Experts warn that "accountability" for Donald Trump could come at a cost to democracy

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Donald Trump is a type of fascist political preacher and MAGA is his congregation. His sermons are of violence and destruction.

On Sunday, Trump made an explicit threat and promise on his Truth Social disinformation platform to treat President Joe Biden and his other "enemies" like they were in a "banana republic". Trump even went so far as to call Biden and the Democrats "Communists". In essence, Trump is threatening to kill President Biden and the Democratic Party's leaders (and supporters) when and if he takes back the White House in 2025.

Last Tuesday, Trump told Glenn Beck that he would put President Biden, Special Counsel Jack Smith, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Hillary Clinton, and his other "enemies" in prison.

"You have no choice," Trump asserted, "because they're doing it to us."

As seen on Jan. 6, a recent assassination attempt on President Barack Obama by one of Trump's MAGA zealots, threats by Trump's followers against prosecutors and jurors and other law enforcement who are connected to his upcoming criminal trials, mass shootings and other violence by right-wing hate mongers and other extremists, Trump's followers have and will continue to obey his incitements and commands to violence.

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In a democracy, it is the responsibility of the Fourth Estate to speak truth to the powerful by informing the public so that they can make good decisions about their leaders and society. The Fourth Estate in America, what we can broadly describe as "the news media," has failed in many ways to follow through on those responsibilities during the Age of Trump and the ongoing democracy crisis.

In an attempt to make sense of what comes next with Trump's escalating threats of fascist violence and bloodshed, the country's ongoing democracy crisis, and why the news media continues to mostly ignore and normalize the clear and present dangers, I recently asked a range of experts for their thoughts and insights.

Mark Jacob is the former metro editor at the Chicago Tribune.

Trump has regularly made criminal prosecution of his enemies a part of his political rhetoric. He encouraged the "lock her up" chants against Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. He was disappointed that Attorney General William Barr didn't do more to weaponize the Justice Department, though Barr did far too much in that direction, I'd say. Joe Biden, on the other hand, has wisely refused to weigh in on Trump's legal problems. Some in the news media are frustrated — and have even wondered on air why Biden isn't talking about Trump's indictments — because the media loves mud fights.

"The sad fact is what the GOP's base wants and desires is someone to promise violence."

People who believe in the rule of law must fight against the Republican assault on our justice system. These prosecutions are not a nefarious plot against Trump, no matter what the right says. Clearly, Trump committed crimes. If this were a leftist plot, that stolen documents case wouldn't have gone to Trump judicial nominee Aileen Cannon. Let's allow the system to work.

If Trump were to win the 2024 election, the Justice Department would become a leading instrument of his fascism. People need to understand that if Trump wins, the American experiment is over. The U.S. becomes a version of Putin's Russia or Orban's Hungary. An authoritarian state. A fake democracy.

Jared Yates Sexton is a journalist and author of the new book "The Midnight Kingdom: A History of Power, Paranoia, and the Coming Crisis."

The sad fact is what the GOP's base wants and desires is someone to promise violence. I've actually come to believe, in part, what's happening with the primary race is that no one is quite willing to go the extra mile that Trump does to promise it to them. They want something beyond representative government / political promises. And that are media continues to ignore/dismiss a very obvious reality sickens me. And worries to me no end.

Next, I fear, is pretty predictable. As Trump's legal problems and legal jeopardy increase, so too does his call for violence and so too does the appetite for violence. I think, while a lot of people are celebrating holding him "accountable," they're taking their eye off the ball and the fact that real and actual violence is only becoming increasingly more likely.


Trump vs. Biden 2024 will be all-time ugly — and the media's making it worse

Dr. Justin Frank is a former professor of psychiatry at George Washington University and author of the bestselling book "Trump on the Couch".

We are at the point in political life which is aptly called "malignant normality." We gradually get used to destructive change and somehow normalize it, aided by calm, accepting media coverage combined with a failure to challenge directly the ideas and distortions that usually stem from pathologically narcissistic leaders. This is always the first step in subduing the electorate. It is what happened with Trump when he entered the political arena; now his presence is a malignantly normal mainstream. Normal because it is part of our culture, malignant because it is a destructive force eating away at American democracy.

Trump's need to attack Biden has several deeply personal sources. The most obvious one being that Biden beat him in 2020 – and Trump knows it. More subtle, however, is that Biden' brand is "loved and loving," whilst Trump energy is all "feared and vengeful." Biden is kind, some may say to a fault, to his troubled son Hunter. Trump's father ground his disappointing son Fred (Donald's older brother) into the grave - a warning to young Donald that he must evade that abuse by becoming like his father. We see this in the way Trump treats his own troubled sons, not to mention their long-suffering mother. On Trump's watch, Ivana was allowed to tumble down the stairs of her lonely townhouse and now molders at the second hole of  his Bedminster golf course. Only his daughter (and by extension, her husband) remain in his good graces, fueled by a creepy incest meme he encourages, if not outright embraces.

