It’s hard to assess threat amidst chaos, to parse the signal from the noise. But this threat, amidst a pandemic and economic collapse, is real and particularly ominous:
Donald Trump’s threat to send federal forces to various American cities — as he already has in “quelling” the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, D.C. and Portland, Oregon — can mean only one thing: Our “president” is willing to use force against his fellow Americans to intimidate and suppress the vote in November. Or to “secure” an alleged “rigged” voting system. He is also signaling his belligerence to vacate office, should the vote go against him.
That the cities Trump targets for federal occupation are all Democratic strongholds run by Democratic mayors, who allegedly can’t or won’t control the “anarchists” or their urban violence — Chicago is next, with New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Seattle, Oakland to follow — is further proof of his electoral strategy: His polls plummeting with his disastrous handling of the pandemic, Trump resorts to force.
While much is made of these federal forces — some with no identifying insignia other than “Police,” with questions about their agency of origin and reference to Vladimir Putin’s “little green men” who invaded Crimea — and while now we hear from protesters themselves about being beaten and bundled into unmarked vehicles (also here) — all deeply upsetting — we must fix on the dangerous implication: This is martial force without accountability. Moreover, not only is Trump priming storm-troopers to use force to stay in power, he has the zealots in place to carry out his orders. Chad Wolf, acting head of the Department of Homeland Security, defiantly declares: “I don’t need invitations” from the states or mayors “to do our job. We’re going to do that, whether they like us there or not.”
To those questioning the term “storm-trooper”: If one definition is “a soldier trained especially for carrying out a sudden assault,” these cadres meet that definition. Of course, in the public mind “storm-trooper” evokes Hitler’s Nazi militia. I use it in reference to extra-legal violence deployed by the state against its own people. That this “state” is the United States of America is, yes, stunning, but we must get over it.