The framers of the Constitution put three roadblocks in place to prevent a demagogue from assuming or discharging the office of President. One, the Electoral College, has already fallen. The courts, packed with Republican-appointed judges and Supreme Court mini-me Scalias, will also fail to stop the descent into an authoritarian kleptocracy.
That leaves the Congress. Unfortunately for the future of the republic, this Congress is, if anything, a greater threat than the showman-stooge-traitor Donald J. Trump.
Under Republican control, it waged a scorched-earth campaign to undercut President Obama at every juncture. His well-qualified, centrist nominee to the high court was blocked for nearly a year, an unprecedented act. Efforts to build infrastructure and create jobs, to fill the hole in demand caused by the Great Recession, were victims of needless "austerity." Republicans threatened to default on U.S. debt, one of their many hostage-takings to ensure that they "broke him," in the pungent words of former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint (now head of the premier right-wing "think tank," the Heritage Foundation).
Now, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and more people voted for Democrats than Republicans, this minority has total control of the national government. They represent the New Confederacy in our Cold Civil War. The beneficiaries of the vicious backlash to a black president. And they intend to use this power to the fullest.
With exceptions. Trump's many conflicts of interest violate the Constitution's emoluments clause. However, only Congress has the standing to enforce it. This won't happen. The many not-normal behaviors of the President-elect have barely elicited a murmur from the GOP, with the honorable exceptions of John McCain and Lindsey Graham. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is pushing for a quick confirmation of Trump's cabinet, even though many of these oligarchs have not been vetted. This is an administration compromised and blackmailed by Moscow, and dedicated to looting the nation for their personal gain
Trump will be impeachable and removable on day one of his presidency. But don't expect this Congress — with many veterans of the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about a dalliance — to act. If it did, we would get the creepy theocrat-reactionary Mike Pence. But it won't. Why? For one thing, the august solons are terrified of the base that Trump has assembled and energized (most opposed him in the primary and they were surprised he won everything). More important, Trump will allow them to impose their dark vision on America.
Repeal of Obamacare is only the beginning. Speaker Paul Ryan, accorded strange respect as a thinker and policy wonk by the media, has long wanted to "reform entitlements." This is code for undoing the social compact that has been in place since the New Deal and supported and expanded by both parties. Privatize Social Security so Wall Street can profit while seniors work until 70 — if they can in a nation where age discrimination is rampant. Dismantle Medicare, next to Social Security the most successful and efficient social program of all time, give it to the private sector. When you hear "entitlements," think earned benefits. This is a compact between generations. If the New Confederate Congress gets its way, it's history.
Inequality? That's as yesterday as diversity, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ civil rights. Big tax cuts for the rich and further loss of worker protections and leverage will ensure even greater inequality, even desperation. Major rollbacks in regulations will make workplaces less safe and undo decades of progress in environmental protection. Our air and water will be dirtier. The public lands will begin to be sold off or "returned to the states" (to whom they never belonged). But big bucks will be made by the few. All this will be codified in law and rubber-stamped by Republican courts.
Social justice? Yesterday's cause. Now the agenda will include radical cuts to food stamps and Medicaid, most needed by the working poor — one of many ways that corporations socialize their costs while privatizing their profits. People can do without. Here's your $2,000 voucher — so what if that covers the cost of a visit to the emergency room. Women's health? That was another issue that died after Election Day. The war on reproductive choice won't stop with abortion but also include suppression of birth control. These people have a fetish about sex, especially women having sex, even as they themselves are regularly caught up in sex scandals. Soon the GOP will control enough statehouses to speed through constitutional amendments, including outlawing abortion and even birth control (wealthy Republican women will find a way. The white women who voted in the majority for Trump think they will).
And the planet? The party that controls everything doesn't believe in science, thinks climate change is a hoax. If you voted for Trump, Stein, Johnson, Bernie, or wrote in your dog's name — you voted to kill the planet.
All this and more has been percolating on the right for years. You can read more at the Heritage website. The GOP was frustrated that George W. Bush didn't accomplish more. All that "compassionate conservatism" was not for them. And they don't intend to miss their chance now — to repeal the New Deal, Great Society, Nixon administration, and Enlightenment.
Congress has the power. All Trump wants is to keep the reality television show going, with him as star, and make money off the boobs who put him into office. He will quickly set aside heterodox ideas, as when he promised high-speed trains, and let the Republican Congress have its way. Maybe he'll get us into World War III. Otherwise, he will be a figurehead for the most radical transformation of America in history.
Anyone looking for redemption in 2018 or 2020 should be mindful of the vote suppression and gerrymandering that has led to this catastrophe. As the consequences accumulate, enough people can be convinced to blame "liberal elites" and people who are different from "real Americans." Helped by Russian intelligence and their "useful idiots" (Lenin's phrase) in the media and elsewhere, this could be enough to keep minority control indefinitely.
I recall that soon after I returned to Phoenix in 2000 as a columnist for the Arizona Republic, I was invited to speak to a local Young Republicans group. I was not nearly as "liberal" as I am now, having been a teen-age Republican myself. But my talk did not sit well with this audience.
A young woman stood up to ask a question — actually made a long speech about how all social programs should be eliminated immediately. When she ran out of gas, I asked her what would happen when the result was people rioting in the streets? "Mow them down with machine guns," she said in deep seriousness. I had spoken to scores of GOP clubs across the country and had never encountered this. My host, an old-style Republican even though he was a young man, was mortified. But most of the audience was with her. She was the future of the party. And now people like her have all the power.