This is going to be a hard article to write. I’ve started it about 20 different ways, but maybe I should just start it with that.
I’ve tried to put a happy face on it, but the truth is — I don’t want to leave the United States, at least not yet. My clear first choice would be to continue to work for three or so more years in a job that I like, in a city that I like, in a house that I like and not leave my family and friends especially my elderly mother. I’m excited for this adventure yes, but I didn’t want this and it didn’t have to be this way.
I’ve posted already that we’re moving because of the threat of a second term for Donald Trump and that’s true, but that’s only really part of the story. First, an explanation:
There’s an important concept in a functioning democracy surrounding the legitimacy of elections. It’s been conflated — especially with Donald Trump’s rhetoric about mail-in voting and “fraud” — to relate to if the election was “fair”. To be sure that’s a major part of it, but it’s not the only part.
The other part — arguably the most important part considering that it’s virtually impossible to “rig” an election in which 140 million people participate in across 50 states — is that the results of the election are accepted by its citizens and then life moves on.
It’s legitimacy that allowed for a peaceful transfer of power after the disputed elections of 1876 and 2000, as well as after the 2016 election despite Donald Trump losing the popular vote by more than three million votes. (For those of you interested in politics and history, the compromise that conferred legitimacy on the 1876 election probably did more damage to the cause of equality and freedom for African-Americans than any election before or since,)
In other words, you may not LIKE the results of the election, but you accept it and then move on.
One of the main issues we’re going to have in November if Biden wins anything other than an absolutely crushing, convincing victory is much of the Republican Party is so far gone off the rails there is no way tens of millions are going to accept the legitimacy of the election. That’s the reason for Trump’s rhetoric pre-emptively dismissing the fairness of mail-in ballots, even though that’s how several states have conducted their elections for decades and it is how active-duty military and absentee voters have voted since literally forever.
The fucked up thing is that scenario is probably the best case scenario in November. Unless things change to the point where Trump loses most of the toss-up states and the outcome of the election is never in doubt regardless of the number of mail-in/absentee ballots cast, it is going to be one of the shakiest months in the history of American democracy in November.
All that is before you get to the threats of Attorney General Bill Barr to have DOJ “watchdogs” at balloting locations, which you can guess are going to be only in highly Democratic districts and all of the other norms and guardrails for our electoral process that have been chewed up, spit out and discarded over the last four years.
That’s all a long way of describing that our democracy is already in great, great peril. There’s never been a threat of this kind for a losing political party and it’s followers to contest the legitimacy of an election and THAT’S IF BIDEN WINS. (Yes, the Democrats contested the election of 2000 in the courts, but only in Florida and only to try and to make sure that the re-count was contested fairly so that all legitimate ballots were counted to try and determine an outcome there. Even then, when the courts ruled against them in the one of the most egregiously partisan and shameful Supreme Court decisions in the history of the republic, everyone stood down and accepted the rule of law.)
It goes without saying that if Trump wins, either legitimately or illegitimately, the rest of whatever guardrails of American democracy that exist go down. Ruth Bader Ginsberg might survive the rest of the year, but she’s definitely not going to survive another four years. The Republican Party has packed the federal judiciary with partisan judges with paltry resumes other than complete obeisance to Republican politics and little to no respect for the Constitution.
If Trump wins, the fascist/authoritarian training wheels come off. So what does that mean?
The immediate effects will be obvious, though most of these don’t affect me personally even though they aggrieve me deeply. The Affordable Care Act will be scraped and those with pre-existing conditions like myself are left unprotected. Roe v. Wade will be overturned. The “voodoo economics” of trickle-down theory will continue and wealth inequality will explode even faster than it has the last 40 years.
Those three things are all but certain.
As much as I hate to say it, I could live with those results. Or more accurately, they would not be a reason to feel the need to emigrate from the United States. I have health insurance through my employer and could likely manage the byzantine health insurance system even if I changed jobs or were laid off. We will not personally need an abortion in the immediate future and even if we did would have the means to acquire one overseas or through underground clinics that will cater to the well-off in a post-Roe America. Finally, we’ve either probably benefited some or have been treated neutrally by the tax structure that allows the wealthiest to pay next to nothing.
The real problems come in the breakdown of the checks and balances that are supposed to protect our democracy. As mentioned, the packing of the judiciary means that an unrestrained Trump can rule by executive order and bypass Congress, leaving them as an impotent participant in the democracy except when it suits Trump’s whims. The judiciary has already acted as a brake on Trump’s worst impulses, but with the loss of RBG’s Supreme Court seat the remaking of America into a Republican dictatorship can begin in earnest.
One of the first things to go will be the 22nd Amendment. Trump has already stated he intends to remain in power until his death and the Republicans will begin an effort to either repeal or overturn the 22nd Amendment in the now Trump-friendly courts. This may or may not succeed. Necessarily, there is an exceptionally high bar to disregard or overturn an amendment to the Constitution in the way that Trump would like.
