Well now what the hell do we do?

Photo: Todd McInturf, The Detroit News

Don’t mourn the Senate, it was never ours to begin with.

Trump has learned the lesson from his acquittal: he can do whatever he wants, and no one will do anything to stop him. Trump has taken over 3/3 branches of the US government and at this point is literally above the law. He now has more power than any previous US president. Despite Trump’s limited intellect and self-awareness, he has an intuitive grasp of power: how to build it, how to maintain it, and how quickly he can erase the boundaries between president and dictator.

Does this mean it a was a mistake to fight for impeachment? No. We had a real chance. IF we had won the vote for witnesses, IF those witnesses dropped further bombshells, IF this then changed public opinion sharply in favor of removal…we had a chance to convict and remove Trump from office.

This failure of impeachment wasn’t inevitable. Our next battle isn’t predetermined, either. There is fury building against this Trumpian dystopia. There is fury building against those in positions of power who didn’t have the courage or wisdom to stop this from happening.

Trump is now in a phase of consolidating his power and taking steps towards an outright fascist dictatorship without democratic rights, the rule of law, or the right to dissent: sending tactical assault teams to sanctuary cities, taking revenge against impeachment witnesses, instructing the “Department of Justice” to protect his friend Roger Stone, his advisor’s statement that “siding against the president will not be tolerated,” Trump’s thinly veiled death threat against the whistleblower, and William Barr’s dictum making it illegal to investigate the Trump 2020 campaign going forward. This is where we’re at.

“The truth is told in jokes.” — Romanian proverb

The same experts who wondered whether Trump would be chastened by his impeachment and acquittal are now telling us that Trump can only be reigned in by the electorate.

Four years ago — sure. But we’re miles away from that now.

Since his inauguration, Trump has talked about staying in office beyond the constitutional limit of two terms MORE THAN 27 TIMES.

“…a lot of them say, ‘You know he’s not leaving, don’t you?’ One of these characters — these people are so stupid. One of them said — one of them said, ‘You know he’s going to win, don’t you? And you know, at the end of his second term, you know he’s not leaving. He’s not leaving. You know that.’ And I thought he’s a comedian. I thought he was kidding. He’s for real. So now we have to start thinking about that, because it’s not a bad idea.” [Applause.]

Trump has gone full-on, above-the-law dictator. The Constitution is no longer the law of the land. Trump’s whims are.

Why would anyone think that Congress or the Supreme Court will do anything to stop Trump from postponing or canceling the 2020 election outright? From losing the election but refusing to concede?

The usual methods we’ve depended on in the past won’t be sufficient to stop this social collapse. Voting’s great — in a system that works. Go ahead and vote on the next pick for book club. No one will stuff the ballot box, you don’t need millions of dollars to advocate for Where the Crawdads Sing, neo-Nazis won’t show up and shout you down.

Whether we like it or not, we’re back to the basics of unmediated social power.

From the Civil Rights Movement to the Civil War, from the Belgian Congo to Vietnam, all social power comes down to boots on the ground.

In other countries, revelations of a president cheating his way to power would cause enough unrest to bring done the unlawfully elected leader.

As Americans we’ve become used to having an economic, military and geographic buffer against the rest of the world. The social upheaval that shakes other countries has barely touched us for a long time.

We’ve spent most of the past three years waiting for the system to start working and to check Trump without us having to do anything out of our comfort zone.

We need to catch up to the rest of the world. The US isn’t a magical exception from the laws of history. Democracies fail. Fortunately, this wreck is happening in excruciating slow-motion and we still have the opportunity to do something about it.

We can stop a Trump dictatorship with mass, direct action. We could have already gotten rid of Trump, if tens of thousands of Americans had converged on the Capitol Building and refused to let anyone in or out until they did their jobs.

At some point hundreds of thousands of Americans will hit their breaking point and realize that no one is coming to save us. When that happens, those of us who have been active all along need to be ready.

What role will you play?

We need numbers, smart and aggressive tactics, creativity, courage and selflessness, and new trusted leaders.

Come to any and every protest you can. Meet your kindred spirits and exchange contact information. Learn to organize events. Learn to do public speaking. Learn to discern the differences among people’s motives; learn to make sense of the political gradations and disagreements on our side. These skills are going to be more important that we can imagine in the near future.

That might be in November when Trump postpones or cancels the election, or refuses to concede. Maybe it will be after Trump cheats his way to a second term. Maybe it will be sooner, when Trump starts a nuclear war.

In this crisis there is also opportunity. We’ve been surviving in a deeply flawed country. When decent people are pushed to their breaking point, we aren’t going to stop at just getting rid of Donald Trump. The social power necessary to get rid of Trump also has the possibility of ending the inequality, irrationality and cruelty of our society.

Did you ever used to wish you lived in a time period where you had the chance to make a real difference? You should not have wished for that. But now that we’ve gotten it, let’s make the most of it. Let’s remove Trump and rebuild the rotten system that raised him up.