I have to hand it to the inimitable Charles Pierce of Esquire magazine.
A few days after media critic Margaret Sullivan complained in the Guardian that journalists were not effectively conveying the dangers of a second Trump administration, the headline on his essay did not mince words: “Nazi-Curious Madman Currently Under Indictment For 91 Felonies Gives Speech.”
This is not hyperbole.
As former President Donald Trump appears to be sailing toward the Republican presidential nomination, he is increasingly embracing autocratic language and ideas, using rhetoric familiar to anyone who has studied the speeches of dictators and strongmen through history.
“I am your justice. … I am your retribution,” he told a crowd at a conservative political conference in March.
Illegal immigration, he told a right-wing website in October, is “poisoning the blood of our country.”
“We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country — that lie and steal and cheat on elections,” he told supporters in New Hampshire last month.
If you are not alarmed by his rhetoric, then you are either not paying attention or don’t recognize the danger he poses to democracy. Or perhaps — and I recognize that this may well be the case for many of his most ardent supporters — you think a strongman with protectionist impulses, racist policies and contempt for the rule of law is just what America needs.
And what would become of the current world order in a second Trump administration?
Does anyone, for example, believe that Trump, who has bent the knee to Russian President Vladimir Putin, would support Ukraine in its battle against Putin’s war of aggression? Does anyone think that the Islamophobic Trump would exert any sort of moderating influence on Israel?
During Trump’s first campaign in 2016, his supporters liked to say that his over-the-top rhetoric was mostly for show. “Take him seriously, not literally,” they said.
If you bought that line, you were foolish.
Trump, as the Atlantic’s Peter Wehner noted, is an “institutional arsonist.” Wehner is a former speech writer for three Republican presidents and a senior fellow at the Trinity Forum, a nonprofit Christian think tank. “It is a rather remarkable indictment of those who claim to be followers of Jesus that they would continue to show fealty to a man whose cruel ethic has always been antithetical to Jesus’ and becomes more so every day,” Wehner wrote last week.
Trump’s Republican collaborators are deeply implicated in his antidemocratic plans.
One flank is dedicated to rewriting the history of Jan. 6, the day that violent insurrectionists failed to thwart the results of the 2020 presidential election. A second is devoted to maintaining the fiction that the election was stolen from Trump.
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene insists in her new book that the insurrectionists were not MAGA Republicans, but left-wing extremists and undercover federal agents.
Her colleague, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, refused to answer George Stephanopoulos recently when the ABC News host asked, “Can you say unequivocally that the 2020 election was not stolen?” All Scalise could muster was, “There were a handful of states that didn’t follow their election laws.” Does it really need to be said that making it easier for citizens to cast votes during a pandemic does not rig an election?
I happen to think that journalists have done a magnificent job exploring the dangers of a second Trump administration.
The question is, are Republican voters rational? Do they care?