No matter though. Just like his fellow autocrat Putin, Trump will put up a surrogate in his place in the 2024 election which he controls — likely his son, Donald Jr. who has spent the last four years bathing in the warm stew of grievance which constitutes what little agenda the GOP has beyond the pursuit and maintenance of power.
Next to go will be birthright citizenship. But for maximum effect, those changes will not happen from the moment of the executive order he will issue to repeal it. It will also affect all those who have been born in the country to non-citizen parents who are still alive. In other words, by the stroke of a pen tens of millions of Americans will either be immediately disenfranchised and/or forced to prove their parents were US citizens at the time of their birth.
By this one act, it will become impossible for the Republicans to ever lose another national election in this country ever again.
He will likely not be done. If this doesn’t happen in October to try and influence the coming election, Bill Barr’s DOJ will manufacture a conspiracy to prove that President Obama and Joe Biden attempted to influence the 2016 election and they will be put on trial, likely in the most Trump-friendly federal court Barr can find to ensure a conviction.
All of this will be cheerleaded on by Trump-run propaganda networks like Fox News and OANN.
The net effect by 2024 will be that national elections will exist in the United States like they do in Russia — in theory only. There will be a Democratic candidate on the ballot, but they will have no chance to win — just like opposition candidates do not have a chance to win against Putin. The constant threat of legal action by the now-partisan Department of Justice will ensure no credible candidates run and the legal and illegal disenfranchisement of minorities will return to 1920s-era levels.
In short, the United States of America will no longer be a functioning democracy. You might think I’m spouting a conspiracy theory but Donald Trump has told you all of this stuff himself at various times. Just check the links above. A crowd in Nevada not four days ago chanted “lock him up” after Trump lied about being “spied on” by President Obama.
Democracy itself is very much on the ballot in November and Trump can win, especially with the Department of Justice working behind the scenes to ensure his election.
So when the best-case scenario is tens of millions of Americans convinced of an illegitimate election and the resulting chaos and violence that will inevitably ensue in the months and years to come (remember the Oklahoma City bombing? Now imagine a movement like the Michigan Militia on one thousand times the scale) and the worst-case scenario is one that is completely untenable, I’m left with the choice that we’ve made.
To cut bait. To protect our assets and our personal safety as best as possible. To leave our homeland.
If Trump wins, we will only be amongst the first wave of refugees. Those with the means and the assets to do are making plans like we are. I’ve talked to several people who are in various stages of planning what we’re doing. Some are moving to Mexico, some are fortunate enough to have Canadian citizenship or citizenship in another country where they can eventually find work. That wave will crest over the course of four years or so.
Once it becomes obvious by 2024 that American democracy is dead, the second wave will be those who essentially leave with only the clothes on their backs. American military hegemony means that very few countries will welcome American refugees with open arms for fear of antagonizing the Trump regime.
Perhaps some countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Western European countries will welcome those with specific skills like computer programming, engineering and the like they can benefit from. Everyone else will be trapped in an authoritarian “free-market” economy like Russia. With all the latest bells and whistles but no way to buy them for most of the country other than the elites.
Crime will thrive, especially organized crime sanctioned by the Trump regime. Those loyal to Trump will be able to exploit American assets like plutocrats do in Russia now.
And our country will be all but unrecognizable in ten years as eventually the federal legislature and courts are remade and almost all aspects of the New Deal and the Great Society are dismantled. Fearful of falling out of favor the GOP and GOP voters will remain loyal to Trump and support his children for the presidency and senatorial seats after he dies.
The United States will become almost a South African-like apartheid state where Blacks have civil rights in theory only and are not protected by the state. Social Security will be raided by the regime through various schemes which will funnel money to the Trump family and his allies. Medicare and Medicaid — gone. The elderly and poor will be left to their own devices, either to die or live in ghettos.
Some states, especially California, will eventually definitely try to secede. What happens then — I don’t know. My crystal ball doesn’t go out that far, but I can guess.
A second Civil War seems likely once it becomes obvious to Trump that losing one or two states is tenable, but losing 15 or so scattered throughout the country is not. Hawaii will probably successfully secede with the benefit of thousands of miles of ocean. Puerto Rico might as well. Any talk of succession in the mainland US will be put down ruthlessly and quickly. Partisan groups will form and commit acts of terror against the regime, but short of some infusion of arms or weapons from another country which won’t be forthcoming those will be brushed away like gnats.
I know this is a horror story, but it’s important to realize that even if occasionally hyperbolic, this is not anything completely rooted outside of reality. Imagine the damage to our norms and democracy that Trump has done in four years even after being impeached and even after being stymied on occasion by the courts. Now imagine Congress and the courts with virtually no power to check him. Will he behave responsibly and benevolently? I think you know the answer.