President Joe Biden won the 2020 election by almost 7 million votes. With a national margin of 4.4%, Biden’s win in many states was much larger. He took Minnesota by 7.3%, Colorado by 13.5%, Illinois by 16.9%, and California by 29.2%.
This was a solid win by any measure, and in many states, a landslide victory. Even Donald Trump’s Big Lie about the 2020 election had, until recently, focused on the vote in a few states like Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, where Biden’s margin of victory was smaller, though still substantial.
But that’s changed. In recent appearances, Trump isn’t just repeating the claims he made leading up to Jan. 6, he’s claiming that he won “all 50 states” with “12 million more votes” than in 2016. And as his lies get bigger, Trump’s plans for a takeover of the United States get darker. Including openly discussing a military takeover on day one of his return to power.
As The Washington Post reports, Trump and his inner circle have been mapping out plans to use the federal government, including the military and Justice Department to “punish critics and opponents” if he manages to get back into the White House. Trump has even created his own Nixon-style enemies list of people he wants to be investigated or prosecuted as soon as he has the authority.
That list includes all those people who held positions of power in the first Trump White House, but who refused to side with Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. That list includes former Attorney General William Barr, former chief of staff John Kelly, and former Joint Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, as well as at least one of Trump’s former attorneys. According to Kelly, “There is no question in my mind he is going to go after people that have turned on him.”
In addition, Trump wants to prosecute officials and staffers at the Department of Justice and FBI who have been involved in the investigations into his criminal acts. All that’s in addition to the numerous “special prosecutors” Trump intends to appoint, including one to continue the Republican harassment of Biden and his family.
Included in Trump’s plans is invoking the Insurrection Act on day one, not to put down any actual rebellion, but to deploy the military to quell any protests over his return to power. In addition, Trump intends to revoke DOJ rules that keep the department’s decisions separate from the will of the White House and turn it into a tool for persecuting those judged insufficiently loyal.
This isn’t just something Trump is mumbling to himself or a few supporters. All this and more is part of “Project 2025,” a plan being assembled by a group of authoritarian right-wing think tanks creating a blueprint for a Trump dictatorship. The plans invoke both “punishment” and “revenge,” which are common themes of Trump’s statements and speeches. Trump is only part of a right-wing organization preparing to crush American democracy for good.
At a campaign stop in October, Trump claimed that the 91 felony counts now lodged against him are just political. “This is third-world-country stuff, ‘arrest your opponent,’” said Trump. “And that means I can do that, too.”
Trump has not been subtle about these plans. He’s openly discussed these themes of revenge at his rallies, using apocalyptic terminology like calling this the “final battle” and encouraging his supporters to conduct a “war” against government agencies like the DOJ. He’s offering his followers not just an overthrow of the current order, but the opportunity to engage in violence and be part of the authoritarian regime to come.
All of this is terrifying, and it’s only made more so by how the media is playing up any poll suggesting that Trump can win that second term while playing down the message that he is spreading to his supporters. Coverage of Trump’s threats, growing lies, and statements that are increasingly divorced from reality is spotty at best. Coverage of anything that suggests Trump is winning, that voters are dissatisfied with Biden, or that Democrats are in trouble gets guaranteed front-page treatment.
The media played this game in 2016, and the damage it did to the nation then may be irrevocable. In 2023, it is still trying to pretend that Trump is a reasonable opponent and that putting a thumb on the scales to hide his drive for an end to democracy is acceptable so long as it generates more clicks, views, and papers sold.
In 2006, Hamas won an election in Gaza and made sure it never faced democratic opposition again. That’s exactly what Republicans intend for America in 2024.
Large parts of the media are likely to cheer them on, right up until the day Trump’s propaganda ministers take over their operations. Then they’ll cheer louder.