If you aren’t already reading Heather Cox Richardson‘s daily newsletters, I highly recommend them. She is a professor of American history who brilliantly puts current US events into historical context. She also broadcasts live on Facebook twice a week, and in today’s video she connects the dots to demonstrate how Trump is using the Department of Homeland Security to create a false narrative about violent anarchists on the streets in Portland (and soon other cities as well) in order to scare people into voting for him in November.

Keep in mind that to date, the worst the protesters in Portland have done is spray graffiti on some government buildings and deface a statue commemorating the Confederacy. Meanwhile, unmarked, heavily armed federal officers have cracked skulls and swept peaceful protesters off the streets into unmarked vans. Is this the kind of country any of us wants to live in? A place where the government engages in extrajudicial violence and disappearances?

The military, for all its faults, is an essentially apolitical (not to mention disciplined) institution. After the debacle where Trump manipulated the military into clearing the streets near the White House of protesters so that he could pose with a bible in front of a nearby church, military leaders made it clear that they would not let themselves be used like that again.

So now Trump is using law enforcement officers from the Department of Homeland Security — especially two of its sub-agencies, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) — to serve as his storm troopers. DHS is a thoroughly political institution, created by the George W. Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, and CBP and ICE, which are both full of virulently right-wing white supremacists, are more than willing to do Trump’s bidding.

In 2016 (and again in 2018), it was caravans of supposedly violent immigrants who were said to pose a national security threat to our country. (Funny how news of the caravans essentially disappeared after the elections.) In 2020, it will be purportedly violent anarchists in — wait for it — Democratically-led cities who allegedly pose an existential threat to our democracy. The language to this effect that 45 used in his recent “Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence” is extraordinarily deceptive, incendiary and dangerous. When has a nation’s government ever gone to such lengths to protect monuments to traitors? The so-called violent left-wing extremist is just a straw man. The real threat comes from the government-sanctioned brown shirts on our streets.

Richardson also makes the point that although most presidents want to be re-elected (except for the few, like LBJ, who chose not to run for a second term), the lengths to which Trump is going to gain re-election is unprecedented in American history. After all, what’s the worst that can happen if a president is not re-elected? That he (or, someday, she) is condemned to a life of too much golf and millions of dollars in lecture circuit earnings? It’s not a bad gig.

But in Trump’s case, something worse awaits him, as it is almost certain that once he leaves office, he will be subject to multiple criminal charges. The only thing protecting him from indictment now is a Department of Justice policy (it’s not even a law) that a sitting president cannot be subject to criminal charges. So he is using all of the government resources at his disposal to distract the populace from his disastrous lack of leadership that has allowed a virulent coronavirus to kill thousands of Americans, and to convince the electorate that only he can save us from the violent overthrow of the US government.

It’s all utterly despicable, and leaves me in deep despair. Meanwhile, the Republican Party is stripping the country for parts while they have the chance. We are living through the end of the American Century, brought to you by our sponsor, Trump Inc.