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. Robert Gauthier says:

    Anyone that thinks this is going to end peacefully is naïve. Don’t forget there was a constituency that voted him into power that will see his removal as an attack on them as a class. They are armed, and think they have nothing to lose. This is a recipe for civil war.

  2. Vadim Zeitlin says:

    Civic disobedience is the only non-catastrophic way out of this situation that I see. Right now, there must be at least some immigration officials able to put their moral principles above the principle of subordination and they should be encouraged by everyone who values American democracy to do just this. And this, unfortunately, probably won’t stay limited to just the immigration officials, so even if you don’t know of those, it’s still worth trying to disseminate the idea that illegal and immoral orders must not be followed as widely as possible.

  3. Heinz Lackner says:

    Flipping 4 Senate and 24 House seats would be the cleanest road to impeachment. That is unfortunately 21 month away. In the meantime, we have to speak up, unite and remind a handful of Republican Senators that they can stop this nonsense by showing that Country comes before Party and their own reelection.

  4. Trump has enormous power because his predecessors — especially Bush and Obama — usurped powers for the presidency that were never authorized by the Constitution. These include the power to take the country to war, the power to rewrite bills passed by Congress, the power to unilaterally create new laws via executive orders, the power to summarily execute (via drone) whomever the president decides is dangerous, etc. It’s time to roll back the imperial presidency. This is a project in which Constitutionalist conservatives would gladly cooperate with Democrats.

    Here’s a good start:

  5. Robert Gauthier says:

    As far as impeachment goes, does anyone think Pence will be much of an improvement? He may well be worse given he knows how the system works and just how far it can be pushed before it breaks.

  6. neil says:

    Write or phone your congressional representative right now and express your outrage and disgust with this order. Encourage everyone you know to do the same. PLEASE.

  7. Bee says:

    It’ll not help in the present situation, but in the long run I think the US voting system should be overhauled by the constitutional court. In Germany the voting system is basically constantly ruled unconstitutional and being fixed in one way or the other because it doesn’t appropriately guarantee a good representation of the people’s will. It’s beyond me why the same isn’t happening in the US.

    Something else that comes to mind. In Germany, the president (not the chancellor) can call for new elections. Is there a similar arrangement in the US? Circumstances that can require a new election?

    I find it not without irony that we owe much of our democratic system to Americans, but they failed to update their own system.

  8. Chris says:

    You should include the link to the petition:


  9. AS says:

    Bien étonné de se trouver ensemble… While (unfortunately) I cannot give any suggestions on how to act, indeed one of the most serious threats to democracy is that it is very fragile by its very nature and that it can easily be destroyed from within, I can suggest a book with scary parallels and which convincingly shows how fast things could deteriorate. Perhaps better than “1984”, one should (re)read Philip Roth’s “Plot Against America”.

  10. S says:

    Pence is very right-wing; he is not mentally unstable. Failure to distinguish those things at this time, while perhaps painful for the left, will be very dangerous to the country.

    I don’t think Trump can be impeached yet. Not only is it not that clear that his actions so far constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” but even if it were (and arguably, of course, it is), I do not think it is possible yet that sufficient political will exists at this time (see Robert Gauthier’s comment above). What I do think is worth pursuing is working to get conservatives in important positions to *privately* swing against Trump. Then, given the excuse, they can impeach him and hopefully will.

    To this end, I think two things are important. First, the left, which is the primary (but not only) source of dissent right now, must *religiously* distinguish between “policies we really hate that are nevertheless mainstream conservative goals for decades,” and “unhinged, fascist policies.” This is difficult given the high-rhetoric times in which we live, but it is key. Few conservatives are going to be genuinely upset about reduced abortion funding, for example. Plenty can be talked into being upset about building a wall, instituting tariffs by executive action, closing down immigration or keeping out permanent residents. Rhetoric such as the above — “is Pence really better than Trump?” — is exactly the opposite of what I am proposing. Pence is very conservative, but if you genuinely can’t distinguish him from a maybe-Hitler, then any attempt to convince Republicans to work with you on this is going to be futile.

