This is a refreshing change of pace, at least, the essay we’re about to analyze. We now live in a world where we hear cries of the imminent fall of democracy, how we’re “sleepwalking” towards a Trump “dictatorship.” I, for one, do not take these comments lightly. We saw the tremendous damage that Trump did while in office, all the way from gutting the State Department to rendering us a joke on the world stage, to killing 300,000 Americans with COVID, all the while rolling up a track record of 30,000 lies while in office.

And Round 2, we are told, will be much much worse. A second Trump administration would contain a klown kar cabinet, the likes of which has never been seen, with personages such as Stephen Miller proposed for the role of Attorney General, when the man doesn’t even have a law degree. Say what you will about Rudy Giuliani, who was once considered for that role, at least at one point in his life Giuliani was legitimately a prosecutor.

But one writer, Martin Gurri, posting on a site called UnHerd, posits the theory that these grim tidings can’t come to pass, for a couple of reasons: First, and foremost, Donald Trump is too far gone, “he can scarcely think ahead from breakfast to lunch,” and secondly, Americans won’t let him. “What would happen if Trump ordered the FBI or the 101st Airborne Division to start shooting Democrats? Homeric laughter would happen.” I don’t share this writer’s view that a Trump dictatorship is a trivial concept to be laughed at and ignored, but let’s hear what he has to say. Perhaps the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

The word most often associated with Trump is “authoritarian”. From the New York TimesAtlantic and Economist to the GuardianVanity Fair and Politico, we are told, with ritual repetition, that Trump is the second coming of Hitler or Mussolini, an aspiring dictator eager to herd his opponents into the great American gulag. Naturally, people panic. I want to calm them down. Using as few words as possible, I’m going to show that the combination of Trump and authoritarianism is an impossibility. […]

If you expect to become an authoritarian, you have to wield absolute control over a key institution of government such as the military (Franco, Peron, Pinochet) or a mass movement with a paramilitary wing (Lenin, Mussolini, Mao). Neither condition applies to Trump. Every federal institution is set ferociously against him. What would happen if Trump ordered the FBI or the 101st Airborne Division to start shooting Democrats? Homeric laughter would happen. And if Trump is training a militia somewhere off the 18th hole at Mar-a-Lago, not even the Times has heard about it. […]

What kind of a person becomes an authoritarian? Well, it may look like fun, but authoritarianism is really hard work. You need to be in the prime of life, in your 30s or 40s (Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Castro). Very rarely, an exceptional person such Caesar is granted literal dictatorship (the Romans invented the whole idea) in his early 50s. In a clear case of ageism, however, no septuagenarian has ever been offered the job.

The authoritarian personality favours clever manipulations and conspiracies. Best in class was Stalin, who held the purely administrative job of First Party Secretary but seized total power by seeding loyalists everywhere. Trump, who was a builder of buildings, a task with a beginning and an end, can scarcely think ahead from breakfast to lunch. This is a life playing out at the Short Attention Span Theatre.

Trump never dealt with a permanent bureaucracy before his election. Far from being a Machiavellian, he proved to be something of a simpleton — or if we want to be kind, a naif — who was constantly tripped up and outmanoeuvred by his own bureaucrats. Even if you are one of the 10 humans on earth who still believe the Hunter Biden laptop was a Russian hack, you have to admit that failure to kill that narrative reflects poorly on Trump’s conspiratorial skills.

The essay then begins to fall apart logically, when the writer says, “tens of millions of Americans voted for the man. If you insist that Trump is an authoritarian, if you continue to maintain that he’s the greatest threat ever to our democracy, then you’re portraying these voters as goose-stepping bigots — and you know full well that they’re not.” No, I’m sorry, I don’t “know full well that they’re not.” In my view, anybody who would vote for Donald Trump is voting for chaos and the destruction of all the institutions that we hold near and dear.

It appalled me when he got 73 million votes in 2020. I can understand 73,000 people being so self-destructive and out of touch that they would vote for somebody like Trump, maybe even 730,000 but 73 MILLION? That number haunts my dreams. The only reason I don’t wake up screaming is because 81 million AMERICANS turned up at the polls, thank God, to vote for Joe Biden, to vote for democracy, to vote for our way of life to continue, so that our descendants can enjoy the same life and privileges that we have.

