Donald Trump is pledging an unprecedented second term as U.S. president.
If he is elected president again next year, the current one hopes to return to the position of strongman. He thinks his power would be unquestionable. His political opponents are the target of his vengeance. He would try to stifle press freedoms and dismantle government institutions, posing the biggest threat to the rule of law and the Constitution in modern times.
There is no room for conjecture here. Trump is stating and displaying exactly what he would do via his rallies, social media posts, interviews, lawyers’ briefs and even appearances in court that he uses to stigmatise the legal system. One year out from the election, President Joe Biden’s reelection aspirations are far from secure, therefore Trump’s goals should be taken seriously.
Consider Trump’s Veterans Day address in New Hampshire on Saturday, in which he opted to stoke divisions rather than promote unity.
“We will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists, and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country,” Trump added, employing the demagogic approach of dehumanising his opponents. In his opinion, the true danger does not come from the far right. The true danger comes from the far left, and it’s on the rise.
Trump has resorted to a typical authoritarian cliche at a time of global turmoil, with wars raging in Gaza and Ukraine and US hegemony challenged by rivals like China and Russia. “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within,” he argued.
Trump, who regularly celebrates the world’s rulers, is taking another technique from their playbook – venomously targeting foreigners and immigrants with racially charged images. His brand is becoming increasingly intertwined with the rhetoric of White supremacy and political violence, and this harkens back to that time. He said that undocumented immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country” in an interview with the conservative news website National Pulse. People are coming in sick, it’s so horrible.
Trump’s unsettling rhetoric — and usage of “vermin” in particular — brought off fresh comparisons between the ex-president and the fascist dictators of the 1940s in some media sources and even from Biden’s camp. Campaign spokeswoman Ammar Moussa stated, “Donald Trump parroted the autocratic language of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, two dictators many US veterans gave their lives fighting to defeat exactly the kind of un-American ideas Trump now champions.”
It’s true that Trump has taken cues from some of the world’s most despised tyrants in his speech. His political opponents are dehumanised, the press is demonised, the legal and political systems are undermined, and minorities and immigrants are singled out for blame. Like other strongmen, he portrays himself as the victimised saviour of an oppressed group whose members feel their traditional values and mores are under threat. Still, drawing parallels with fascists of the 1940s runs the risk of skewed portrayals of America’s current political reality, which cannot be compared to Europe before WWII.
The US judicial system’s current efforts to hold Trump accountable would pose a significant barrier to his presidency. Despite widespread concern that Trump may utilise the military for repressive purposes, the United States is fortunate to have both apolitical officers and strong legal protections. Trump’s hardline aims were typically restrained or softened by the courts in his first time on topics like immigration. But if he wins another term in office, he will work to revive and even expand populist initiatives like his tough stance on immigration. According to HEADLINESFOREVER’s source, new plans are being drafted to collect up undocumented immigrants and place them in detention camps until deportation. The New York Times was the first to break the story.
When Trump’s detractors use dubious historical parallels, they help him in his drive to arouse the anger that is central to his electoral appeal. And insulting depictions of Trump’s movement run the risk of diminishing the value of his supporters’ votes and minimising their valid hopes and concerns.
Trump’s words can be terrifying despite this.
A one-of-a-kind modern dictator
There are many examples of strongmen, demagogues, and fanatics in American political history. No one, however, has come as close to actually implementing a plan that would put the pillars of American democracy in jeopardy. Trump is not some gadfly on the political fringe. Two months before the first voters cast their ballots, he is the most likely Republican nominee and is crushing his party. Millions of Republican voters aren’t repulsed by Trump’s authoritarianism, and many of them believe his assertions that he won the election and that the several criminal trials against him are a weaponized form of persecution designed to prevent him from power.
Biden’s criticisms extend Trump’s extremism’s reach.
Although Trump barely leads Biden in a hypothetical rematch, only 25% of the population and 50% of Democrats believe he has the stamina and sharpness to be president, according to a HEADLINESFOREVER/SSRS poll published last week. The nation is in a sour mood as rising costs put a strain on households.
Biden’s team and top Democrats might be true that as soon as voters see the clear contrast between the present president and the chaotic authoritarianism of the last one their choice would be easy. A year remains until the election, so some people don’t think we need worry about Trump just yet. After all, the two most recent Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both required a political bounce to win a second term. But in 2024, everything is much more at stake. Both Bob Dole in 1996 and Mitt Romney in 2012, the Republican nominees, were constitutionalists who would have exercised the presidential self-restraint that is essential to the health of our democratic system. On the other hand, a Trump presidency would put those values to their ultimate test.