    And next, having chosen to focus on those overreaches that, genuinely, any sane American of goodwill, of any political persuasion, must find abominable, the left should reach out to actively join with the few conservative voices that have been saying the same thing. This will involve, once again, pain: allying with a George Will, a David French, even a Matt Walsh will be horribly distasteful to those who believe those men’s opinions represent bigotry. But that, I think, is the hard step that leading voices on the left and in academia must take if they want to have any hope of getting the attention, and changing the behavior, of Republican Congressmen to the extent that they impeach their own President.

  11. Shecky R says:

    Given the intransigence and simplemindedness of Trump supporters I fear there are only bad solutions to get through this crisis. I’ll stand in jaw-dropping awe of our Founding Fathers if we do somehow emerge peacefully from this grievous situation.

  12. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    The Republican Congress has more or less fallen in line, unwilling to even acknowledge earlier congressional statutes (e.g. the Immigration and Nationality Act). The Democrats’ political incompetence has left them neutered. I see little hope outside of Federal courts, assuming legal challenges to Trump’s orders don’t make appeals all the way to the Supreme Court, which soon will be the the last branch of the Federal Govt. to fall. Donate to the ACLU, I guess. They’re going to be very, very busy these next four years.

  13. sdf says:

    It was pointed out by lawyers associated with the former Bush administration that Trump was open to impeachment as soon as he is inaugurated because he had stated that he would not (and has not) placed executive control of his various business interests in an independent trust (actually there seems to some who interpret the relevant laws as meaning that he would have to sell his business interests). It was reported that such legal proceeding are already under way. Just yesterday Democracy Now! had an interview with Prof. Richard Painter, who is professor of corporate law at U of Minnesota and was in Bush administration regarding same (also he is one of the complainants in lawsuit), the transcript of that interview is here


  14. AR says:

    We are not that far from full-blown fascism here in Europe, either. Just a few (hackable ?) elections and (false-flag ?) terrorists attacks away. In my opinion, we really are witnessing textbook fascism, advancing all over the world. My advice, and what I am going to do: Try your utmost to preserve your integrity and credibility, at any price (it won’t be easy). Try your utmost to be compassionate, to build bridges between people. Try your utmost to understand why many chose to vote for Trump, why many are going to vote for Le Pen, why many for two decades have voted for Berlusconi. Try not to despise them unnecessarily, but try to understand them, their daily struggles, the extreme precariousness of their lives, their despised and dying communities (all of which does not justify their choices, but try to understand those choices), because otherwise it is may be going to degenerate into a civil war and it will play into these fascists’ hands. Remember Orwell’s 1984: War is Peace.
    Again: Try your utmost to preserve your integrity and credibility, at any price (it won’t be easy). I am a primary-school teacher, and that is going to be my ground (my task). I’ll give it my best.

  15. Nate says:

    Heinz Lapman: It requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate to remove a President, so flipping 4 Senators is not enough.

    Bee: no court in the US has the authority to change or eliminate the Electoral College. That could only be done by ammending the Constitution, which would require 2/3 majority in Congress and ratification by 3/4 of the States. (Necessarily including many small states that have disproportionate power now. In fact an ammendment to reduce one state’s representation in the Senate must be approved specifically by that State.) So changes seem very unlikely. And no, there is no mechanism for calling for a new electricion.

  16. Anonyrat says:

    Note that Congress is crucial to holding the UnPresident in check or even removing him.

    1. Attend your representative’s town hall meetings and ask questions.
    2. Call your representative’s office in Washington DC and talk to the staff who take the call.

    These are the two most effective methods for individual voters with no significant money to donate to a political campaign, to influence their representatives.

    To do better than this, you will need to work in concert with others, i.e., through organization.

  17. Felipe Pait says:

    At this point the only thing we can do – have to do! – is cede no ground. The main instrument of defense are the courts. We have to hope that with a tireless defense of our liberties and of good government, cracks will appear in the administration – they are altogether not competent at the business of running things and will make mistakes.

