When convicts rule… civil wars may follow

Jun 13, 2024
Close up of woman holding US flag while waiting in a line to vote during elections USA.

If convicted felon Donald Trump wins the US presidential election in November 2024 it will probably herald the end of America as the world and as Americans know it. And maybe ignite the Second American Civil War.

Taking Trump at his rhetoric (never a terribly safe thing) here are a few of the sweeping changes he has vowed to usher in:

Dictatorship: Trump promised authoritarian rule on ‘Day One’, which he later qualified as “only on Day One”, raising the intriguing question of what he will decide happens on Day Two.

End the US Constitution: In a Truth Social ‘tweet’ Trump used his electoral loss in 2020 to justify terminating “all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution”.

Suborn the Supreme Court: Trump has vowed to replace America’s senior jurists with individuals who will obey him.

Restrict voting: He will ban absentee and early voting in Federal Elections.

Close the borders: (Again) ban Moslems and people from particular countries from entering the US. Eject 15-20 million illegals. He will end birthright citizenship. Build huge detention camps.

Drain the Swamp’: Trump previously signed an executive order permitting him to sack up to 50,000 public servants and replace them with Trump loyalists. Though Biden has repealed it, it is still on Trump’s mind – and applies particularly to bodies like the Dept of Justice (DoJ), FBI, CIA, intelligence agencies, Pentagon etc. All 2m federal public servants will be required to sit a ‘patriotism test’ or be fired.

Hound ‘traitors’: Trump has threatened to use the Justice Department to remove (and even execute) perceived ‘traitors’ in the military, media, politics and state justice system etc. He has vowed to pursue ‘Marxists’ in the education and legal systems.

Pardon ‘rebels’: He has signalled pardons for people jailed for the Jan 6 uprising.

War on Education: Trump would abolish the Dept. of Education, disband college boards and seize university endowment funds. School principals would be elected annually by parents. He will ‘bring back God’ to ‘schools and public squares’.

Internment camps: Arrest homeless Americans and relocate them to tent cities with the help of ‘doctors, psychiatrists and social workers’.
Build 10 Trump Cities: where there are no federal laws restricting business practice.

Promote discrimination: Trump will end affirmative action based on race, gender and sexual orientation for every federal agency and employee including the military and sack all staff. He will ban transgender people from the military.

End the Ukraine War: Trump will force Ukraine to negotiate with Russia by threatening to remove all military aid. He may withdraw the US from the NATO Alliance.

While it must be acknowledged that Trump does not have a great record for keeping his election promises, there is no doubting his serious intent around many of these pledges, regardless of their legality or practicality. Even his attempts to implement them will drive fresh fault-lines across the entire US society and deepen many old ones. The result might bear some rough resemblance to the electoral map:

Image: Supplied

Indeed, it is arguable that by running on such an agenda Trump has already set the machinery for civil strife within the US in motion, even if he is not elected. Especially if he is not elected.

One American in three owns a gun. There are an estimated 393 million firearms in the possession of the civilian population – and only 4.5 million in the possession of the US military (though some of these are rather big…). Police have a further one million guns. No-one can tell which side these would be on.

In the tinderbox politics that Trump and his supporters have striven to ignite, the scope for the USA erupting into a second great civil conflict over any, or all, of these issues rises daily.

A pragmatic question for America’s allies, such as Australia, is whether to remain in alliance with a country so prone to disintegrate or abandon democracy. The scope for new confederacies of states to arise, most probably on economic lines, and abandon their allegiance to the old is growing. The problem for other countries would then become, as it was in 1861, whom to side with?

The disarticulation of the US as an economic superpower brings with it other weighty questions. Which currency will the world rely on if the greenback goes into freefall? What will happen to world share prices? How will US-based mega-corporations function if forced to flee? Who will mind the powerful US nuclear arsenal – and would fragmented states even be able to afford such weaponry? How will America’s chief rivals, China and Russia, react? What will become of the Middle East?

Australia, currently being drawn inexorably in the US nuclear furnace and towards war with China, would do well to adopt a neutral stance.

While Trump may prove disastrous for the USA, he might also provide the crucial nudge that finally induces Australia to stop clinging, infant-like, to other countries’ skirts and stand at last on its own two, independent feet.


For more on this topic P&I recommends:

Political Polarisation in the United States: The series

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