Trump’s supporters argue that the president is taken too seriously and that most of the criticism he receives is meant as satire. However, this argument holds less water after Trump made history by denying he lost an election in which he was rejected by voters and when his followers invaded the US Capitol in response to his order to “fight like hell” on January 6, 2021.
Since then, Trump hasn’t toned down his threatening comments. The incitement dripping from his verbal and online attacks on judges, their staff, and prosecutors has caused legitimate concerns for their safety.
On Tuesday, the former president boosted a post from another Truth Social user who had called for the arrest of New York Attorney General Letitia James and New York Supreme Court Judge Arthur Engoron.
The New York civil fraud lawsuit that James brought against Trump and that Engoron is presiding over has been the subject of repeated attacks from Trump, who is currently a presidential candidate, on his social media website, where he claims that the trial is “election interference” because Trump is also a candidate.
Even the Republican Party hasn’t been able to restrain him. Candidates for the presidency who spoke out against Trump’s anti-constitutional rhetoric, such as former VP Mike Pence and former governors Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson, have either given up the race or are doing terribly in the polls. In the modern Republican Party, there is no market for challenging Trump’s lawlessness, so major GOP contenders like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and ex-South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley have only indirectly criticised Trump. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who was providing a more upbeat GOP message, stopped his campaign on Sunday.
If Trump is still in the running for president next year at this time, no one will be surprised by the kind of administration he may lead.
But on Monday, Trump’s team knocked down rumours about his intentions for a second term, which have referenced specific blueprints drawn up by conservative think tanks for right-wing rule, such as how he’d weaponize the Justice Department and hollow out the civil service. Statement sent by campaign organisers Susie Wiles and Chris LaCivita claiming such reports were “purely speculative and theoretical” and that no third parties had official authorization to comment on former president’s behalf.
Trump’s stated policy proposals
The former president, however, isn’t hiding his intent to use a return to the Oval Office as a means of avenging himself on his political foes and the government.
“I am the law that you seek. At the March Conservative Political Action Conference, Trump addressed his fans, “I am your retribution,” implying that he was being punished because he tried to protect them from government persecution.
Trump is making it obvious that he intends to utilise the Justice Department to punish his political opponents. The Biden administration, he said in an interview with Univision last week, “released the genie out of the box.” On Saturday, he threatened New Hampshire voters, saying, “They did it to me, now I can do it to them.”
Even before the mutiny in the Capitol, the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat were a direct affront to the Constitution. But practically every week, Trump delivers new evidence on how he’d imperil constitutional order and the rule of law. In a Truth Social post from September, he claimed that retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley committed a “treasonous act” by communicating with a Chinese general during the final days of his administration, claiming that “the punishment, in times past, would have been DEATH!” Tyrants often accuse their political opponents of treason as a means of silencing them. Trump has used it again, this time to hint at prospective moves to stifle press freedoms in his second term. Posting on Truth Social in September, he demanded that NBC News and MSNBC be probed for “Country Threatening Treason.”
Trump’s behaviour since the last election is indicative of his long-held, mistaken belief that presidents have infinite power. Such a vision would no doubt inform any second term. In an effort to regain power, he demanded its abolition last December. Furthermore, while in office, Trump asserted repeatedly that Article II of the Constitution provided him the authority to do “anything I wanted.”
Many of the legal filings in the lead-up to Trump’s criminal prosecutions include the claim that, as president, Trump was entitled to exercise authority just as he pleased and should be exempt from accountability. For instance, this month the ex-president and his legal team requested the judge presiding over his federal election meddling trial next year to dismiss the allegations against him on the basis of presidential immunity. The brief asserted that presidential immunity extended into the post-presidential period and stated, “Breaking 234 years of precedent, the incumbent administration has charged President Trump for acts… at the heart of his official responsibilities as President.”
It’s extremely debatable whether or not the president should use executive power to try to overturn an election, and doing so might undermine the fundamental concept that everyone in the United States, including the president, is equal before the law. Special counsel Jack Smith’s team answered to Trump’s request last month, claiming – in wording that might apply to much of the ex-president’s political acts and statements – that he was a historic outlier.
Smith said that Trump “purports to draw a parallel” between his fraudulent efforts to alter the results of an election that he lost and speeches like Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and George Washington’s Farewell Address. It’s clear that “these things are not alike.”