    How we prevent them from continuing the unconstitutional power grab they are executing depends on the nature of the illicit activities that are uncovered. The situation is not ready for immediate impeachment, but we don’t have the luxury of waiting 2 years until the midterm election. In the meantime, special attention must be paid to vote suppression – the repeated lies about nonexistent fraud have to be understood as a declaration of intent to commit electoral fraud, and in that they will have support from the Republican party.

  18. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    Anyone who thinks Trump is going to be impeached over emoluments is, I’m terribly sorry, smoking crack. Impeachment is a vote. It requires those casting the votes to have a moral compass and a spine. There isn’t enough of either to get to a supermajority in the legislative branch, my friends, so dream on. Trump could eat a baby on live TV and Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would choke down the leftovers if they thought that would play well to Trump’s base. They’ve as much as demonstrated it. And the Democrats…well, most of the midterm flipping will be happening in Trump Country, so don’t expect them to be casting themselves on any pyres.

    The very sad truth is we progressives have very few, if any, levers of Federal power to push on, and the quislings in charge on both sides of the aisle can be expected to try to ride the populist wave so as to keep their careers afloat. Kirsten Gillibrand (of all people) can’t do it alone, folks. And aside from a few grey-hairs like Sanders, she may as well be.

    We’re facing a very long game here, and the damage to be undone is so extensive it’s hard to fight off a sense of total despair. The Democratic party, already gasping for life prior to 2016, has been so badly pummeled that it’s risking total and permanent irrelevance beyond its safe urban coastal enclaves.Republicans top Democrats in state legislative seats by at least 1000 (i.e. Republicans are about 3/5 in control, with 17 states having veto-proof majorities). It’s worse at the executive level, with 33 GOP governors to the Dem’s 16. The opposition, such as it was, has been routed.

    We have no choice but to suck it up or get involved at the local level. That’s going to be a very uncomfortable position for many people. My sense is collectively we’re not the types who spoiling for a fight with our neighbors, and don’t much relish the idea of bricks through our windows, or worse. But that’s the reality that left-wing collusion and complacency has wrought. There’s not going to be a quick fix, and some of whatever damage is coming may be irreparable. That’s the reality. We either leave, take it, or fight at the grass-roots level by running for office, which I’m guessing the vast majority of us have little time or stomach for. But I see no other long-term alternative, and the short term is grim enough.

  19. Tyrkky says:

    Almost 50% did not bother to vote at all. I don’t think many of them would had voted for Trump – more likely they were discouraged because Dems did not offer anything to them. You need to get them understand that sometimes one has to vote for the lesser evil. Keep making noise and maybe enough will wake up to make a difference next time.

  20. anon says:

    “And no, there is no mechanism for calling for a new electricion.”

    … well, in that case I guess the last one out of the country had better switch off the lights.

  21. johndoe_fr says:

    Sympathies from this French reader to the all the US citizens harmed directly or symbolically by these executive orders. The only two pieces of advice I can think of are:
    (a) plan his next possible moves and take judiciary counter-measures early to make it that bit harder for him and his team (among his next moves is that trade war with China for instance) ;
    (b) since people voted for him mainly for jobs and anti-immigrant policies, the only way to turn his base away from him is to provide jobs to those people before he does (e.g. collectively fund small businesses in the Rust Belt, buy their stuff, and make sure the folks know their wages or income is from well-meaning democratic-leaning folks), as well as show that the anti-immigrant policies weaken the economy. Clearly a job of many years, the aim being that he’s not re-elected.

  22. Abby yorker says:

    I am one of the few to vote twice against mr trump…in the general and also in the Texas primary, where I pretended to be a republican.

    But I agree with others that impeachment is not in the cards at this early stage and I would not personally support it given the current information. I look forward to the congressional elections…if there is not a reversal of the majority, then I think we have to live with trump for the whole 4 or 8 years.

    Yes, American democracy is a little risky. They had an interesting episode on that in that series, “west wing”.

    My recommendation is along the lines of ACLU support. But pick your own recipient, the cause you feel is most pressing. I myself am contributing to Planned Parenthood, which appears to be losing federal funding. Perhaps billionaires could donate significant sums to completely replace federal funding in key areas.

