Trump will do anything to be re-elected. His opponents are limited because they believe in democracy. Trump has no limits because he doesn’t.
Here’s Trump’s re-election playbook, in 25 simple steps:
1. Declare yourself above the law.
2. Use racist fearmongering. Demand “law and order” and describe protesters as “thugs”, “lowlife” and “rioters and looters”. Describe Covid-19 as “Kung-Flu”. Retweet posts from white supremacists. In your campaign ads, use a symbol associated with Nazis.
3. Appoint an attorney general more loyal to you than to America, and politicize the Department of Justice so it’s lenient on your loyalists and comes down hard on your enemies. Have it lighten the sentence of a crony convicted of lying under oath. Order investigations of industries you dislike.
4. Fire US attorneys who are investigating you.
5. Fire independent inspectors general who are looking into what you’ve done. Crush any whistleblowers you find.
6. Demean and ignore the intelligence community. Appoint a director of national intelligence more loyal to you than to America. Demand that the head of the FBI pledge loyalty to you.
7. Pack the federal courts with judges and justices more loyal to you than to the constitution.
8. Politicize the Department of Defense so generals will back whatever you order. Refer to them as “my generals”. Have them help clear out protesters. Order the military to surveil protesters. Tell governors you’ll bring in the military to stop protesters.
9. Purge your party of anyone disloyal to you and turn it into a mindless, brainless, spineless cult.
10. Get rid of accumulated experience and expertise in government. Demean career public servants. Hollow out the state department, the Department of Justice, Health and Human Services, and public health.
11. Reward donors and cronies with bailouts, tax breaks, subsidies, government contracts, regulatory rollbacks and plum jobs. Put their lobbyists in charge of your agencies. Distribute $500bn in pandemic assistance to corporations in secret, without any oversight.
13. Create scapegoats. Demonize migrants and lock up asylum-seekers at the border even if they’re children. Put a white nationalist in charge of immigration policy. Blame Muslims, Mexicans and Chinese.
15. Conjure up conspiracies against yourself supposedly led by your predecessor and your opponent in the last election. Without any evidence, accuse your predecessor of “treason”. Fabricate a “Deep State” out to get you.
16. Downplay real threats to the nation, such as a rapidly spreading pandemic. Lie about your utter failure to contain it. Muzzle public health experts. Urge people to go back to work even as the pandemic worsens in parts of the country.
17. Encourage armed supporters to “liberate” states from elected officials who disagree with you.
18. Bribe other nations to investigate your electoral opponent and flood social media with lies about him.
19. Use rightwing propaganda machines like Fox News and conspiracy theory peddling One America News to inundate the country with your lies. Ensure that the morally bankrupt chief executive of Facebook allows you to spread your lies on the biggest media machine in the world.
20. Suppress the votes of people likely to vote against you. Intimidate voters of color. Encourage Republican governors to purge voter rolls, demand voter ID and close polling places.
21. Seek to prevent mail-in ballots during the pandemic. Claim they will cause voter fraud, without evidence. Threaten to close the US postal service.
22. Get Vladimir Putin to hack into US election machines, as he did in 2016 but can now do with more experience and deftness. Promise him that in return you’ll further destabilize America as well as Nato. Allow him to put a bounty on killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
23. If it still looks like you’ll be voted out, try to postpone the election.
24. If you’re voted out of office notwithstanding all this, refuse to leave. Contest the election, claim massive fraud, say it’s a conspiracy, get your cult of a political party to support your lies, get your propaganda machine to repeat them, get your justice department to back you, get your judges and justices to affirm you, get your generals to suppress any subsequent rebellion.
25. Declare victory.
Memo to America: Beware Trump’s playbook. Spread the truth. Stay vigilant. Fight for our democracy.