Donald Trump is a psychopathic criminal. He is a racist, fascist cult leader determined to destroy American democracy.
Those facts must be repeated over and over this year, because so many Americans appear willing to re-elect him president.
In the wake of his sweeping victory in the Iowa caucuses, Trump stands astride the ruins of the Republican Party, which he has transformed into a cult of MAGA zombies who believe every lie and conspiracy theory he spouts. Other Republican politicians have long since surrendered, even those who have gone through the motions of contesting the Republican primaries. These days, virtually all Republican politicians try to outdo each other in their goose-stepping fealty to Trump, while Republican voters who hate him have long since become quiet collaborators or left the party.
So Trump will easily win the Republican nomination this year for the third straight time.
The real question is whether non-MAGA Americans will fall for his demented act. Will voters remember why they chose his opponent in 2020?
Trump hopes not; he is counting on America’s recency bias and social media-fueled short attention span to cast a veil over the ugliness and criminality of his first term.
The danger lies in the possibility that Trump’s egotism and criminality will once again be normalized during the presidential campaign, accepted as nothing more than background noise. When voters size up the candidates, will Trump’s greed and dishonesty merely be seen as unpleasant character traits, about equal to the drawbacks of Joe Biden’s advanced age?
Covering the Horse Race
The political press corps is certainly doing its best to make that happen. They are largely ignoring the danger Trump poses to the nation.
Political reporters hate to be perceived as biased, so they usually focus on the horse-race aspects of elections, providing a running tally of who’s up and who’s down in the polls. That lets them avoid focusing on policy substance – or, in this case, on whether Trump wants to be a dictator. After each election, often following harsh criticism for their failures, political reporters write laments seeking to diagnose why they failed; famously, they traveled to diners in the Midwest to talk to Trump voters after his surprise 2016 win. Then they went right back to horse-race coverage, which is too easy and addictive to give up because it makes reporters feel like insiders who understand the game of politics.
When they do write about Trump’s many scandals, political reporters often feel the need to provide “balance.” So they write about purported Biden scandals that they know Republicans have fabricated. Congressional Republicans understand this dynamic, and they have ginned up an impeachment of Biden without any evidence, counting on the press to cover it.
The reporters who fall for this gimmick can’t handle the truth: that the GOP no longer exists as a legitimate political party and is merely a collection of Trump lackeys who will deceive the American people to further his autocratic interests. Reporters don’t want to admit that this presidential race will be a contest between a reasonable, centrist Democrat and a would-be dictator.
This could be the last free election in American history. If Trump wins and his MAGA acolytes gain control of Congress, they will work tirelessly to destroy the American republic and the electoral process.
Trump’s Beer Hall Putsch
One sign of Trump’s dictatorial ambitions lies in the ominous parallels between his view of the January 6 insurrection and the way Adolf Hitler viewed the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. They were dress rehearsals for later seizures of power.
Trump now views the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as a key element of the mythological, violent birth of his MAGA movement. It has become Trump’s version of the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler’s failed effort to use street violence to gain power.
Almost exactly a century ago, on November 9, 1923, between 2,000 and 3,000 armed Nazis marched into central Munich and tried to take over the provincial government of Bavaria; Hitler planned to follow his coup in Bavaria with a march on Berlin to take control of Germany. But the Nazis were defeated by police in a gun battle that killed 16 of them, along with four police officers. Hitler was arrested, convicted of treason, and sentenced to five years in prison, but released after just nine months, time he spent writing “Mein Kampf.” The putsch brought him fame, and when he became Germany’s dictator a decade later, he turned the Nazis who died in the uprising into sacred martyrs. The Beer Hall Putsch became central to the Third Reich’s origin story; it is clear that Trump views January 6 in similar terms.
Trump already calls the rioters arrested for their involvement in January 6 “hostages.” It isn’t too difficult to imagine that, if he regains the presidency, he will mythologize the mob the same way Hitler did the putsch, perhaps pushing for a monument to the 2021 insurrection on the National Mall in Washington, similar to the twin “temples of honor” the Third Reich built in Munich to entomb the Nazi dead of November 9, 1923.