Newsletter: A year before election day, Trump the fascist has a real shot

A courtroom artist's rendition of former President Trump during his New York fraud trial on Nov. 6.
A courtroom artist’s rendition of former President Trump during his New York fraud trial on Nov. 6.
(Elizabeth Williams / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

I’m afraid it’s time to panic. We’re less than a year from election day (as in, presidential election day), and polls show a twice-impeached former president on trial in four jurisdictions not only running away with his party’s nomination, but also beating incumbent Joe Biden. I’m typically not one to put much stock into political horse-race coverage — because, as 2016 showed, only one poll truly matters — but the Republican electorate’s refusal to exile Donald Trump months before it anoints a nominee suggests that this country’s flirtation with fascism wasn’t just a one-off, but rather a feature of American politics.

As my former boss Nicholas Goldberg presciently wrote back in November 2020, “Trump’s ouster, while absolutely necessary, is only baby step No. 1.” And yet, here we are.


As for thinking of Trump as a fascist, the evidence has stared us in the face since Jan. 6, 2021. Columnist Jackie Calmes highlights what we’ve learned about Trump’s plans if he is reelected, and the revelations ought to frighten even the most hardened political observers. Reportedly, the former president will invoke the Insurrection Act on Day 1 of his new administration — not to protect citizens from imminent harm, as the law is intended, but to quash protests. He’ll target critics for investigation and prosecution and staff his administration with people who demonstrate loyalty to him more than they do competence for the job.

As Calmes observes, the best protection is “not electing Trump, period.” So, much of what political scientist Seth Masket wrote about the inherent flaws of polls a year before election day calmed me down. Until, that is, his final paragraph, which hit with the truth like a hammer striking a cold stone slab:

“One thing we do know is that presidential election results have been pretty rigid in the last two decades. Trump got 46% of the vote in 2016 and 47% in 2020; he’ll probably do around the same in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee. Chances are, we’re going to end up with a very close election, with the winner being determined by just tens of thousands of voters in a handful of swing states. This is the way elections are going in this era, and we don’t need a poll to know this.”

In other words, while the polls may not indicate Trump’s popularity, the structure of our system puts him within easy striking distance of power. Count me as not reassured.

Sitting down all day is killing us. The cure is surprisingly simple — and difficult. Our bodies were made to move, yet most American workers spend the day sitting down looking at screens (what, you thought this newsletter was written with parchment and ink quill?). That’s bad for us, and Columbia University researchers found that best way to mitigate the host of diseases associated with sedentary employment is to get up every 30 minutes and take a five-minute walk. To me, as a writer and editor chained to his laptop, that sounds about as simple as “calories in, calories out.”

She’s one of millions struggling to care for aging parents. It shouldn’t be this hard. Having recently cared for a 65-year-old parent through a debilitating three-month illness, I read Gemma Bulos’ piece with boundless sympathy. She and her siblings have found that looking after their 81-year-old mother at a time when hundreds of thousands of home healthcare aides are leaving the workforce is almost impossible.


Gaza’s techies were dreamers and builders. After Israel’s bombs, their stories shatter my heart. Anam Raheem took a job in the Gaza Strip in 2017 at a startup that trained Palestinians for careers in tech. Raheem’s co-workers “exemplified Palestinians who heeded the Western mantra of pulling oneself up by the bootstraps — who chose peace — despite the suffocating weight of Israel’s oppression.” Their work, their safety and some of their lives have been destroyed by Israeli bombs since Oct. 7.

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Biden can win on immigration by outmaneuvering the GOP. Advocates for immigrants in the U.S. without authorization want the president to establish a work program much broader in scope than DACA. Columnist Jean Guerrero warns that such a sweeping order would repeat a pattern that offers temporary protection at the expense of more durable but incremental change. She suggests allowing states to opt in or out of a program for undocumented workers in struggling sectors.

It’s time to end L.A.’s rent freeze. On Feb. 1, landlords in the city of Los Angeles will be allowed to increase rents on rent-controlled units for the first time in nearly four years. The Times’ editorial board believes that protection was crucial for renters at a time when the pandemic threatened jobs and wages and risked an eviction wave that could have worsened both public health and the housing crisis. But the rent freeze put the burden of affordability solely on landlords, and it’s time for it to end despite calls for an extension, the board says.

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