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A lifelong conservative on the dangers of Donald Trump

In an op-ed for the Washington Post, long-time Republican Robert Kagan lays out the threats facing the country in the 2024 election.

REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Donald Trump attending a service at the International Church of Las Vegas in Las Vegas, Nevada, in October 2020.
Yes, I suppose some might regard me as excessively worried about the threat to American democracy that Donald Trump and Trumpism (or might one say Trumpian neo-fascism) poses to the future of the American experiment in democratic/republican self-governance.

I confess that I was exceedingly alarmed at the threat that Trump and Trumpism posed to the future of that experiment, and the ongoing reporting on how much closer Trump came, in the months between Election Day 2020 and Inauguration Day, than we had previously known to a successful coup underlines the threat.

As you know, recent reporting has shown that Trump and his enablers tried harder than we knew at the time, and perhaps came closer than we knew at the time, to pulling off a coup that would have ended the long string of peaceful transfers of power from one president to another.

But Joe Biden was, after all, sworn in as president and is now the keeper of the nuclear codes and other trappings of the office.

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It should be noted that this was the first time in U.S. history that the losing candidate did not accept the outcome. Trump still claims to have won the election that he lost and, more disturbingly, has convinced a substantial minority of Americans (and the overwhelming majority of his supporters) that the election was stolen from him.

We’re spoiled, I suppose, by our long string of peaceful transfers of presidential power, including the acceptance by the loser of the election that the election and adjudication of the election had decided the matter.

To say that the former despicable incumbent (who never once won the popular vote) has been a sore loser would be an understatement. Trump still has not publicly accepted that he lost the election.

And, while his unprecedented display of sore loserism was obnoxious and based on pure fiction, good sportsmanship is less important than the transfer of power, notwithstanding the failed coup attempt of January 6.

But before we put those worries to bed, I encourage you to read a (very long) op-ed in Sunday’s Washington Post by Robert Kagan, a long-time neoconservative Republican who left that party to protest Trump’s various betrayals of conservatism and Republicanism. To say the least, Kagan is not confident that the threat of a Trumpian overthrow of democratic republicanism in America is over.

In fact, that’s an understatement. Kagan comes across as terrified that Trump may succeed in stealing the next election putting an end to the American experiment in democracy.

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The full Kagan piece is here. Feel free to go there now and not bother with my last couple of paragraphs, which will consist entirely of excerpts from the piece, but please bear in mind that the essay is by a conservative former Republican patriot, who probably voted for every Republican nominee until Trump.

If you didn’t go there yet, here are a few excerpts from Kagan:

The amateurish “stop the steal” efforts of 2020 have given way to an organized nationwide campaign to ensure that Trump and his supporters will have the control over state and local election officials that they lacked in 2020. Those recalcitrant Republican state officials who effectively saved the country from calamity by refusing to falsely declare fraud or to “find” more votes for Trump are being systematically removed or hounded from office. Republican legislatures are giving themselves greater control over the election certification process. As of this spring, Republicans have proposed or passed measures in at least 16 states that would shift certain election authorities from the purview of the governor, secretary of state or other executive-branch officers to the legislature. An Arizona bill flatly states that the legislature may “revoke the secretary of state’s issuance or certification of a presidential elector’s certificate of election” by a simple majority vote. Some state legislatures seek to impose criminal penalties on local election officials alleged to have committed “technical infractions,” including obstructing the view of poll watchers.

The stage is thus being set for chaos. Imagine weeks of competing mass protests across multiple states as lawmakers from both parties claim victory and charge the other with unconstitutional efforts to take power. Partisans on both sides are likely to be better armed and more willing to inflict harm than they were in 2020.

…The fact that [Trump] failed to overturn the 2020 election has reassured many that the American system remains secure, though it easily could have gone the other way — if Biden had not been safely ahead in all four states where the vote was close; if Trump had been more competent and more in control of the decision-makers in his administration, Congress and the states. As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year.

It would be foolish to imagine that the violence of Jan. 6 was an aberration that will not be repeated. Because Trump supporters see those events as a patriotic defense of the nation, there is every reason to expect more such episodes…

German conservatives accommodated Adolf Hitler in large part because they opposed the socialists more than they opposed the Nazis, who, after all, shared many of their basic prejudices…

We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024. Now it is impossible only because anti-Trump Republicans, and even some Democrats, refuse to tinker with the filibuster…

I hope by now you have clicked through to the full Kagan piece. If not, but if you want another easy opportunity, click right here.

And remember this comes from a lifelong conservative Republican member in good standing of the national security establishment.