‘A campaign for vengeance’: critics warn of a radical second Trump term

Gun Rights

‘A campaign for vengeance’: critics warn of a radical second Trump term

After a chaotic first term, experienced advisers are ready to usher in a second presidency ‘driven by imaginary grievances’

The US election primary season is effectively over. Conventional wisdom holds that the two major candidates will now pivot towards the centre ground in search of moderate voters. But Donald Trump has never been one for conventional wisdom.

Detention camps, mass deportations, capital punishment for drug smugglers, tariffs on imported goods, a purge of the justice department and potential withdrawal from Nato – the Trump policy agenda is radical by any standard including his own, pushing the boundaries set during his first presidential run eight years ago.

“In 2016 he was still, in his own mind at least, positioning himself to be beloved by everybody,” said Kurt Bardella, a Democratic strategist. “That’s why ‘Drain the swamp’ was a more populist, appealing message to all sides of the aisle because everyone on some level felt like Washington’s broken, Washington’s left us behind.

You Might Like

“Now you flash-forward to 2024 and we’re getting a much darker version of Donald Trump, one who seems to be driven by imaginary grievances from the 2020 election. There’s nothing unifying about that message in any way; it’s incredibly self-centred. This is a campaign for vengeance. In a lot of ways he is Ahab and Moby Dick is the United States of America.”

Eight years ago Trump, seeking to become the first US president with no prior political or military experience, was running with a clean slate. If anything, there was a suspicion that his background as a thrice-married New York celebrity implied some ideological fluidity and latent liberal instincts.

But he announced his candidacy in June 2015 by promising to build a wall on the southern border, using xenophobic language to portray Mexicans as “criminals” and “rapists” and promising to “make America great again”.

During the campaign he described international trade deals as “a disaster” and called for increased tariffs on imports. He promised sweeping tax cuts and vowed to repeal Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act and environmental regulations, describing climate change as “a total hoax”.

Trump pledged to nominate supreme court justices opposed to abortion and, in one TV interview, suggested that women who have abortions should be punished. With backing from the National Rifle Association, he opposed gun safety reforms.

Overseas, the Republican candidate deployed the slogan “America first”, questioning the Nato alliance while calling for improved relations with Russia. He vowed to destroy the Islamic State and called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on”.

Trump did implement his first attempt at a Muslim ban almost immediately after taking the Oval Office in January 2017, prompting protests, airport chaos and a long legal battle in the courts. The supreme court ruled in June 2018 that the third iteration of the law could go into full effect, meaning considerable restrictions on Muslim travellers entering the country.

Trump failed to overturn the Affordable Care Act, but his presidency was hugely consequential in other ways. His $1.5tn tax cut added to the national debt and, research has shown, helped billionaires more than the working class. The US pulled out of the Paris climate agreement. Trump reshaped the federal judiciary and appointed three supreme court justices who would be instrumental in ending the constitutional right to abortion.

He botched the response to a coronavirus pandemic that has now left more than a million Americans dead, initially underplaying the threat and later suggesting that patients might inject bleach as a cure. In the summer of 2020, Trump is said to have wanted the US military to shoot peaceful protesters in Washington during the Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

In the aftermath of his 2020 election defeat, and dozens of criminal charges against him, Trump’s extremism has broadened and deepened as he heads into an electoral rematch with Joe Biden. He won the Republican primaries with ease, prompting commentators to warn of “collective amnesia” and “the banality of chaos” as many voters seemingly become numb to his demagoguery.

However, an AP VoteCast poll found six in 10 moderate Republicans in New Hampshire and South Carolina were concerned that Trump was too extreme to win a general election.

For example, he now argues that presidents should have total immunity and openly threatens the guardrails of American democracy. “I only want to be a dictator for one day,” he told supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, earlier this year.

He has said he would try to strip tens of thousands of career employees of their civil service protections as he seeks to “totally obliterate the deep state”. Given his rage at the FBI and federal prosecutors pursuing criminal cases against him, Trump may target people linked to those prosecutions for retribution.

His signature issue, border security, is once again taking centre stage with record levels of migrants caught crossing into the US. In response, he has pledged to launch the biggest deportation effort in American history. This would involve far-reaching roundups and detention camps to hold people while they await removal, the New York Times reported. He has also refused to rule out reinstating a Muslim travel ban and a hugely controversial family separation policy.

