From MAGA to Gaza: Trump’s disorder engine has global consequences

Donald Trump is a human chaos machine. He will never stop — at least not until outside forces stop him.

Chaos is a defining feature of fascism and authoritarianism. It helps to create the societal upheaval under which a people can be convinced to abandon democracy and embrace autocrats and dictators.

During his time as president, Trump created chaos and uncertainty both as a function of his own mercurial nature and overall mental instability (not to mention laziness) and as part of a larger, partly conscious plan to undermine the country’s governing institutions, norms, values and political culture.  

Trump’s chaos campaign – with its open and direct threats of violence and intimidation against the MAGA movement’s perceived enemies – is central to his attempt to win back the White House in 2024, even as he faces four potential criminal trials that could put him in prison for the rest of his life. His civil trial in New York for decades of alleged fraud is likely to result in the death or dismemberment of his business empire.  

He is of course lashing out against any and all attempts to hold him accountable for his long career of serious alleged crimes. He has threatened the judges and prosecutors involved in his various cases, up to and including special counsel Jack Smith, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the entire Justice Department and FBI.

Trump’s chaos strategy has also been embraced by the Republican Party and larger “conservative” movement, which continue to discredit and delegitimize the very idea of government, rendering it increasingly dysfunctional and unable to respond properly to the many challenges facing America and the world.

Trump’s Agenda 47, Project 2025 and the “Red Caesar” plan now popular on the right represent an effort to present de facto right-wing dictatorship as the “solution” to the chaos and tumult the Republican fascists have themselves created.

In a recent conversation with Salon, journalist Katherine Stewart expressed her view that the Republican Party “has largely abandoned conservatism and has now refashioned itself as a revolutionary party”:

It’s not interested in preserving key American institutions. A segment of the party doesn’t even care about governing. … The extreme faction of the Republican Party is aiming to blow up the system and take control of whatever remains….

We need to stop calling the Republican Party’s dominant faction “conservative.” The real conservatives, right now, are the incrementalists on the center-left, people who think that we should try to preserve, build on and improve our key democratic institutions and international alliances. Leaders of the New Right and related movements are not remotely conservative. I would say they are revolutionaries without a rational or coherent purpose, or reactionary nihilists.

In a recent essay, commentator and author Thom Hartmann drily observed that the primary goal of contemporary Republicans is to destroy “what they call the ‘deep state’ and the rest of us call the American government”: real goals of the Republican Party and “conservative” movement’s cult-like worship of “small government”:

From Trump followers in MAGA hats at rallies to Republican senators, they’ll all tell you this without a moment’s hesitation. Steve Bannon even proclaimed it as the main goal of the Trump presidency in their first months in the White House, saying Trump’s goal was the “deconstruction of the administrative state.” … In this, the GOP, Putin, and fossil fuel billionaires are all working toward the same goal: to do away with or at least fatally weaken the institutions of our government that prevent the morbidly rich and wannabe strongman autocrats from taking over America.

Trump’s chaos is global, not purely American: It has direct connections to both Russia’s war in Ukraine and the new conflict in Israel and Gaza. 

As president, Donald Trump befriended dictators and autocrats, weakened America’s alliances and leadership role in the world and encouraged global instability. He appeared more interested in using the power of the presidency to glorify himself — and personally enrich himself, his family and his inner circle — than to protect America’s national interests.

And then there are the lingering questions about Trump’s relationship to Vladimir Putin and what he may have told senior Russian officials about Israel’s intelligence capabilities during a 2017 Oval Office meeting.

On Monday, Trump’s niece Mary Trump, who is a clinical psychologist, issued another warning about her uncle, describing him as a “f**king maniac” in a post on X. She speculated that Donald Trump “likely gave Putin (who gave Iran, who gave Hamas) Israel’s national security secrets,” adding that he had also “divulged highly classified information about our nuclear subs to an Australian cardboard guy. Why is he still allowed to roam free?”

S.V. Date elaborated on that hypothesis in a HuffPost article this week:

Less than four months into his term, the coup-attempting former president was bragging to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak during their Oval Office visit about the quality of the briefings he was receiving, and as proof offered details about a secret Israeli intelligence operation into Syria.

Israeli intelligence officials were incensed upon learning of the leak because, given Russia’s close ties to Iran and Syria, they had to assume that their local source for the information had been compromised and possibly killed, according to Israeli press accounts at the time.

“If indeed Trump, out of innocence or ignorance, leaked information to the Russians, then there is a real danger to sources that it took years to acquire, and to our working methods,” an Israeli intelligence source told journalist Ronen Bergman.

Shabtai Shavit, who led the Mossad intelligence agency in the 1990s, told the Times of Israel: “If tomorrow I were asked to pass information to the CIA, I would do everything I could to not pass it to them. Or I would first protect myself and only then give it, and what I’d give would be totally neutered.”

Instead of rallying behind President Biden in a unified front of support for Israel after the criminal attack by Hamas last weekend, Trump and other leading Republicans have instead chosen to attack and undermine Biden’s leadership in this moment of global crisis.

Trump has also impugned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, although the two have often been identified as ideological allies. In an interview with Brian Kilmeade of Fox News on Wednesday night, Trump said that Netanyahu “has been hurt very badly because of what’s happened here. He was not prepared. He was not prepared and Israel was not prepared. And under Trump, they wouldn’t have had to be prepared.”

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That’s a typical symptom of Trump’s malignant narcissism, which has led him to place himself at the center of Israel’s tragedy, telling his followers at a MAGA cult meeting in West Palm Beach on Wednesday that the Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah was “very smart” and vowing that he would “never forget that Bibi Netanyahu let us down,” which “was a very terrible thing.” He did not explain meant by that, but it was likely a personal grievance. 

Incredibly, Trump connected his Big Lie about the 2020 election to the Hamas attacks on Israel, telling his followers that “If the election wasn’t rigged, there would be nobody even thinking about going into Israel.”

Almost incredibly, Trump even connected his Big Lie about the 2020 election to the Hamas attacks on Israel, telling his followers that “If the election wasn’t rigged, there would be nobody even thinking about going into Israel…. The election was rigged, very sadly rigged.”

He shared a related but more elaborate conspiracy theory-lie in a Truth Social post on Monday:

The same people that raided Israel are pouring into our once beautiful USA, through our TOTALLY OPEN SOUTHERN BORDER, at Record Numbers. Are they planning an attack within our Country? Crooked Joe Biden and his BOSS, Barack Hussein Obama, did this to us!

Similar baseless claims that the U.S. has been “infiltrated” by “Muslim terrorists” are being amplified across Fox News and the right-wing disinformation echo chamber in the aftermath of last weekend’s horrific events in Israel.

But for all his lies and all the chaos he deliberately spreads, Donald Trump is remarkably consistent and transparent. In a certain sense, that’s a good thing — or at least it could help pro-democracy Americans defeat Trump and his neofascist movement.

When the autocrat tells us who and what they are, we should believe them. Avoidance and denial is not an adequate defense strategy; such behavior will not save us. The American people can choose to pay attention and take the danger seriously, in this moment of multiple overlapping crises, or they can simply be swept away in the chaos and confusion.

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