The four-decade-long assault on our democratic institutions by corporations has left them weak and largely dysfunctional. These institutions, which surrendered their efficacy and credibility to serve corporate interests, should have been our firewall. Instead, they are tottering under the onslaught.
Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized and distrusted. Universities have been purged of dissidents and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts have been defunded and left on life support. The courts have been stacked with judges whose legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued under Barack Obama. Money has replaced the vote, which is how someone as unqualified as Betsy DeVos can buy herself a Cabinet seat. And the Democratic Party, rather than sever its ties to Wall Street and corporations, is naively waiting in the wings to profit from a Trump debacle.
Nader said that Trump will, however, be able to consolidate power if we suffer another catastrophic terrorist attack or there is a financial meltdown. Dictatorial regimes need a crisis, either real or manufactured, to justify total suspension of civil liberties and assuming uncontested control.
“If there is a stateless terrorist attack on the U.S. he is capable of concentrating a lot of power in the White House against the courts and against Congress,” Nader warned. “He will scapegoat the people opposed to him. … This will weaken any resistance and opposition.”
The tension between the Trump White House and segments of the establishment, including the courts, the intelligence community and the State Department, has been misconstrued as evidence that the elites will remove Trump from power. If the elites can work out a relationship with the Trump regime to maximize profits and protect their personal and class interests they will gladly endure the embarrassment of having a demagogue in the Oval Office.
The corporate state, or deep state, also has no commitment to democracy. Its forces hollowed out democratic institutions to render them impotent. The difference between corporate power and the Trump regime is that corporate power sought to maintain the fiction of democracy, including the polite, public deference paid to bankrupt democratic institutions. Trump has obliterated this deference. He has plunged political discourse into the gutter. Trump is not destroying democratic institutions. They were destroyed before he took office.