If President Donald J. Trump is convicted by the U.S. Senate or if he loses the 2020 election, many liberals and lefties worry he won’t leave office voluntarily. I am not overly concerned. In order to carry out a coup, Trump will need the active cooperation of the military. And the leadership of the armed services regard the president as a harmful buffoon.
Over the weekend, Trump fired Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer. The termination resulted from the parties disagreeing over Trump’s pardon of Navy SEAL and Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who had been convicted of a war crime violating military law. First, Trump pardoned Gallagher, 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorance, a soldier convicted of war crimes and Major Mathew Golsteyn, who was awaiting trial for a war crime. The military brass made no secret of its unhappiness.
CBS News reported former Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey tweeting, “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us. #Leadership.”
J. B. Bosworth’s excellent “Mussolini’s Italy” illustrates the vast differences between the two right-wing populists
Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship 1915-1945, R. J. B. Bosworth, Penguin Press, 736 pages, 2006, $25.00 paperback
By George Howland Jr.
U.S. President Donald J. Trump should not be compared to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Commentators ranging from The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank to retired four-star general Barry McCaffrey have compared the president to the Duce, who ruled Italy from 1922 to 1945. While Trump is a very dangerous chief executive, Mussolini was a fascist who cleverly combined violence against the Italian population itself with deft manipulation of the existing political elites. Whatever his desires, Trump has not practiced the former and seems incapable of the latter.
A good jumping off point for examining the Duce in detail is Mussolini’s Italy: Life Under the Fascist Dictatorship, 1915-1945, by R. J. B. Bosworth, the renowned Australian scholar.
Fascism: from decentralization to dictatorship
After World War I, when the fascist movement began, its organization was highly decentralized. There was no single leader and no nationwide or regional coordination of activity. Instead, local strongmen attacked their enemies as they saw fit. Communists and socialists were the common enemies of these little Duces. The fascists used squads of thugs and former soldiers to beat, maim and kill their enemies. The squads also destroyed the leftists’ infrastructure: burning their offices and smashing their printing presses. During the rise of fascism, 3000 Italians were killed (425 were fascists).
While Trump has used the government to commit acts of horrible cruelty against immigrants and refugees—separation of families and detention in inhumane facilities—populist violence has not been in his toolbox. Gangs of Republicans are not physically attacking Democrats and setting fire to their offices. I do not see any signs of such “squadrism” emerging in our current political environment.
District elections have brought change, but it’s unclear what kind
By George Howland Jr.
On Nov. 5, there were seven Seattle City Council district seats up for election. Election night returns indicate that the labor/lefty coalition won four seats and the Chamber of Commerce slate won two seats. In District 5 (North Seattle), incumbent councilmember Deborah Juarez was endorsed by both the Chamber and the labor/lefty coalition.
If these results hold, it will be a major repudiation of the business community’s $4 million (with Amazon contributing $1.4 million) effort to make the city council more conservative.
Yet given the political positions taken by the apparent winners, it is unclear what the new city council’s direction will be on key issues such as homelessness, displacement, growth and tax and wealth inequality.
Let’s look at the districts one by one.
District No. 1 (West Seattle, South Park)
Incumbent Lisa Herbold held a small lead on election night 51-48 percent over a weak challenger Phil Tavel. In the August primary, C is for Crank’s Erica C. Barnett reports that Herbold increased her lead by 4.2 percent from election night to final results. Herbold looks safe.
Herbold is a neighborhood progressive, very much in the mold of former Seattle City Councilmember Nick Licata, her mentor. Earlier this year, Herbold introduced the most important anti-displacement legislation in decades: a one-for-one replacement requirement that any low-income housing that is destroyed by redevelopment must be replaced by the builder. The future of the proposal is, however, gloomy because of legal issues and a lack of support from other councilmembers.
The president’s totalitarianism has been constrained by U.S. institutions
By George Howland Jr.
There’s been some loose talk lately comparing President Donald J. Trump to Adolf Hitler.
