To the reader: introducing Swarthmore (“Swarth”) Gilligan. Mr.Gilligan is a fictitious resident at the Kennedy-Warren Apartments where Embry and I live, who I recently learned is an agent of the British Intelligence Agency, who is in charge of analyzing countries the Brits consider at risk of losing their democracy. Before coming to the U.S., he was in Turkey, Hungary, and Poland. He has spent the last several months interviewing experts and I thought would be a great person to talk to if he would agree, which he kindly did reminding me that our meeting had to be clandestine. What follows is a transcript of the imagined conversation that we had on a park bench in Dupont Circle where the very British Mr. Gilligan was wearing a trench coat, dark glasses, and a Dick Tracy hat.
Me: So, Swarth, thanks for granting the interview, and my first question is how serious a situation do you think the U.S. is in now right now, and is there a chance that we are on the verge of a civil war as some are warning?
Swarth: Very serious, and, yes, while I do not believe that a civil war is certain, democracy as you have known it in the United States is certainly in danger. January 6th was just a shot across the bow. You have two political parties that demonize each other. One of these political parties supports an autocrat for “supreme leader” of the country, refuses to accept election results when the opposition party wins, and turns a blind eye when violence is used to achieve their ends. Furthermore, many on that side are fueled with religious fervor and believe they are doing the will of God. I have studied similar situations in other countries, and the ingredients are all in place for a toxic stew leading possibly to the end of democracy in the United States. The other political party is trying to play by the old rules and is being outmaneuvered.
Me: How important will the midterms be in determining what happens next?
Swarth: What happens in the midterm elections will have a huge impact on the future of your country. This election is one of the most important in the history of the United States.
Me: So, what do you think is going to happen?
Swarth: Well, I have spent a lot of time studying the situation, thinking about it, and reporting back to my government, and here is my assessment regarding your midterms and what will follow:
There will be a stalemate, but the seeds leading to disaster will have been planted. The Republicans will take the House by a dozen or so seats, but the Democrats will hang on by the skin of their teeth and keep 50 seats in the Senate. It will be a mess, and nothing which you would call “progressive” will get done for the next two years. Hearings will begin immediately in the House where Hunter Biden will be the first focus of attention in order to humiliate your President. The Republicans in the House will then go after Merrick Garland and a host of others including the President of the United States, whom they will impeach. Tit for tat, you know, what is good for the goose is good for the gander. The House will pass all sorts of legislation– making abortion illegal under federal law, cutting taxes on the rich and big corporations, cutting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and most social programs, rolling back initiatives on climate change, blocking the IRS in its efforts to nail billionaire tax cheats, killing what is left of affirmative action, spending more money on prisons , and trying to kill virtually everything that Biden accomplished in his first two years. But little will come of it because they will not have the votes in the Senate; and even if they do win a majority in the Senate, the filibuster would keep onerous bills from passing. Biden would veto the terrible bills that got through Congress. Because of the filibuster and the presidential veto, nothing too bad will happen on the legislative side.
Me: Well, that makes me feel a little better.
Swarth: Don’t mistake my comments as suggesting that the Republicans can’t cause serious trouble. The hearings and the legislation I just mentioned will hurt—plus, they will find many other ways of making life miserable for Biden and the Democrats. They are already threatening to use the debt ceiling as a way of forcing the Democrats to surrender because if the House does not vote to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. will be forced to default on paying Treasury obligations putting the entire global financial system in disarray. Believe me, my country is very concerned, but I do not believe it will come to this, which could be called the nuclear option.
Me: Not a happy situation, if you ask me.
Swarth: But here is the thing: All eyes will turn immediately to the 2024 election, and the focus will be gearing up for the showdown. Trump will run again and likely so will Biden, but this time it will be different because Trump will win, along with more right-wing extremists and sycophants, who will be running for House and Senate seats, and this time the election will be stolen. It will be stolen because following the 2022 elections the foxes will be in the chickencoops. Watch the races for governor and secretary of state in the battleground states. These seeds of disaster are just surfacing now at a time when your Democrats can’t do much to stop them. Democrats have been outfoxed. Red state legislatures and some purple states will pass laws giving more power to states and localities to make their own rules regarding voting and vote counting.
