Donald Trump is promising a second presidency that would be an aberration in American history.
The former and possibly future commander in chief aspires to strongman power if he wins back the White House next year. He believes his authority would be absolute. He wants vengeance against his political enemies. He’d pose the greatest challenge to the rule of law and the Constitution in modern times, seek to crush press freedoms and gut the machinery of government.
None of this is speculation. Trump is saying and showing exactly what he would do in his rallies, social media posts, interviews, lawyers’ filings and even appearances in court that he uses to stigmatize the legal system. And Trump’s ambitions should be taken seriously because one year from the election, President Joe Biden’s reelection hopes are far from secure.
Take Trump’s speech in New Hampshire on Saturday, when he chose to rip at national divides rather than foster unity on Veterans Day.
“We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” Trump said, using the demagogic technique of dehumanizing his opponents. He warned that “the real threat is not from the radical right. The real threat is from the radical left, and it’s growing every day.”
At a time of global unrest, as wars rage in Gaza and Ukraine and with US power challenged by foes like China and Russia, Trump also resorted to a classic authoritarian trope. “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous and grave than the threat from within,” he said.
Trump, who often praises the world’s tyrants, is using another move from their playbook – venomously targeting outsiders and immigrants with racially charged imagery. This recalls the language of White supremacy and political violence that is increasingly entwined with his brand. He told the right-leaning National Pulse website that undocumented migrants are “poisoning the blood of our country. It’s so bad, and people are coming in with disease.”
Trump’s chilling rhetoric — and use of “vermin” in particular — set off fresh comparisons between the ex-president and the fascist dictators of the 1940s in some media outlets and even from Biden’s camp. “Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, two dictators many US veterans gave their lives fighting, in order to defeat exactly the kind of un-American ideas Trump now champions,” campaign spokesman Ammar Moussa said in a statement.
It’s true that Trump has adopted the rhetorical strategies of some of the most reviled dictators. He dehumanizes his political enemies, has discredited the legal,…