Robert Reich: Escaping Trump’s Revenge – OpEd


Nikki Haley won the Republican primary in Washington, D.C., with about 63 percent of the vote to Donald Trump’s 33 percent, securing all 19 available delegates, and becoming the first woman to ever win a Republican presidential primary. 

To be sure, the contest was tiny: Just over 2,000 Republicans voted in the overwhelmingly Democratic city of Washington. But I admire Nikki Haley’s tenacity. 

On the other hand, I’m learning something disturbing about other Trump opponents, both Democrats and Republicans. 

When I served in Bill Clinton’s Cabinet, one of my favorite progressive lawmakers was Jim McDermott, who represented Seattle from 1989 to 2017. Jim had a long and distinguished legislative record. In his final year in Congress, he became one of the most trenchant critics of Donald Trump. He’s still criticizing Trump — from his safe house. 

Soon after Trump was elected in 2016, Jim blasted him for issuing inflammatory tweets, such as claiming without evidence that millions of people had voted illegally in the presidential election. Jim also openly worried about future sessions of Congress. “I think it’s going to be a very tough … helping the new president understand how a democracy actually works.”

Jim is now living in Civrac-en Medoc, a town of a few hundred people in western France, north of Bordeaux.

In a recent interview with Elizabeth Becker, a former Washington Post correspondent, Jim said he’s getting calls from former colleagues in Congress who fear what a vengeful Trump might do if reelected.

They wonder how to gauge the seriousness of Trump’s increasingly dire threats to American democracy and potentially to them and their families. “They are scared to do what I did — [to expatriate from the U.S.] — but are scared to stay,” Jim said. He tells them: “If you can afford it, buy a second home in France, or Spain, or Portugal, wherever … a second home that could become a safe house.”

I’ve heard similar concerns in recent months from lawmakers, officials, prosecutors, journalists, and celebrities who have been publicly critical of Trump. 

They worry about Trump’s promise of “retribution” if reelected, his intention to direct the Justice Department to investigate “every Marxist prosecutor in America,” his claim that his indictments have “released the genie out of the box” that would allow him to weaponize the government against his opponents, and his vow to “root out … the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country.” 

They’re also concerned about the apparent willingness of Trump’s followers to resort to violence against his opponents. 

third of Republicans agree with the statement that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” Among Republicans with a favorable view of Trump, 41 percent now agree that violence may be necessary. (By contrast, 22 percent of independents and 13 percent of Democrats agree.)

“It only takes one crackpot, like the guy who tried to kill Paul Pelosi,” one former lawmaker told me. 

I never thought this nation would get to a point where critics and opponents of a potential United States president begin to wonder whether to leave the country to keep themselves and their families safe. That’s standard for critics of bloodthirsty dictators like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, but in America? 

Elizabeth Becker asks, rhetorically: Is the United States facing a situation so dangerous that you would be foolish if you didn’t have a backup plan? Is it hyperbole to imagine the country sliding into authoritarian rule that would unleash violence, retribution, and repression?

I hope not. But the mere fact the question is being posed is itself a frightening commentary on where we’ve come — and may be heading. 

Every American, including Jim McDermott, has a right to live where they feel safe, of course. And if they can afford a “backup plan,” they may be wise to consider one. 

But I hope people with Jim’s principles and abilities — and Nikki Haley’s tenacity — remain here to defend America against Trump’s threats to democracy, even if he’s defeated in November.

This article was published at Robert Reich’s Substack

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *