The specter of a second Trump administration looms large over the Democratic Party.
It’s certainly possible.
Many Republicans want Trump to be the nominee. And in a head-to-head contest between Trump and Biden, Trump in many polls gets close to a victory – however, we are many months away from any sort of rematch for sure.
So, Trump securing the presidency for a second time is not the most statistically likely outcome, but it remains a highly possible outcome. Enough so that Democrats, who have long assigned Trump to the chief villain role, are already wargaming a second Trump term.
The Washington Post, for example, came out months back with a long piece detailing the nuts-and-bolts consequences of a second Trump term – namely, the steps Trump would take to overthrow democracy.
For the piece, WaPo reporter David Montgomery consulted with “21 experts in the presidency, political science, public administration, the military, intelligence, foreign affairs, economics and civil rights.” The results? “They sketched chillingly plausible chains of potential actions and reactions that could unravel the nation.”
“I think it would be the end of the republic,” Princeton historian Sean Wilentz told Montgomery. “It would be a kind of overthrow from within…It would be a coup of the way we’ve always understood America.”
Now, I recommend taking mainstream media analysis of all things Trump with a grain of salt – mainstream media has become something closer to an organ of the Democratic party than a hard news source. But for the sake of situational awareness, let’s take a look at how some people view the prospect of a second Trump term and its potential to end the United States of America as we know it.
“Based on what these experts described, here’s a portrait of a democratic crackup in three phases,” Montgomery wrote.
“Phase 1: Trump seizes control of the government.”
Seizing control of the government would require multiple sub-steps. First, Trump would install loyalists.
“Among the first things he would do, in the initial hours of his presidency, would be to fire [FBI Director] Christopher Wray and purge the FBI,” Larry Diamond, senior fellow in global democracy at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University said. Trump “would then set about trying to politicize the FBI, the intelligence agencies and as much of the government as possible.”
“I think certainly in the power ministries – State, CIA, Defense, Justice – [Trump] will look to put true loyalists in,” an anonymous Pentagon official said. “When I say loyalist, I mean somebody who places their loyalty to him above their oath of office.”
Second, Trump would govern without Senate advice and consent.
“By the end of his first term, Trump had mastered the art of governing without the advice and consent of the Senate,” Montgomery wrote. “In part he was forced to do so by Democratic obstruction and by the terrible dysfunction of the appointments process…But Trump, more than any other president in memory, relied on “acting” Cabinet secretaries and unconfirmed agency chiefs who wielded delegated authority.”
Third, Trump would create a MAGA civil service.
A re-elected Trump would be expected to reinstate an executive order issued during his first term that created Schedule F federal employees – essentially, stripping those employees of their civil service protections. The result: top officials can fire Schedule F employees roughly at will.
“They are using the language of good government to justify this…But obviously their real intention is to basically politicize the whole civil service,” Francis Fukuyama said. “Trump personalizes everything to such an extent, he’s going to be super looking out for revenge…and this is going to go down to a really low, granular level of American government.”
The effect would be the return of a patronage system that was abolished in the late 1800s. “It is fundamentally this notion that the president should be able to decide, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of political or personal interest, a larger segment of the workforce,” Max Stier, CEO of the Partnership for Public Service said.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.