  23. abby yorker says:

    Thinking a little more about my previous comment. I would like to see a web site that shows all federal funding recipients together with cuts imposed by the trump administration. There would be a running count of imbalances not covered by current contributions, assuming that the recipients would be willing provide this information. User would use the information to decide on the best use of their donations.

    I think that obvious issues with this scheme (e.g. accuracy of donations quoted by recipients) could be worked out.

  24. This “How to effectively talk to your member of congress” advice from a former congressional staffer got some press after the election:

    In addition to emphasizing that phone calls are more effective than letters, she argues that it’s more effective to contact the local (district) office rather than the DC office. It’s also possible to arrange to visit the local office and speak with staff in person. I did that with an anti-war group in ’02 or ’03.

    My favorite comment about online petitions comes from former Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA): “Signing an online petition is like scratching your nose. Nobody in Congress is impressed because you pushed a button on an online petition. What matters is individual communication.”

    That said, I’m not optimistic about much of substance coming out of Congress for the foreseeable future. In the meantime I would like to see the “moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws” (and executive orders) gain more prominence in popular consciousness and discussion, since I anticipate many more unjust orders from this administration. I’m quoting the phrase from King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, and of course the idea has a long history. Here’s a short article about it (that I’m sharing in part because Larry Rockwood is an acquaintance of mine):

  25. Eddie Dealtry says:

    Speaking from outside USA, was hoping you guys would remove your ‘leader’ from the world stage by investigating his tax affairs as you eventually removed Al Copone from organised crime.

  26. Tom Robert says:

    I think many are missing the point. Trump is not alone. Hitler was not alone. So it is not a matter of getting rid of a crackpot. It is a matter of civil disobedience, patience and resolve…

  27. Code Ferret says:

    To be blunt, we are either confronted with 1) an incompetent administration fueled by a reality TV sensibility; or 2) we are experiencing the early stages of a coup. I assume 2) for a variety of reasons, including a) Bannon is ex-Navy and worked at a high-level in the Pentagon; b) Flynn is an experienced hand in the Intel community; c) Giuliani is a crank with actual experience in governance and law. Trump has an immense talent w.r.t. media manipulation along with obvious personality characteristics that would be disqualifying in most other pursuits than national politics and TV.

    So what is the remedy? As others have pointed out civil disobedience is number one on the list of actions and needs to be taken early and relentlessly until this administration is ended. It’s not just the Immigration EO but also Standing Rock, the assault on EPA and so on.

    Another action is to ensure that all government databases across the board are cloned outside the control of the U.S. government. For example, the ncbi.nlm.nih.gov is over 9 Pb and is in part replicated via bio-mirror.net around the planet but not in its entirety. Those with the resources to help preserve decades of quality U.S. Federal collected data in all areas of study should help to create resilient distributed collections that can be referred to in the event of suppression by the current anti-science, anti-elite administration.

  28. piscator says:

    (echoing previous comments)

    Focus single-mindedly on the marginal Trump effect, i.e. policies or actions that are unique to Trump and are not standard Republican policies. To be more than simply party politics, a case has to be made that a Trump presidency is qualitatively different (and qualitatively less preferable) than e.g. a Mike Pence presidency 0r a Ted Cruz presidency.

  29. Peter Woit says:

    Something I ran across that seems worth thinking about, coming at the issue from the supposed opposite side of the political spectrum, an article in the Washington Post advising us what to do about Trump, based on the author’s experiences with Chavismo in Venezuela.


  30. KingJohn says:

    One positive way forward is suggested by “Justice Democrats”, supported by Cenk Uygur of TYT along with former Bernie staffers. TYT also supports the long-term solution of
    overturning Citizens’ United through state-by-state referendum: WoflPac.com. Bernie’s movement Our Revolution is also a great way forward.

    Mathematicians should keep in mind part of how we got in this mess: that a brilliant computer scientist Robert Mercer, CEO of Renaissance Technology (after Jim Simons stepped down) and his daughter Rebekka are responsible for bringing us Bannon, Kellyanne Conway and Trump. Unfortunately, Jim Simons’ many wonderful contributions to math, science and the environment will probably
    be overshadowed 10,000 times by Mercer’s negative counterweight.

    Koch, Adelson, Mercer and other extremist billionaires have been following a clever long-term game, and the same game is playing out in other countries- sometimes with the same monies- what is going on now in Brazil, England, France, and Germany is scarily similar.

    So we may soon have no islands of hope or sanity left, which will make resistance even more difficult. The opposition is revitalized with all the looming disasters, but largely depends on the internet- email, social media, You Tube- for organizing and exchange of real information. So Bannon surely has a plan to attack not just the MSM (with threats as well as insults) but more importantly to kill the internet as we know it. Trump’s pick for FCC head wants to kill net neutrality, a huge step in that direction. Divide and conquer will always be the weapon of choice:
    a lot of powerful people will stand to make a killing off of that.

    Trump is not only repellent and odious in many of his policies but ignorant, incurious, unstable and incompetent, as we are now seeing on a daily basis. He has just doubled the yearly membership at Mar-A Lago to $200,000, so he is selling access to himself, a clear violation of the Constitution. Similarly he’s profiting from his Wash DC hotel and violating the lease. These are just a few of the rapidly accumulating clear grounds for impeachment, but the numbers and popular will is not there.

    It is imperative in any case (whether or not impeachment can happen) to get the truth out to the broad base of citizens. Also, it is critical for the opposition to preserve/regain its integrity. When Clintonite Dems attack Trump on the basis of Russian hacking or worse, attacking him for stopping the TPP, they are guaranteeing continued suicide. When they roll over and compromise, ditto. That is why efforts like TYT and Bernie’s are so important. We need to have our own Tea Party, we need local organizing and local candidates; we need to play the long game like the radical right has been doing for 40 years. We need to get personally involved. We need to meet our neighbors, and discuss politics through local issues that touch them on a daily basis.
    TYT has done a great job of reporting on the Disappearing Middle Class- that’s an example of the outreach that is necessary.

    Also, nonviolence is absolutely fundamental. The indigenous people at NO DAPL have been giving us all profound lessons in the effectiveness and the necessity of these tactics and of the deep spiritual orientation behind it. The presence of 4000 veterans there was deeply moving and must be just the beginning.

    The fascists will do their best to provoke violence, even terrorist attacks. That will give them the excuse for rounding people up with 35 year sentences, $850,000 fines
    like with Barrett Brown or Josh Fox’s producer Deia Schlosberg. We must not play into their hands. This will take a lot of patience, commitment and wisdom.

    These are dark times, but we have no choice.

    Oh, and we will have to start encrypting our hard drives and emails…The Intercept
    has some info on this.

  31. Mike Harney says:

    The only thing left that would give the executive branch more power is for good people to stand by and do nothing. I think civil protests are the best action in the short term, we still (at least for today) have freedom of speech and we need to use it. That’s the only way I can see the Republicans in Congress reacting to turn the situation around.

  32. The only positive idea is to leave an absolutely clear, explicit, forthright, comprehensive, and unsparing account for history, because history is the only audience. If that last clause violates the terms of the comment moderation, so be it; pretending is not one of ours, it is one of theirs.

  33. MW says:

    There are minor efforts underway protest the ban outside the US.

    For example, in the UK a petition to prevent’s Trump’s trip to the UK being a State visit has over 700,000 signatures. That is way more than the 100,000 needed to get it discussed in Parliament. It’s not much, but at least it is a mechanism to make our voices heard.


  34. Jeff M says:

    FYI faculty at my school are pushing hard for administration response to this, and working on setting up safe places for students affected by the order. From what I can tell from the faculty email list, it’s happening at many universities.

  35. Abby yorker says:

    Not to be too picky but the following sentence seems to imply that a military coup is constitutional. I hope that that is not the case.

    ‘Other than something like a military coup, the only constitutional way out of this is impeachment or the 25th amendment route.’

  36. Frankel says:

    The solution is for this blog to finally give up its silly war against string theorists and multiverse advocates. With a full acceptance of the MWI we can all exist in a universe where Trump is impeached.

  37. Peter Woit says:

    Abby yorker,

    Thanks, that was badly worded and now fixed.

