With Trump, we are witnessing a coup d’état’ – Interview Russell Shorto

Donald Trump becomes the new president of the United States. The majority of his supporters lives in the countryside. What does his victory means for cities – in the US ánd in the Netherlands? On 24 January, 4 days after Trumps inauguration, Stadsleven asks the question ‘what it means to live in a Trump Town’. Tracy Metz talks with journalist Russell Shorto, author of ‘Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City’ about the possible implications of Trump for cities. 

Cities are worried about Trump

TM: President-elect Trump has threatened to cut funding within his first hundred days for cities which do not adhere to his anti-immigration, anti-climate mitigation policy. How seriously are cities taking this?

RS: I recently had dinner with the mayor of a medium sized American city. She is terrified not just for her city, but for cities around the country. She stressed that mayors tend not to be overtly ideological, that when she gets together with other mayors – there is a big conference of U.S. mayors coming up in January – you can’t tell who is a Democrat or a Republican. All of them are simply dealing with real-world concerns: affordable housing, infrastructure, community issues, drugs. She said Trump’s stated policies would gut funding to cities for police departments and housing, among other things, and no one has a plan to deal with the coming chaos.

Credits: Flickr/Johnny Silvercloud

We are witnessing a coup d’état

TM: Does he really have the power to do that? Legal experts point out that under the Constitution, state and local governments have the right to refuse to help enforce federal law.

RS: Nobody knows yet what the legal status of Trump’s threat is. But that, as far as I’m concerned, is small stuff. The looming reality is of a far-right takeover of American government and society. Much of Trump’s agenda, if we can call it that, lies outside traditional conservatism, but Republican leaders in Congress are fearful of speaking out against him because of reprisals, including violence. Let me say that again: Republican leaders are afraid.

What is underway is a coup d’état, engineered by far-right forces and coordinated in some way with the Russian dictator, with a goal of installing an American dictator. I wish I were being hyperbolic, but I’m afraid I am not. You are aware, no doubt, that Trump has a private security force protecting him, something no president-elect has ever had, which suggests as strongly as anything else an intention to operate outside the political norms. No one in any position of power in the United States has shown signs of moving to stop this.

The Democrats have minorities in both Houses and are engaged in fighting among themselves over how much to play along with Trump, and the Republicans are being intimidated into remaining mute. Trump has all but announced his intention to pull away from NATO, and from western Europe in general, and to align himself with Russia.

Credits: Charles Stone

Some silver lining

TM: Can you discern any silver lining in this dark cloud?

RS: To look at all of this in a positive light, which is difficult, I would say it will be a test of American institutions: the two political parties, the court system, civil rights and legal organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union, and the media. One hopeful sign is that Trump has brought a sudden reversal to the long trend away from real journalism. All major newspapers have seen a spike in subscriptions, as have civil rights organizations.

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