Republicans now control two-thirds of all legislatures in the U.S. Most Republican candidates for the offices responsible for running elections are Republican election deniers and avid Trumps supporters, who believe the 2020 election was stolen and probably will fight the results of elections where Democrats win in the midterms. They are already saying that if they win in 2022, they will replace voting machines with paper ballot counting. And whom are they going to choose to count the ballots? Super-partisan Republicans, of course.
Game over! Plus there is already evidence that vigilante efforts are being organized by 2020 election deniers to intimidate voters from the opposing side to stay away from the polls. It is a frightening picture.
These actions will shake your country at its roots and tear it apart. It will lead to what I call “the Great Reckoning”—the existential moment when your country must deal with these actions and take decisive steps that assure that your democracy survives. If the voting process becomes rigged–which is not the case now but will be in 2024 if the foxes remain in the hen house– democracy in the United States of America is doomed. I have seen this happen in other countries. Look at what just happened in Israel. Look at Turkey and Hungary and even Poland.
Me: Oh, my goodness! But what about civil war, which you hear so much about nowadays?
Swarth: There are three scenarios regarding the 2024 election, each very different with different outcomes that could happen. I have already predicted a Trump victory in 2024, not because he will win fair and square but because the election process will be compromised. If it is not Trump, you can be sure it will be a Trump wannabe– DeSantis, Cruz, or Hawley or worse.
First scenario: Trump wins. This will not cause a civil war because the guys with the guns will be in power. What it will cause is a police state. There will be turmoil with the Left pushing back with lots of demonstrations and some violence. Trump will declare martial law, deputize militia armies like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers and others as his personal “presidential guard”; and since he will have control of both Houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, he will be able to get pretty much what he wants. What you thought were Constitutional guarantees like free speech and the right to assemble will slowly disappear. The rigged voting process will lock in Republican control for the foreseeable future. Democracy over! Efforts to curb climate change will come to a virtual halt. You can understand why my country is very concerned about that.
Second scenario: Biden–or some other Democrat–wins. Even though I am not predicting this, it could happen. But this is when civil war in your country breaks out. It will make your January 6th rebellion look like a church picnic. I know from my intelligence gatherings that this is what the Right Wing militias are preparing for now. They are stockpiling large arsenals and beginning intensive training for an insurgency. Some are reported to be trying to secure nuclear weapons. Your FBI knows a lot about this as does British Intelligence. The problem is you can’t do much now to stop it, given the lack of gun control laws in most states. How the civil war turns out will depend mainly on what the U.S. military does. Since we know that many in the military are already Trump supporters, it is an open question. If the military and national guards do not bolt to what I would call the Dark Side, then ultimately I believe democracy in your country would survive, but it would be bloody.
Third scenario: America comes to its senses now. You might call this the Liz Cheney scenario. Enough elected Republicans come to realize that their country is on thin ice and that very bad things could happen. The two parties agree to a temporary truce to put in place guardrails that will keep the United States from crashing over a cliff. The guardrails are these:
- Passing federal legislation requiring all states to follow strict guidelines that prevent voting fraud and prevent limiting voter access for all federal, state, and local elections.
- Passing federal legislation outlawing false information on all social media relating to all elections and all candidates.
- Passing federal legislation limiting the amount of money that individuals and “nonprofit” groups and PACs can spend on elections, way too much of which you Americans call “Dark Money.”
- Taking tough governmental actions now against violent extremist groups that are planning to overthrow the government. I know that this is difficult given your Constitution; but unless you can get on top of this, you won’t have a Constitution.
Also it would not hurt to ditch or at least reform the electoral college process and gerrymandering. You are supposed to live in a democratic republic where individual votes are supposed to make a difference. That is not always the case in your country. I know that it is a bit of a stretch to think that all these reforms could happen. But some of them must happen–especially the first one, if you want to avert disaster. Long term all of them need to happen.
There are probably more things that could be done—like addressing the root causes of your national discontent– but if your country does not put in place tough laws and rules now that assure free and fair elections going forward, you are on the path to losing your democracy, and the whole world will suffer. My country is surely concerned as are many others.
Me: So what are the odds that we will come to our senses and do something about this?
Swarth: Sorry, got to go. See you at the Kennedy-Warren bar sometime soon?