    Hard to imagine how a military coup would work here, but I have to say, seeing what has happened to the political system in this country recently, you start to understand why in many places a military coup may seem like one of the better options.

  38. Robert Gauthier says:

    I think we need to consider the possibility that the outrages perpetrated by the Trump administration in the last two days are an overt attempt to incite the sort of response that will allow them to declare martial law and dismantle what is left of legal challenges to their full takeover.

  39. I agree with Anonyrat

    Right now:
    Call your representative’s office in Washington DC and talk to the staff who take the call.

    Vote against the politicians who supported Trump.

  40. Blake Gentry says:

    Martial law is resisted by mass movements, not visits to congressional offices.

    The emoting here appears to suggest several lines of analysis: One is a liberal line that seeks to contain an authoritarian presidency through constitutional legal channels on executive orders (vis a vis “donate more to ACLU”) another seeks to impeach by his violation of the ban on accepting “foreign gifts” (can be neutralized if Supreme Court Majority is installed in his favor), others consider political pressure against moderate members of his party (they failed to coalesce against him before the general election, and will not now either since there is too much money to be made by lobbyists), and others suggest general rejection and some types of street actions to oppose specific orders or acts.

    The former Bernie Sanders staff and Bernie himself have not articulated movement through mass organizing, but through donations. Really? That’s it?

    What Europe and Latin America can offer is how to organize mass movements to stop military control, if it gets to that. Such movements cannot wait until the last moment to realize electoral politics is dead, they must create a movement on the ground to resist. Parallel politic movements can attempt to upend the corrupted political system politically engineered by Citizens United, but most of us need to have local mobilizations to show force in the streets. If you are really afraid of fascism, then own the streets before they own you. Ukraine is a case in point. Prague is as well. Santiago de Chile waited too late.

    If Trump tries to impose sanctions on major cities who resist compliance with ICE against immigrants, then those cities can call for major progressive strikes. Start with the airlines, move to public transport, and interrupt businesses as usual, and yes that means your sacred universities as well. Block production of pipelines and well heads. Close down ports. The capital interests in this country will then move to remove him if that is the cost of stopping such “free speech”.

    If thousands of people had waited to call their representatives offices instead of arriving at airports last night, if the Women’s March did not occur, if there was no march on Selma, or the Sit down strikes in Chicago and Flint, we’d be facing small militias with guns terrorizing the citizenry. The Vietnam war war was not ended with visits to congressional offices. It took a nation of people protesting and fighting back.

    Stop thinking as if the middle class is going to arrest this situation. The middle class was sold down the river in the crash of 2008 and that is why millions voted for Trump. The Occupy Movement refused to target infrastructure, and insisted on consensus. Consensus in a mass movement is an oxymoron, those are tactics of the state.

    That is also what democracy can look like. Many may cringe at these suggestions, but you will cringe more when the beat the shit out of people on the street and you realize then -too late – that your friends are next. Start your own Local Movement of Resistance, in this you are constitutionally bound to act as a citizen of the United States. Hope that’s positive enough.

    All my relations.

    It takes a child to raze a village, but only if the village watches itself burn to the ground.

  41. martibal says:

    Could be of interest: a detailed analysis on what is going on, and what may happen next
    Interesting also the idea that the muslim ban could be a diversion for public not to pay attention to the raise of Bannon to the national security council.
    One question from a non US citizen: to what extend do single state have possibility to resist (e.g. in the scenario of terrorist attack = emergency state = more power for Trump, is there some piece of the army that depends on states and not on the federal government ?)

  42. Maurice says:

    Positive ideas, drawing lessons from what happened in Germany 1933.
    Firstly I agree with Peter that the parallels are close:
    1. I compared Trump’s with Hitler’s “inauguration speech” (there was no such thing in the Weimar constitution, it was his first public speech as chancellor on February, 10 1933). They are strikingly similar, as if Bannon had used Hitler’s manuscript to draft Trump’s address: same subject, same slogans, same omissions.
    2. The “violent event” that Peter rightly fears, was the fire in the German parliament, about one month after Hitler came to power. This event marked the beginning of pure Nazi terror.

