Donald Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail and in office has never been tame by any standards. Ranging from quoting the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini to calling white supremacists “very fine people,” Trump seems to incite controversy whenever he opens his mouth. Yet, as the 2024 election approaches, Trump has accomplished the amazing task of spouting even more controversial language than ever.
In a short two-month period, Trump has become increasingly unhinged, calling for military officials to be executed, vowing to imprison his opponents and promising to weed out the “vermin” of this country. What is most concerning about Trump’s recent rhetoric is how anti-democratic and authoritarian it has become. Ever since the beginning of his legal troubles, Trump has begun pushing even further with his use of obscene and crazed language to attack his enemies. This type of rhetoric is building up to one of Trump’s defining characteristics as a leader: authoritarianism.
One of the key characteristics of authoritarians around the world is that they choose an arbitrary or made-up group of enemies to dehumanize and demonize with the purported goal of creating the perception of a national threat. Once they have sufficiently characterized the threat, they then posture themselves as the only savior of the nation who can spot the made-up threat and protect the nation from it. Then, to sufficiently ‘protect’ the nation, they call for expanded executive powers and set course to become a dictator. To this end, Trump has so far accomplished the first step and formulated a national enemy: the radical liberals and the “deep state.”
In his speeches, Trump calls for the eradication of groups like the communists, radical left thugs, fascists, Antifa and the deep state. Supposedly, these groups are an imminent threat to the foundations and existence of America; however, if one were to dig just a little deeper, the absurdity of Trump’s claims become apparent. Antifa (or anti-fascists) is a broad term that describes some of the more left-wing members of the political scene. They often organize political rallies and hold demonstrations but overall remain unorganized. Between January 1994 and May 2020, Antifa and similar left-wing groups caused a total of 22 deaths in America, hardly the national threat Trump makes them out to be.
Communist Party U.S.A. boasts an impressive membership of 15,000 people, but considering how America is a nation of 330 million, they can also be discounted from the list of credible threats. That leaves the fascists and the deep state standing as supposed threats to the U.S. Trump seems relatively unbothered or at least unwilling to move against fascists and white supremacy groups considering how he has called them “very fine people” so that leaves only the deep state. According to conspiracy theories, the deep state is some large undercover network of government officials and high-level individuals that work with malicious intent. That is when one realizes that all of Trump’s supposed threats to America are either made up or too broad to have any effective meaning or impact.
However, Trump’s anti-democratic and authoritarian rhetoric has a deeply worrying impact on the nation and its political discourse. The fact that Trump is describing people as “vermin” and suggesting the termination of the Constitution should elicit suspicion about his character and intentions. Yet, it seems that a significant number of Americans are willing to support Trump. A Nov. 7 poll indicated that Trump narrowly leads Biden with 49% to 45% among registered voters. Trump has dangerously normalized the authoritarian rhetoric that the U.S. has rarely been exposed to. This will have dire consequences for the country down the road if more and more politicians pick up on his unscrupulous election tactics and dangerous rhetoric.
This leaves the responsibility to us as American citizens to combat this growing threat to America’s democracy. One must consider voting for candidates who do not peddle the same harmful rhetoric as Trump or any of his associates. Ranging from Joe Biden to Nikki Haley, there are a number of figures who would never consider terminating the Constitution or call their opponents dehumanizing names. It is also important for all American politicians to realize that they are playing with fire. Mitch McConnell and the rest of the GOP leadership might support Trump because they think they can control him and his dangerous rhetoric, but history has shown that once authoritarians are let out of the box, it becomes much harder to put them back inside. It is time for the U.S. to reject Trump’s human conspiracy theories and his insane language once and for all.