Civil War 2.0: Scenario 2: A Trump Victory

If Trump escapes ballot disqualification, conviction, & secures the presidency, a wave of domestic repression unseen since the worst days of the Cold War may ensue. But his tenure might also be short.

Civil War 2.0: Scenario 2: A Trump Victory

For nearly a decade, the Washington political establishment and the mainstream press have had one critical trait in common: they've both routinely underestimated Donald Trump.

In 2015, they believed he had no chance of getting the GOP nomination for president. In 2016, after he secured the nomination, they gave him no chance of beating Hillary Clinton for the presidency. After he defeated Clinton, they thought that despite his often vulgar, frequently racist-adjacent, misogynistic rhetoric, they assumed he'd still govern largely like a typical GOP office holder. As his presidency unfolded, they consistently underestimated just how far he would go to break established political and legal norms to try to get his way. And after he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, they underestimated how far he would go to try to illegally hang onto power.

I do not underestimate for a moment what this man is capable of, which is why in this, the final installment of the Sentinel's "Civil War 2.0" series, I'm going to lay out exactly why his reelection in 2024 could usher in a wave of political repression that could well rival or even exceed the worst excesses of World War II and the Cold War…and in doing so plant the seeds of his own destruction.

This scenario assumes the following:

  • That the Supreme Court rules Trump cannot be excluded from the November 2024 ballot.
  • That the January 6-related case against Trump has either 1) failed due to a hung jury or 2) does not resolve the status of any Trump appeal of a conviction prior to the November 2024 election.
  • That Trump lawfully but narrowly defeats incumbent Joe Biden but lacks the usual political "coat tails" that can decide who controls Congress. Democrats lose the Senate but retake control of the House of Representatives by emphasizing the threat posed by Trump and the Supreme Court's abortion related decision in the Dobbs case, among other issues.

First, I'll look at what Trump and others have said about his plans for a second term. Second, I'll talk about the terrifying tools he'll have at his disposal to carry out his self-proclaimed "revenge tour," and why his efforts to repress his political enemies could backfire spectacularly.

Second Term Plans: An American Nightmare

Having dispatched his GOP primary opponents long before Super Tuesday 2024, Trump will have, by the time of the November 2024 election, completed his consolidation of control over the GOP at every level. The initial signs of his success were apparent in the border security dispute between Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Biden administration. Prior warnings about his proposed "revenge tour" will have proved insufficient to move soft-GOP or independent-leaning voters to oppose him at the ballot box.

During his first month in office, Trump makes good on prior statements that he will, via a revised Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel opinion, attempt to place himself beyond the reach of judicial or Congressional accountability. He conducts a purge of so-called "deep state operatives" inside virtually every federal agency and department via his "Schedule F" federal job reclassification scheme.

Trump pardons Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and other convicted January 6 insurrectionists. These Trump loyalists, and other current and former state and local law enforcement personnel loyal to Trump, now replace the thousands of FBI, BATFE, DEA, and other federal law enforcement personnel purged via the new "Schedule F" policy.

The major exception is the Defense Department, where Trump does install--over Senate objections--senior civilian leaders from the Secretary of Defense on down who are Trump loyalists. But under pressure from Senate GOP national security policy "hawks" who are concerned about a possible military confrontation with China, Trump avoids replacing any flag rank (i.e., generals or admirals) officers on the Joint Staff or the major U.S. domestic or overseas commands.

Additionally, Trump authorizes the Justice Department to employ existing private investigator firms to assist with political investigations similar to those carried out by the American Protective League during WW I. He also encourages "patriotic, America First" civil society organizations to provide tips and leads to his newly reimagined Justice Department and its auxiliaries, creating an even larger network of domestic spies than the FBI's WW II and Cold War era American Legion Contact Program.

Trump reimposes an even more draconian version of his previous "Muslim ban," sends troops to the US-Mexico border, orders minefields and other lethal measures to be used to stop illegal crossings into US, establishes concentration camps to hold illegals pending expulsion, and threatens Central/South American countries with sanctions and even air strikes if they don't stop the illegal flows northward. Central and South American countries and the Organization of American States denounce these and other Trump actions, in many cases recalling their ambassadors to the U.S. and expelling U.S. diplomatic personnel from their countries in response.

When major conventional networks subsequently run unfavorable coverage of these various actions, Trump directs the FCC to revoke their licenses, as he previously threatened to do. Trump loyalist attorneys at the FCC and Justice Department aggressively defend this and other actions in federal court, at taxpayer expense.

When the same networks move much of their broadcast capabilities online, Trump directs Justice Department lawyers to go after the internet service providers (ISPs) hosting the network video feeds, their social media platforms, and the like. The networks then move their online operations to overseas ISPs, which Trump threatens to sanction, sparking another major international crisis with the European Union and other countries hosting ISPs carrying American network news and programming critical of Trump.

Federal judges declare all such Trump actions clear violations of the First Amendment and order Trump to cease and desist. In retaliation, Trump suggests such judges are also "deep state operatives" and withdraws Federal Marshal Service protection for every judge who opposes him. He refuses to comply with any court order or opinion with which he disagrees. The Justice Department slow-rolls investigations involving threats to federal judges and court staff, including actual murders of federal judges who have ruled against Trump's actions.