The piece ends with, “So relax. Trump is too old, too isolated, and too ADD [Attention Deficit Disorder] to have a shot at dictatorship — and if he tried, the result would be comedy rather than tyranny.” There is nobody who appreciates the level of drop dead black comedy that Trump and his clueless relatives have brought to our culture more than me, but again, I can’t downplay the threat that the man poses. In his first term he managed to divide this country more than it has been divided since the Civil War. The vulgarity and casual cruelty which distinguished not only his term in office but the way he is handling his third run for the presidency has coarsened our cultural narrative. Like a pickle never goes back to being a cucumber, I don’t see America fully returning to a pre-Trump level of discourse.

The Trump tributary of our cultural river has taken us to many a strange place and I fully expect that the GOP, at least most of it, will continue sailing along the same destructive path of Trumpism until it finally collapses of its own weight and rebuilds. I see this process taking a good 16 years. Why 16 years? Because that’s four presidential election cycles and I think it’s going to take that many for the good ship GOP to finally run aground on the shoals of Trumpism and then regroup and rebuild into something else.

The GOP has always had its crazy fringe elements. This is nothing new. But when Trump came along he unified those elements, the worst of the worst, into one racist, anti-woman, patriarchal, anti-gay, religious extremist bloc. And he expanded that bloc to include the poorly educated, a group which he assured us he “loved.” We’re sure he does. You can put a lot over on those people, including putting your face on money which isn’t really money but they’re too dumb to know that, so they take the “commemorative” “Trump Bucks” they purchased to the bank and are shattered when they can’t cash them in for U.S. dollars. One Alabama woman said she “bought them because I believed President Trump, because he knows all about finance, and he was going to help the real Trump patriots get rich.”

That was quite a scam, one of many. But what do you expect from the progenitor of Trump Steaks, Trump Airlines, Trump University, ad infinitum?

So while I disagree with this writer’s blasé attitude that Trump’s lacking the inherent qualities of a dictator, so not to worry, there is one quality of dictatorship that he has in spades and that is desperation. He needs to get back in power in order to save himself from prison and to destroy his enemies. And make no mistake, there are plenty of Republicans who are only too happy to help him with that goal. They have lived to see David Frum’s prophecy come true, that when it becomes too difficult for conservatives to win elections democratically, it’s not time to abandon conservatism (or Trumpism) it’s time to abandon democracy. And they’re fine doing that to stay in power. Just fine.


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  1. Obama was hosting the National Press Club dinner, comedy roast on the night UBL was terminated. Trump was present, and ribbed for his “birther” campaign. Along with executive decision making. Which was an ironic statement. The UBL raid was still pending. Trump felt humiliated (instead of taking things in jest). His brain started “thinking” of a POTUS run. 2012 wasn’t doable. Then there was 2015. Trump has been, and will remain a threat.

        • The guy we came to call Osama Bin Laden was originally referred to by our agencies (starting back in the 1980s when he was still a smallish blip on the radar) as Usuma Bin Laden. Even into the Obama years he was sometimes referred to as UBL. But it’s the same guy we buried at sea after killing him. And with a LOT more dignity than he deserved.

  2. To me what’s important to consider is the type of people he has around him and will place in strategic positions. They know how to use and influence him. When I was a Juvenile Probation Officer I frequently saw the low IQ child being used by the older and smarter gang leaders to carry the gun and/or drugs. Also saw those low IQ youngsters being the one to hit out in frustration and shooting innocent bystanders. We’ve already seen McConnell use him to stack the Supremes. It’s all very frightening to me!

    • The night he was elected, I told y wife, “It’s not just tRump, it’s the people around and behind him.” Still true and even qualified people, like those with President Biden, take some time learning the ropes.

      Next time with the orange gasbag, they will be ready. Widdle Stevie Miller, Ric Grinnell, Jeffrey Clark, Roger Stone, those guys – they know. As evil as they all are…

      The damage they could and would do is unimaginable.

      It’s not just the orange grinch.

      Vote BLUE!

    • ” … the type of people he has around him and will place in strategic positions.”
      Absolutely! — And a good many of these people are Russians, already in strategic positions in their own government, or mafia (pretty much the same thing), who tend to be a lot mroe capable than their American stooges and not under the slightest control of the U.S. government. Sure Trump is an idiot. He’s what Russian intelligence calls a “useful idiot.” They have never had a more useful idiot to work with than Donald Trump.
      I get the impression that Mr. Gurri has been asleep these last seven years.

  3. Unherd is screamingly RWNJ while pretending not to be.

    As a quick flick through the comments on it will illuminate.

    The whole thing is gaslighting on the scale of Victorian London.