    Positive conclusions for American liberals from the major mistakes of Hitler’s opponents:

    1. unite against Trump even with Americans whose views you detest. I am convinced
    that there are many ultra-conservative anti-liberal Americans who are still firmly against being governed by a fascist regime in Washington. All other political issues have to take a complete backseat in this time of imminent danger to democracy in the US.

    In the Germany of 1933 social democrats and communists, extremely hostile against each other before Hitler, while both being firmly anti-Nazi never united their forces
    against Hitler and in support of the Weimar republic.

    2. organize a general strike against Trump.

    I know such an action is very unusual for the US. In Germany it never was, and that it was not attempted against Hitler is seen by many historians as a major factor for Hitler’s success to become dictator.

    While it is true that a strike of students and professors of a university does not really bring public life to a halt, it would still be a very strong sign of resistance.

  43. Anonyrat says:

    Blake Gentry:

    The unorganized individual can only work through Constitutional means; anything more needs organization and/or numbers. The individual is too vulnerable in acting alone in using extra-Constitutional methods.

    I don’t know if our host wants us to discuss this here.

  44. bks says:

    Scientists’ March On Washington:
    I recently re-watched Fail-Safe (1964). Not good for 3am ruminations!

  45. GlenO says:

    In my opinion the most likely trigger for a martial law situation is a premature or excessive action in opposition. We have survived bad presidents before, and I think going outside the constitutional remedy for bad presidents (impeachment) would be a cure much worse than the disease. The only course forward I can see is to try to channel Trump’s egoism into more positive directions, such as his stated desire to create jobs, and save the demonstrations, work stoppages, etc for responding to negative actions on his part. Otherwise it looks like sore-loserism, and will only be counter-productive

  46. Low Math, Meekly Interacting says:

    To all those suggesting more radically subversive approaches to combating the problem of Trump: Let me concur with those proposing you will be giving the current administration EXACTLY what they want and need to justify imposition of more authoritarian measures to suppress even lawful opposition. Don’t do it.

  47. Pingback: Blog - physicsworld.com

  48. Fred P says:

    “How does one get the Republican establishment (legislators and/or Fox News, Wall Street Journal, etc.) to turn on Trump?”
    – you have to make it more palatable for them to help out the protesters than to stick with Trump. That said, while I’ve helped swing congresspeople on individual votes, I’ve never swung one against a President. Here’s a guide that may help:


  49. Anonyrat says:

    Back in 2007, my then-representative, Rush Holt (NJ-D), who has since retired from Congress and is now CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), in a townhall that I attended, addressed the issue of impeachment of the then-incumbent George Bush.

    Holt entered Congress in 1998, he believed at least in part because of reaction to the impeachment of Clinton which he condemned as a partisan affair.

    Holt said there were two preconditions for impeachment:

    1. That impeachment not be seen as a partisan issue.
    2. The vast majority of Americans need to sign on to impeachment.

    Holt thought that Bush had committed impeachable offenses, but that most Americans did not understand what was at stake. Also, no Republicans had signed on to impeachment, and Holt feared that that if a substantial minority – even 25% – begin to have the attitude that “we lost the last elections, but we have impeachment – the country is in trouble”.

    Since neither precondition was satisfied he was not signing on to the proposed impeachment bill, HR 333.

    Holt thought that (paraphrasing) rather than having this neon sign “Impeachment” at which half the country would turn one way and half the other, it was important to firmly mark out that “Habeas Corpus cannot be suspended”, “Wire-tapping without a court warrant will not be allowed”, etc.; impeachment in the current political climate would only be a distraction.

    IMO, Holt’s objections still hold some force, and before calling for impeachment or a 25th Amendment removal of Trump, these objections should be considered. They also square with the advice of the Venezuelan who wrote about opposing Hugo Chavez:

    Attempting to force Trump out, rather than digging in to fight his agenda, would just distract the public from whatever failed policies the administration is making. In Venezuela, the opposition focused on trying to reject the dictator by any means possible — when we should have just kept pointing out how badly Chávez’s rule was hurting the very people he claimed to be serving.

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