All of these events lead to street protests across the nation that far exceed in size and duration those seen either during the Vietnam War era or the 2020 George Floyd murder protests. Trump's Justice Department launches legal and surveillance/disruption actions against key Democratic Party affiliate and other left-leaning organizations for harassment/prosecutions, IRS audits, etc. Antifa, Black Lives Matter affiliated groups, organizations representing LGTBQ persons, and socialist/communist groups--especially armed ones--are also early targets.

Extremely left wing groups like the Socialist Rifle Association, the various John Brown Gun Club chapters, the Latino Rifle Association, and Yellow Peril Tactical have long been advocates of firearms ownership and use by those targeted by the likes of the Proud Boys. It is these groups that now directly engage in urban firefights and guerilla actions against Trump's regime.

In response, Trump initially orders active duty military forces to begin hunting for the leftist insurgents. However, within 48 hours of that order, American intelligence agencies report fresh indications at mainland China airfields and ports of likely invasion preparations focused on Taiwan, and the gist of those reports are leaked to the U.S. press. The Intelligence Community assessment concludes that Chinese leaders feel emboldened by the unprecedented level of domestic U.S. political turmoil, and thus confident that the United States will not be able to thwart Beijing's plans.

Anti-China Republicans in the House and Senate demand that Trump leave the active duty military out of any domestic security operations and instead begin deploying those forces to the Pacific to counter any Communist Chinese attempt to seize Taiwan. Reluctantly, Trump acquiesces.

Instead, Trump orders National Guard troops in multiple states to be federalized and used to go after armed leftist opponents of his regime. All Democratic governors refuse to obey Trump's Guard federalization order, and a number of GOP governors--previously supportive of Trump but now terrified by the course of events--likewise resist. The top generals at the National Guard Bureau resign in protest over Trump's order.

Overreach and Miscalculation

At this point, roughly 45 days into his second term, Trump encounters another countervailing force: the federal appropriations process.

As had been the case for nearly two decades prior, the Congress in late 2024 had failed to pass even some, much less all, of the annual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government. The stopgap funding bill they did pass prior to the Christmas 2024 break was set to expire at midnight on March 14, 2025.

The Democratically controlled House of Representatives, having already impeached Trump for his new unconstitutional acts, makes it clear that they will not pass any appropriations bill absent Trump's resignation from office and that of his Vice President. Trump then directs his Treasury Secretary to issue checks, make direct deposits, etc. via executive order. House Democrats, citing Congress's Article I, Section 8 authority as the exclusive arbiter over federal money matters, again impeach Trump and seek an injunction against the Treasury Secretary to print or otherwise disburse funds. Federal courts, including the Supreme Court, rule against Trump in the legal battle, but he proceeds anyway.

However, America's own banks, as well as foreign ones, refuse to honor or accept such illegal payments. Trump's new army of loyalists across the government do not, in fact, receive their paychecks. Trump then invokes the Insurrection Act and orders his new FBI to arrest the entire House Democratic caucus.

United States Capitol Police (USCP) and DC Metropolitan Police (DCPD) prohibit FBI and other Trumpist agents from entering the Capitol Campus. When an armed FBI SWAT element attempts to penetrate the Capitol and execute the arrests of House Democrats, it is engaged with lethal fire from USCP and DCPD elements. A number of Trumpist FBI agents are killed, and the survivors withdraw under heavy fire from USCP and DCPD forces.

The House Speaker calls for direct military aid from nearby Maryland, which responds by airlifting elements of its National Guard, the 29th Infantry Division, to secure the Capitol and prepare for any Trump administration counterattack. The DC National Guard and Air National Guard likewise respond to the House Speaker’s aid request, and along with Maryland National Guard elements seize Joint Base Andrews, impounding Air Force One and closing the airspace over D.C. to all other air traffic. Most GOP House and several GOP Senate members still loyal to Trump flee the Capitol. The ones that remain subsequently support a fresh impeachment resolution, this one leading to convictions for treason and insurrection for Trump and his VP.

Business and civil society leaders from across the political spectrum call for Trump to resign or face an all-out civil war. While initially some "Red" state GOP governors stand with Trump, major business sector leaders in their state make clear further support for Trump will lead to their political extinction. Spreading political unrest over the rapidly increasing economic turmoil created by Trump's actions lead some, though not all, of Trump's political base to abandon him.

Over the next few weeks, an increasing number of Trump "Schedule F" appointed personnel across the federal government simply walk off the job in search of an actual paycheck. By this point, the Maryland 29th Infantry Division has been joined by other regular Army and National Guard units from several other states loyal to the constitutional Republic and under the command of the commanding general of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). Just 78 days into his second term, Trump receives an ultimatum from the NORTHCOM commander: Trump and his VP surrender or the White House will be stormed. Not wanting to die for a man who cannot even legally pay them, Trump's Secret Service detail arrests Trump and his VP and turns them over to Republic loyalist forces.

The Duty Before Us

Did it read more like a high intensity, intrigued filled novella? Perhaps. But much of the scenario I've just described could indeed come to pass if Trump escapes judgment from the courts in 2024 and goes on to win another term as president. I'll let former House January 6 Select Committee Vice Chairman Liz Cheney's words (p. 368 of Oath and Honor) remind us all of the stakes:

"We the people must stop them. We are the only thing that can stop them. This is more important than partisan politics. Every one of us--Republican, Democrat, Independent--must work and vote together to ensure that Donald Trump and those who have appeased, enabled, and collaborated with him are defeated. This is the cause of our time."

And so it is.

Thanks for reading. I'll be back next week at this time with another edition of The Republic Sentinel.

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