First, Christine Todd Whitman, who previously served as head of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Republican governor of New Jersey, tweeted that Hitler “has nothing” on Trump. “Hitler took a long time to get where he was and he had to do a lot of other things. Trump is going much faster,” Whitman told New York NBC affiliate Channel 4, on Oct. 16.
Yesterday, Oct. 20, on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation,” Beto O’Rourke, a former Democratic U.S. Representative and a presidential candidate, talked about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric. O’Rourke said, “Outside of Nazi Germany, it is hard for me to find another modern democracy that had the audacity to say something like this and then this idea from Goebbels and Hitler that the bigger the lie and the more often you repeat it, the more likely people are to believe it. That is Donald Trump to a T.”
If we are going to be able to defeat Trump, we need to be clear about what is going on in our country. Much to my surprise, Trump’s efforts to subvert democracy and civil society have been defeated on many fronts. By contrast, Hitler quickly dismantled Germany’s constitution and destroyed the nation’s democratic institutions.
In the election for Seattle City Council District Two, the favorite prioritizes stopping displacement
By George Howland Jr.
Tammy Morales is Mexican American by birth, Jewish by choice and an organizer by vocation.
The Seattle City Council candidate for District Two (Rainier Valley, Beacon Hill, Chinatown International District) grew up poor in San Antonio, Texas. For the last 20 years, Morales, 50, has organized for economic justice in Seattle’s south end. Now she hopes to bring her perspective to city hall.
She won August’s seven-candidate primary with a whopping 50 percent of the vote—the kind of numbers that are usually reserved for incumbents. In Nov. 5th’s general election, she is facing off against Mark Solomon, 59, a crime-prevention coordinator for the Seattle Police Department. Solomon only won 25 percent of the primary vote, despite conservative and corporate groups spending over $100,000 to support him.
It’s very likely Morales will be celebrating on election night. If so, Morales would become the third Latinx woman on the nine-member city council in a city with a Latinx population of only 6.6 percent. Morales would be serving with sitting city council members Lorena Gonzalez and Teresa Mosqueda.
Morales says, “I do identify as Mexican American, not as Latinx.” She explains that it is probably her age that makes her prefer the former term. “It is part of who I am,” she says. Both of her parents are Mexican American, but she grew up living with her mother in a single-parent household. “I did not grow up speaking Spanish. I grew up hearing it. It was what the old folks spoke when they didn’t want us kids to understand.” She remembers sitting under her grandmother’s dining-room table, listening to the adults talking Spanish and trying to make out some juicy tidbits of gossip.
U.S. House Democrats must be strategic about impeachment. Currently they have launched an impeachment investigation. If they impeach—similar to an indictment—President Donald J. Trump and then the U.S. Senate, controlled by Republicans, holds a trial and acquits him, the president wins. Trump will declare himself, once again, “completely exonerated.” This time, it will be true.
It is vital that those of us who are opposed to Trump do not fall into the same trap as the Gingrich Republicans did with former President Bill Clinton in 1998. The Rs allowed their visceral hatred of Clinton to overwhelm their tactical understanding of politics. Clinton was acquitted in the Senate and the Ds won seats at the ballot box. Trump is too dangerous for the Democrats to repeat that mistake.
In theory, the impeachment and conviction of a president should be about the rule of law. Given the threat that Trump poses to democracy, the Ds must choose their course based on politics. Democrats must be guided by which course of action will strengthen Trump’s re-election.
Currently, the evidence about Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is enough to launch the impeachment investigation. It’s clear from the quasi-transcript released by the White House that the U.S. president leaned on Zelensky to investigate Trump’s most feared opponent in the U.S. 2020 election—former Vice President Joe Biden—and his son Hunter. (It’s also clear that Hunter acted unethically by taking a board slot at Burisma Holdings, for which he had no qualifications and was paid up to $50,000 a month.)
The evidence against Trump is not strong enough to move one Republican senator to the convict column. The Senate needs two-thirds of its members to agree to remove a sitting president. Currently, there are 53 Republican Senators, 45 Democratic and 2 Independent (Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Maine’s Angus King, both of whom caucus with the Ds). The math is daunting.