Rick Wilson lives inside Donald Trump’s head. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” he tells me. “What’s in there is a monster of terror. Gruesome, but tearing apart Trump’s brain processes is what I do. ” In contrast, Wilson’s brain has a peculiar appeal. Once an advisor to Dick Cheney, George Bush Sr.’s obscure defense secretary and George Bush Jr.’s vice president, Wilson had been a lifelong member of the Republican Party’s hard-line. For the Democrats, he was a formidable rival. A year ago he took a violent turn, left the party and went to war against Trump. He and two other major Republican defectors founded the Lincoln Project, a movement whose mission is to defeat Trump in the November 3 election. Being converts, they are not only fans of the cause but they attack Trump through social media or YouTube videos with more viciousness than when they campaigned against Democratic candidates.
Wilson, 56, doesn’t cut himself. In our conversation he compares Trump with Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Ceausescu. One of the absolutely typical videos that the Lincoln Project produces denounces “the evident racism, the crass sexism, the insane narcissism, cronyism with the Nazis ”of the“ rotten ”,“ clown ”president.
“We have two goals,” says Wilson. “Persuade those who voted for Trump in 2016 to vote for Joseph Biden and drive Trump crazy, or rather drive him more crazy. For that, as in all wars, you have to know the enemy ”. I speak to Wilson on Zoom from Boston, where I spent a couple of days at the home of my old friend Lenny, a former journalist, former speechwriter for Bill Clinton, and a fervent political animal. Tomorrow Lenny and I will start a car expedition to Pennsylvania, one of the six or seven key states, Electoral “battlefields” where the electoral result will be decided. Wilson – bald, white-bearded, 56 years old – is in what appears to be a cabin in a remote and mountainous part of the state of Utah. It doesn’t tell me exactly where. He and his people have received countless death threats and are taking them seriously.
What is at stake in these elections? I ask him. “What’s at stake?” he responds sarcastically. “Nothing, just the future of democracy. Only the proposition of equality before the law on which this nation is based. Just the idea that anyone can be an American regardless of where they come from or the color of their skin. Trump represents the fascist idea of ’blood and dirt’. We plan to bury her ”.
Wilson thinks Biden will win at the polls but it scares you what might happen if the margin of victory is tight. “Trump will tell his henchmen there was fraud, he will ask his attorney general, his governors and allied senators to protect his ‘legitimate’ triumph. The National Guard will be with him too. I see, a country split in two, at least a cold civil war. ” I comment to Wilson that the New Yorker today has the question “What to do if Trump makes a coup?” He raises his eyebrows but says nothing. I ask you: could the army play a decisive role?
“God! I hope not! I know the military. I worked with them for four years when I was with Cheney. There is a line that they have never wanted to cross. But they will have to decide whether or not to cross it in the event that Trump orders them to intervene against pro-Biden demonstrations. If the result is reduced to a question of 20 votes we will live in a moment of extraordinary danger. It is imperative that we beat Trump by a landslide. “
I propose to Wilson that the mere fact that he does not rule out the possibility of military intervention sounds more like a banana country than a democratic hyperpower.
“It’s hard to admit but yes. Don’t forget also that Trump has already questioned the legitimacy of the electoral processHe, who faces court trials in case of losing the election. Trump exhibits all the facets of the tropical authoritarian. They start out with a lot of populist noise and then come the promises to punish the elites, the rich, the powerful. But suddenly one day, and I hope that day is about to get here, they leave. Puff. Like Ceausescu, Saddam, Gaddafi.
“Look, I just finished an ad that Trump is going to hate: it’s aimed at Miami Republicans and I compare it to Castro. You know: the endless speeches, the gigantic narcissism. Trump dreams of having the power that Castro had, or they have Putin or Kim Jong Un. ” I ask Wilson if he would go back to the Republican Party if Biden wins. “There is no longer a republican party. It has disappeared. Trump devoured it. He no longer represents anything except his ego ”.
Why has it been devoured?
“Two things. FOMT, Fear Of Mean Tweets — Republican senators and congressmen’s fear of ugly tweets. And opportunism, the craziest cynicism. A total ideological abdication ”. Wilson does not have FOMT syndrome, I propose. “Ha! No. They throw shit at me every minute of the day, threats of all kinds, but I scare Trump and his faithful more than they scare me. With that said I have to run to make another announcement against the son of a bitch. Goodbye”.
I stare at the blank screen, stunned by Wilson’s energy and dedication, amazed at the hatred he conveys for his former co-religionists. I think thankfully that he has hidden in the mountains of Utah, and more so when I read this tweet that someone has just directed against the Lincoln Project: “Fuck every last one of you motherfuckers! And when a civil war happens. . . duck. ” I will not translate the first part. The second says, “When the civil war comes … get down”.
The tweet was sent by a Trump voter in Pennsylvania. I’m going there with my friend Lenny. But first we will pass through New York where we will have lunch with a couple of distinguished academics, one of them a writer from the old left, who are going to vote for Trump.