Trump further wants to build more of the border wall – his first administration built 450 miles (724km) of barriers across the 1,954-mile (3,144km) border, but much of that replaced existing structures. He also wants to end automatic citizenship for children born in the US to immigrants living in the country illegally, an idea he flirted with as president.

skip past newsletter promotion

Former Republican congressman Joe Walsh said: “He’s even uglier in his language now. He’s even more cruel in his approach. He’s gotten much more extreme, which you would think means, oh my God, how stupid politically, because he needs people in the middle. But it is big issue and Democrats have never understood how important immigration and the border are and so Trump feels as if he can demagogue it in even more of an extreme fashion.”

Trump has called for the death penalty for drug smugglers and those who traffic women and children. In a broader anti-crime push, he says he will require local law enforcement agencies to use divisive policing measures including stop-and-frisk. Last year, he told a rally in Anaheim, California: “Very simply, if you rob a store, you can fully expect to be shot as you are leaving that store.”

Under the mantra “Drill, baby, drill”, Trump says that he would increase oil drilling on public lands and offer tax breaks to oil, gas and coal producers. He would again exit the Paris climate accords, end wind subsidies and eliminate environmental regulations.

Trump has suggested that he is open to making cuts to the social security and Medicare welfare programmes. But one area in which he has hinted at moderation is abortion, publicly acknowledging that the national ban favoured by some Republicans would be electoral kryptonite, although it was reported last month that he privately expressed support for a 16-week limit with exceptions.

Wendy Schiller, a political science professor at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, said: “His campaign has been smart to float the 16-week ban because I think most Americans fall somewhere between 16 and 20 weeks as something they can live with. If he basically says the federal government will not try to do a six-week ban, we’re not going to come after a foetal heartbeat bill – so if you live in a swing state like Michigan that has codified abortion, I’m not coming after you – that is strategically a smart position. But it would be considered a modification to the centre on abortion by Trump.”

On foreign policy, Trump claims that even before he is inaugurated, he will have settled the war between Russia and Ukraine. Last week, after visiting the former president at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, Hungary’s autocratic prime minister, Viktor Orbán, said Trump promised him that he will end Russia’s war with Ukraine by not giving “a single penny” in aid.

The Republican nominee also says he will continue to “fundamentally re-evaluate” Nato’s purpose and mission. At one recent rally, he said he would “encourage” Vladimir Putin’s Russia to attack Nato allies who do not pay their bills. And he says he will institute a system of tariffs of perhaps 10% on most foreign goods.

Sometimes it can all seem like campaign bluster unlikely to survive the scrutiny of advisers, Congress or the courts. But whereas Trump’s 2016 win took everyone by surprise, perhaps including him, resulting in a first term marred by infighting and hastily written executive orders, this time there are allies who consider a second term is possible, or even probable, and are ready to hit the ground running.

Trump’s campaign and groups such as the Heritage Foundation and America First Policy Institute thinktanks are assembling Project 2025 policy books with detailed plans. Groups of conservative lawyers are sizing up what orders Trump might issue on a second presidency’s first day. With lessons learned, his administration could be even more ruthless and efficient.

Lanhee Chen, a fellow in American public policy studies at the Hoover Institution thinktank in Stanford, California, said: “Some of the general framing and themes around what it is he wants to do are relatively consistent. What is different this time around is that there’s more of an architecture and infrastructure supporting a lot of these policy proposals.

“If you look at the ecosystem of organisations that’s involved in helping him think through what a second term agenda would look like, it’s much more robust in 2024 than it was in 2016. So I don’t necessarily subscribe to the view that the substance is all that different or somehow more extreme. It’s just there’s a lot more people who are thinking about it. Some of them are authorised; some of them are probably not authorised.”

Critics of Trump warn that, while Trump himself has few core beliefs, he would effectively become a vehicle for extremists to push a far-right agenda wildly out of step with the majority of Americans. Reed Galen, a co-founder of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, said: “He is an empty vessel for these other people around him who do have very specific policy ideas, most of them rooted in straight authoritarianism or some noxious mix of authoritarianism and Christian dominionism.

“He doesn’t care. For all of it, it’s a means to an end. If I win do these people help me or do they hurt me? Do they give me more control? Do they give me less control? Do they give me more access to making sure I’m never going to go to jail, that I can persecute and prosecute my political enemies, that I can make life harder for the media?”

Galen added: “In many ways, he is the leader of the torchlight parade but he’s being taken arm in arm and pushed from behind by a bunch of very noxious individuals with what I would call fundamentally anti-democratic and un-American ideology.”

You Might Like

Articles You May Like

New Olight Javelot 1350 Lumens Long Range Flashlight
Iowa: Pro-Second Amendment Legislation Headed to the Governor’s Office
Corporals Corner Tips and Tricks Video #5 The Best Wet Weather Firestarter of 2024
Being in quarantine made me realize we do not have enough food!
3 Myths about Biden’s New Gun License Rule

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *