A dozen reasons Trump’s dictator threat is real
The short-attention-span media need to dwell on the danger
The news media aren’t talking enough about Donald Trump’s dictatorial ambitions. Sure, they quote his praise of despots and his dreams of “retribution,” but they need to make his stated intentions a major theme of campaign coverage.
In virtually every story about the campaign, they need to include at least a background sentence or two to remind people that he aims to be an autocrat if he wins. Repetition matters, as the right has long known and mainstream media often forget.
Of course, some people claim Trump’s dictator talk is innocent joking. Sen. Lindsey Graham insists Trump is just trying to be “funny.” Fox News’ Jesse Watters says “Trump is going to have so much fun with this dictatorship hoax.”
People like me who are alarmed by it are the problem, according to Philip Wallach of the American Enterprise Institute: “Keeping the [anti-Trump] rhetoric at such a fever pitch is not a very healthy thing for democracy.”
The Associated Press says Trump’s freewheeling style allows his supporters to “cite the backlash as another example of a candidate skilled at baiting an out-of-touch press that takes him far too literally.”
But aren’t we supposed to take politicians literally? Assuming they don’t mean what they say has been a big mistake in the past. The New York Times’ first-ever reference to Adolf Hitler in 1922 said his anti-semitism was “not so genuine or violent as it sounded.”
Here are a dozen examples of why Trump’s dictator rhetoric is no joke and we must take him seriously. Share this list with family and friends who want to downplay the threat.
Trump claims the president is all-powerful. Back in 2019, Trump said, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” Like other patently false statements by Trump, this one was briefly noted and then the media moved on to his next patently false statement.
Trump wants to “terminate” the Constitution. I mention this often because it got hardly any attention at the time. Trump posted on Truth Social on Dec. 3, 2022, that his false claims of election fraud warranted “the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution." One of the reasons this is not common knowledge is that mainstream media whiffed on it.
Trump said he’d be a dictator – for a day. Fox News’ Sean Hannity tried to get Trump to deny he wanted to be a dictator, and Trump told the studio audience: “He says, ‘You're not going to be a dictator, are you?' I said, 'No, no, no. Other than Day One. We're closing the border, and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator. OK?” Please. Look at history. No dictator is “dictator for a day” unless he’s overthrown on Day 2.
Trump wants to send troops uninvited into American cities. This is generally illegal, for good reasons. But there’s an exception: The Insurrection Act lets the president do so in an emergency. Some of Trump’s henchmen urged him to do it in January 2021. A few months ago he called New York City and Chicago “crime dens” and threatened to send in troops. Under normal circumstances, he said, “you just have to be asked by the governor or the mayor to come in. The next time, I’m not waiting.”
Trump says a president needs “immunity” for crimes. He’s challenging his indictment for Jan. 6 election interference by claiming a president has a blank check to do whatever he wants. His lawyer argued that a president couldn’t be criminally prosecuted if he ordered SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival unless the president was impeached first. In an especially chilling statement, Trump said, “Even events that ‘cross the line’ must fall under total immunity.”
Trump wants the government to screen teachers for ideological purity. His campaign website says he would “create a new credentialing body to certify teachers who embrace patriotic values.”
Trump vows to sic the Justice Department on his enemies. “If I happen to be president and I see somebody who's doing well and beating me very badly, I say, ‘Go down and indict them,’” he said.
Trump wants to purge civil servants and replace them with his patronage army. He says if he’s elected he would reclassify tens of thousands of career civil servants so he could fire them at will and replace them with his political supporters.
Trump aims to crack down on the free press. Last year, Trump denounced MSNBC and threatened to “make them pay for their illegal political activity.” His ally Steve Bannon says “we're going to come after the people in the media. … This is just not rhetoric. We're absolutely dead serious.”
Trump loves dictators. China's Xi Jinping is a “brilliant guy.” Hungary's Viktor Orbán is a “great leader.” North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is “honorable.” And Trump said Russia's invasion of Ukraine showed that Vladimir Putin was “savvy” and a “genius.”
And let’s not forget that Trump incited an attempted coup. If Trump had succeeded in staying in office despite losing the 2020 election, he would have been an illegitimate, autocratic leader. But even if we can convince MAGA-friendly people that Trump wants to be a dictator, we’ll still need to convince them that dictatorship is a bad thing. They’re that cult-absorbed. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.