    • He’s planning on firing all the disloyal government workers and installing/hiring his loyal people. So it doesn’t matter if he can’t plan the next meal – the people he installs can figure it out and carry out the plan. Look up Project 2025. They have it all planned out already.

  4. Interesting facts. No period in history, as in no country’s history, is a perfect predictor of future events. We are in unprecedented times, and have been since our enemy helped install this criminal as president. Sure, he’s a moron with a short attention span, but look HOW CLOSE WE CAME to allowing him to lead a successful coup. A few key people, some republican, helped to stop him. You’re right Ursula about the sheer numbers of supporters he has, even AFTER watching him destroy 4000 children, slaughter the Kurds, grift tens of millions of dollars, and be directly responsible for as many citizens dying IN ONE YEAR as we lost over four years 1941-1945. He almost destroyed NATO, which opened the door for putin to march into Ukraine. The list is long. He may be a moron, but now he’s an EXPERIENCED moron, who knows a lot more about the inner workings of democracy. He plans to clean house and bring in his yes men and women. We already know the present Senate didn’t impeach him when the evidence was clear. The House is full of cult members and insurrectionists. There are 400 million guns, with millions of assault rifles, on the street, being stockpiled by his ‘militia’. What would restrain them should he be barking orders from the Oval office? They are more prepared for violence than the law abiding passive citizens that support the Democrats, who somehow have forgotten the blood spilled in the Revolutionary War and the Civil War HERE on our soil. The military may be our saving grace, since they took an oath to the constitution, not the president. That being said, it’s important to note the German military was the last support Hitler needed and they came around. God forbid we don’t end this next November. Germany, much smaller, less diverse, was considered a ‘christian’ and progressive country until it went off the rails. If we are too lazy, or stupid to end this with the vote, it is NO exaggeration to fear the loss of our democracy and the advent of horror. I’ve had loaded weapons in my face. When that happens, the only way to really cope is to accept it may be the end. Fear will immobilize most people. Most can’t imagine that could happen to them. Better think again. Pretending he’s too old, etc. is foolishness. Better to realize anything can happen if we live in ignorance or denial. VOTE the only way out…Democratic all the way down the ballot. Otherwise…if you want peace…prepare for war.

    • This guy’s comment (Gurri?) that if a 2nd term Trump ordered the military to start shooting Democrats it would be met somehow with howls of laughter is absolutely all you need to know about him (Gurri). By the time that actually happened, the MAGA admn would have seeded key positions throughout the government including the military with loyalists who would definitely not be laughing at such an order. This is just another attempt to assuage fear and somehow normalize Trump – lull people in thinking he’s just a big doofus teddy bear blustering about with no real ability to do harm. People like Gurri are a huge part of the problem. I recently read an interview with a supposedly independent Iowan who when asked which way he might lean in a Trump vs Biden presidential rematch he said well, (and this is not a verbatim quote – just my best recollection) Trump is enormously entertainng and hilarious while Biden is kind of old and while he seems to be trying, he hasn’t really managed to get much done. So he was still undecided. And that right there folks is what we are dealing with.

      • Yup, that ignorance is a huge part of why all those otherwise sane people voted for Trump, and will again. Blame the rightwing media all you want, correctly, for its blatant lying propaganda over the years. But blame also the Democratic party for failure to get its message out there via the mainstream media and via its own apparatus. Biden’s done a very good job, especially given the opposition from the MAGAt GOP, and if folks don’t know that, it’s because they’ve not been told.

      • Trump is viewed as comedic by a lot of these people. And yes, he is a screaming joke. No argument there. We can’t afford to have a buffoon manipulating the levers of power in our government. We need sober, mature, trained and judicious men and women of experience.

        Or, we may “laugh ourselves to death” which was the title of a prophetic book in the 1980’s by Neil Postman, about how television rules this culture.

        • Yep. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands have already ‘laughed themselves to death’, between covid, the slaughter of the Kurds, taking apart a journalist for the Washington Post with tin snips a piece at a time, the destruction of 4000 children at the border, including killing some. It’s one gigantic hoot. I don’t know if I would have the self discipline to not slap the shit out of some of these Maga nazis who find this funny, if they said that to my face. I understand completely when McMurphy went after nurse Rachet in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He’d had enough watching her destroy the patients. Billy Bibbit’s suicide caused him to snap.

  5. We’ve already had four years of a Trump dictatorship thanks to the Republican party. The damage would have been worse if we had not taken the House in 2018. This op-ed is but another step in normalizing the fascist so they (the media) can keep the Republicans in power. Too, reporting on poles and clowns in diners is a lot easier and cheaper.


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