The midnight ride of Paul Revere is among the most celebrated incidents of the American Revolution of 1775-1783. On the night of April 18, 1775, the 40-year-old Son of Liberty rode his horse through Middlesex County, Massachusetts, warning revolutionaries along the way that the British military was preparing an attack on the arms depots at Lexington and Concord the next day. Whatever role Revere’s ride played in the outcome of the skirmish that ensued, it acquired meaning for what it came to symbolize: The population had been warned of the danger in time and was prepared to fight.
This July 4, as millions honor the democratic and egalitarian traditions of the Declaration of Independence and Revolutionary War, another urgent warning must be made of an existential danger to democracy that is currently playing out in real time. The threat comes not from a foreign invader attacking by land or by sea, but from within the American ruling class, through the halls of power.
A powerful, far-right network—led by Donald Trump and with deep connections in the state apparatus—is engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to establish a fascist dictatorship on US soil. It is now clear that on January 6, Trump was not working in isolation but through a series of powerful political mediators who helped coordinate the plot with co-conspirators in all the major institutions of the capitalist state.
Through Chief-of-Staff Mark Meadows, Trump conspired with the 147 senators and congressmen who voted against certifying the electoral college. Through Stephen Bannon, Trump conspired with the fascist groups who served as his muscle. Through Ginni Thomas, Trump conspired with several justices on the Supreme Court. Through the Flynn brothers and other far-right military figures, Trump obtained a 199-minute window in which to attempt his putsch. Through Jeffrey Clark, he sought to enlist or at least sideline the Justice Department and FBI. Through media conduits like Sean Hannity, he spread his lies about election fraud. Through his personal Twitter account, he incited and issued orders to the fascistic mob.
In the latest hearing of the House of Representatives’ committee investigating January 6, former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified that Trump wanted the crowd that day to be armed, approved of their calls for Vice President Mike Pence to be hanged for allowing the certification of the Electoral College results, and attempted to travel to the Capitol itself, where he planned to give a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives announcing that Congress was prorogued and he would remain president.
Trump nearly succeeded. Met with an unusually light police presence and with the National Guard held back, the mob was able to come within 40 feet of capturing Pence.
The Democratic Party made no attempt to oppose Trump’s coup, either in its lead-up or as it was taking place. As the coup was unfolding, then-President-elect Joe Biden made a statement encouraging the coup’s leader to address the nation on live television. No leading Democrat even issued so much as a tweet calling on defenders of democracy to come to Washington. In the 2022 book This Will Not Pass, reporters Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns relate that the Democratic Party refused an offer by union officials from nearby Philadelphia to send thousands of armed construction workers to clear the mob, in the military’s absence.
The Democratic Party’s years-long political assault on the democratic traditions of the American Revolution and Civil War is undermining democratic consciousness and strengthening Trump’s position. Through a constant emphasis on the politics of race and gender, the Democratic Party and Democratic-aligned media presented the bourgeois revolutionaries of both 18th and 19th centuries as nothing but racists and misogynists, their accomplishments hardly worth defending. As Trump’s coup plans were developing in the year preceding the election, the New York Times promoted its “1619 Project,” which denounces the American Revolution as a “slaveholders’ rebellion,” the main aim of which was to perpetuate slavery in the United States.
Trump, whose strength derives from the knowledge that the Democrats are terrified of taking measures to stop him, is reportedly accelerating plans to declare his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
This means Trump is preparing another coup attempt in 2024. To this end, he has solicited the support of the United States Supreme Court, a body which is comprised of three of his own nominees (Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Coney Barrett), plus two with whom he collaborated on January 6 (Alito, Thomas).
The Court is transforming itself into a battering ram for unrestrained political reaction, whose decisions pull the country toward dictatorial forms of rule. On June 24, the court banned abortion in a widely unpopular decision that ushers in a new era of court history based on the revocation of widely recognized democratic rights. In recent weeks, the court issued a slew of other decisions related to environmental regulation, gun violence and police powers, leading legal scholars to acknowledge this to be the most reactionary term in Supreme Court history.
But the Court’s most naked admission of complicity in Trump’s ongoing plot came Thursday with the announcement that all six Republican justices had agreed to hear a lawsuit in which the Republican-controlled state legislature of North Carolina is asking the court to adopt the pseudo-legal “independent state legislature theory.”
This theory is nothing less than a baseless justification for overriding the popular vote. Operating under this theory in 2020, Trump lawyers and conspirators demanded Republican state legislatures appoint alternate slates of electors and override the vote in their states. Such alternate slates were put forward by groups of Trump legislators in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Mexico, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. A ruling for the North Carolina legislature would both politically and legally legitimize Trump’s 2020 putsch and pave the way for a second attempt. The decision will likely be issued in June 2023, in plenty of time for the 2024 presidential election.
The response of the Democratic Party to the Supreme Court’s recent rulings makes clear they will do next to nothing to stop the ongoing plot. Last week, Joe Biden publicly declared with much sound and fury that he was prepared to override the filibuster to protect abortion, only to tell a group of senators privately that he only made this statement because he knew there was no chance of it actually happening. In response to a reporter’s question as to why the Democrats haven’t done anything to stop the courts, Vice President Kamala Harris replied, “Do what now?” Meanwhile, the Democrats preside over growing inflation and a worsening pandemic, and are prosecuting a war that could lead to nuclear disaster. They are hemorrhaging support and preparing to hand control of Congress back to Trump’s Republicans in the midterm elections.
The working class—in the US and internationally—must be warned of the ongoing danger and mobilized in time to stop it. This mobilization will require rooting the fight for democracy in the class struggle, linking workers in a network of fighting action committees to fight against the devastating impact of inflation and the rising cost of living and defend the democratic rights of the entire population. It means basing the fight for democracy in the fight against the capitalist system, breaking up the oligarchy, expropriating its wealth, placing its corporations under public ownership, and reorganizing the world economy under the democratic control of the international working class.