascism in Germany on analogies with the current situation in the US, see Ron Rosenbaum and Isabel Virgina Hull.

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52 Responses to Fascism and the Current National Emergency

  1. martibal says:

    About the attack in Quebec, this morning on the Quebec news this was called an “attentat terroriste” (“terrorist attack” is a fair traduction I think), not an incident. See e.g. http://ici.radio-canada.ca/nouvelle/1013929/attentat-terroriste-a-quebec-qui-est-le-suspect

  2. Peter Woit says:

    A couple points:

    1. It never occurred to me that impeaching Bush was a good or viable idea.

    2. The Republicans don’t share Holt’s view at all (see the Bill Clinton case). Do you really think that, if Hilary Clinton had managed to win the election with a minority of the popular vote, the Republican House would not already have drawn up articles of impeachment?. The Republicans have, since the Clinton era, adopted extreme tactics of personal attack to delegitimize their opposition and drive them from power. In recent years this has been extremely successful and it’s the cause of why we are where we are. Should the Democrats continue to avoid using such tactics themselves, given where it has gotten them? Sure, impeaching Trump will require widespread public support. Let’s figure out how to get that.

    All: I’m shutting off comments on this. Having said my piece, I think it best for my sanity to spend time for now on other things than this.

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