I had a nightmare last night. Shortly after noon, one year from now, Donald J. Trump “suspended” the Constitution. He announced it in his inauguration speech from the west front of the U.S. Capitol, the same location where, a little more than five years earlier, the angry mob Trump summoned to Washington sought to keep him in office after he lost the 2020 election. There was no need for violence this time. With help from RFK, Jr., No Labels, and millions of deluded or lazy voters, Trump won.
Trump’s inauguration speech struck many as a repeat of the gloom and doom he offered in 2017, but this time, there were no ex-presidents to listen to it. The outgoing president, Joe Biden, was already back in Delaware and George W. Bush was in Texas. Trump promised to arrest both “on day one” and “toss them in jail.” Would he?
On the afternoon of January 21, just as Rachel Maddow finished commenting on Trump’s speech, she offered “Breaking News” that federal agents had seized control of The New York Times. Maddow did not have time to finish her report. Moments later MSNBC went off the air. Televisions tuned into the channel now featured a fixed shot of the letters MAGA and a picture of Trump taking his oath of office.
My nightmare continued with my watching FOX News, one of the few news channels still operating. Trump announced the dissolution of the House and Senate in his speech. Democrats had won control of both. Amazingly, as Trump told viewers that, “The Congress has not represented the views of the people for decades,” some members of the now-dissolved Senate were seen clapping, among them Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Josh Hawley (R-MO). Only Hawley had reason to clap. Earlier in the day Trump had appointed him to serve as Attorney General in a social media post that also announced the “disbanding” of the FBI and the firing of all current Department of Justice employees.
Some Democrats immediately started marching towards the White House. Some of them carried signs, “Illegal President” and “Jail Him Now.” These protesters were turned away by horse-mounted park police. Some protesters were shot.
Trump also freed the “January 6 hostages,” some of whom marched in the inaugural parade, which included a model of the scaffold erected at the Capitol in January 2021. The model included a sign, “He should have been hung; now he’ll be jailed.” “He” referred to former Vice President Mike Pence.
Under an order from Trump, National Guard troops started shooting undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the southern border. He also issued an executive order banning all abortions, effective immediately, and mandating death for any doctor performing or assisting, “in any way,” in the procedure. Two reports of doctors being shot were broadcast on Fox by the end of the day.
My nightmare continued with Trump committing U.S. troops to aid Russia in its “pacification” of Ukraine. He also announced that “our friend, Vladimir Putin,” would come to Washington in February as his guest. He promised to hold “the well-known Nazi, Zelensky” accountable. Then Trump predicted that, “We will see him swinging from a noose soon.”
About a week after inauguration day, Trump announced that, via executive order, the U.S. Constitution has been “rescinded.” In its place, Trump promised “a new, efficient, MAGA charter that will Keep America Great for the next 1,000 years.”
I woke up in a sweat after imagining a classroom of children being taught that Trump was the founder of the United States. For a few seconds, I trembled in fear. Then I realized that it was all only a bad dream and that we still have a year before inauguration day 2025. It is not too late to save democracy.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.