Biden governs by nourishing thoughtful relationships with genuine friends in the Senate, with whom he worked side-by-side for decades.  Trump has few, if any, close friends. He courts not respectful friendship but uses his fake bonhomie to grasp after the modest bank accounts of his millions of addicted followers – people with whom he would never even share a Big Mac. Well-heeled members of Mar-a-Lago usually find themselves roped off from his company. He knows he is unlovable, uninteresting, and only to be had at a price. OnlyFans, indeed.

Envy itself can be a destructive emotion when tied to narcissistic injury. Trump, being a malignant narcissist, cannot stand having lost to Biden and even worse, cannot stand to see Biden's goodness on daily display. Biden is a true builder, Trump a true destroyer.

Brynn Tannehill is a journalist and author of "American Fascism: How the GOP is Subverting Democracy".

We got here because the GOP's base wanted to go here. There is a long-standing culture of victimhood, particularly among white Southerners who feel put upon since before the Civil War. They keep losing culturally: whether it's slavery, segregation, women's rights, gay rights, etc... At the same time, religiosity in the US is in steep decline and the majority of the US will be people of color by the mid-2040s. The world is changing in ways they hate and fear, and the response is sheer bloody-mindedness. Aiding this is conservative media that is built to feed the darkest impulses of Trump's base: whether it's Fox, OANN, NewsMax, Matt Walsh, Charlie Kirk, or a slew of end-times evangelicals like Franklin Graham. The fact that places like the New York Times want to be seen as "fair and balanced" leads to them either supporting right wing talking points about "those people", or watering down the lead about how far the American right has gone.

I would suggest reading the Project 2025 "Mandate for Leadership" to get an idea. But they are going to fully weaponize the government against their enemies. Schedule F will clear out government employees and replace them with loyalists. He's going to fully weaponize the Department of Justice against his opponents, filling it with sycophants who will always say yes to his ideas. He's going to fill nearly every senior military position with loyalists and pull out of NATO (this is why I believe Tuberville is holding the spots open). They're going to go after anything related to DEI, women, and LGBT people. They fully intend to make it impossible to be trans or get an abortion in the US using the full force of the law.

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We're looking at an end to most government oversight of everything: we're going to get to explore what 1900's capitalism looks like in the 21st century.

I also believe that Trump will probably beat Biden in the next election. And before anyone accuses me of being hysterical: this is basically all stuff they have promised to do, often in writing. I wrote months ago that a second Trump term will be worse than anyone can imagine, and people are only beginning to understand: the base is howling for vengeance, and they will turn fully the government against anyone labeled an "enemy".

Robert P. Jones is President and Founder of PRRI and author of "The Hidden Roots of White Supremacy and the Path to a Shared American Future".

The temptation of a Machiavellian, "ends justify the means" politics has of course always existed throughout American history. But this impulse has typically been tempered with the need to present a public rationale for actions that can be squared with basic morality and democratic principles. Historically, when the connection between power and principles is stretched so thin as to be no longer plausible, the public recoils. Perhaps the most dangerous impact Trump has had on American politics is his overt abandonment of even a pretense of a politics of principle by convincing his followers that, because the threats to their "way of life" are so dire, raw expressions of power against political enemies are justified.

One of the most blatant acts of public hypocrisy I've witnessed, in more than two decades of observing conservative white Christians, was their easy discarding of the "values voters" moniker along the road to supporting Trump. Polling by PRRI, where I serve as president and founder, documented a stunning wholesale abandonment of a political ethic of principle by white evangelical Protestants and other conservative white Christians. In 2011 and again in 2016, PRRI asked Americans whether "an elected official who commits an immoral act in their personal life can still behave ethically and fulfill their duties in their public and professional life."

Across this five-year period, no group shifted their position more dramatically than white evangelical Protestants. In 2011, only 30% of white evangelical Protestants agreed that an elected official can behave ethically even if they have committed transgressions in their personal life, a position one might expect from a group billing itself as "values voters." But by 2016, with Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, 72% of white evangelicals agreed—a 42- point jump from 2011. These results were largely unchanged the last time PRRI asked this question in 2020.

Moreover, despite Trump's refusal to participate in the peaceful transition of power following his loss in the 2020 election, despite his encouraging a violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6th, and despite multiple indictments by federal and state courts, few of his followers have withdrawn their support. In a recent PRRI survey, for example, Trump's favorability remains at 59%, roughly where it was during his 2016 campaign.

The central reason our politics seem so fraught today is that the disagreements are about fundamentally incompatible visions of the country. Is America a divinely ordained promised land for European Christians, where others hold subservient roles and have only subsidiary rights? Or is America a pluralistic democracy, where everyone—regardless of race or religion—stands on equal footing as citizens? Much about our future will depend on whether white Christians—who no longer comprise a majority of Americans but still represent a sizeable minority at 42%—will stop giving mere lip service to democracy and reject any politics or politician who puts power over these principles.

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about Trump's break from reality