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PAL's Rick Abel to Launch Series of Books on Trump and Trumpism

Rick Abel, an emeritus law professor at UCLA and PAL collaborator, is launching a series of books on resistance to Trump and Trumpism. The series is being published by Routledge. Two volumes ('How Autocrats Abuse Power' and 'How Autocrats Attack Expertise') were released in 2023; two others are anticipated for 2024.

The books are about the threat of autocracy, which antedated Donald Trump and will persist after he leaves the stage. Autocrats blur or breach the separation of powers, use executive orders to bypass the legislature, pack the courts, replace career prosecutors with political appointees, abuse the pardon power, and claim immunity from the law. They seek to hobble opposition from civil society by curtailing speech and assembly, tolerating and even encouraging vigilante violence, and attacking the media. As Rick's books demonstrate, Trump followed the autocrat’s playbook in many ways. He was a huckster of hate, aiming his vitriol at women and racial minorities and making attacks on immigrants the focus of his 2016 campaign, as well as his first years in office. Nevertheless, his rhetoric and policies encountered widespread opposition—from religious leaders, business executives, lawyers and bar associations, and civil servants. His executive orders (on which he relied) were almost all struck down by courts: including the first two “Muslim bans,” the detention of children and their separation from parents, the diversion of military funds to build the border wall, the insertion of a citizenship question in the census, and the limits on asylum. Just as Trump sought to weaponize the criminal justice system against his political opponents, so he manipulated it to defend his cronies, derailing some of their prosecutions. Trump also intervened in courts martial and criminal prosecutions of those convicted of war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and those accused of desertion and terrorism. Again, however, there was resistance, as some career prosecutors withdrew from cases or resigned when subjected to political pressure and federal courts convicted all of Trump’s allies—even though the president went on to use his unreviewable pardon power. Rick's books, then, documents the abuses that are characteristic of autocracy and assesses the various forms of resistance to them.

This definitive account and analysis of Trumpism in action, as well as the resistance to it, will appeal to scholars, students, and others with interests in politics, populism, and the rule of law and, more specifically, to those concerned with resisting the threat that autocracy poses to liberal democracy.


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