Trump the Wannabe Dictator

By Alon Ben-Meir  (IPS)

US President Donald Trump with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

HAVANA TIMES – I, like many of my fellow US citizens, am extremely concerned about Trump’s dictatorial tendencies. Given his behavior – what he said and did over the past four years – he may well act on some of these tendencies, especially if he loses the election by a narrow margin.

The concerns I have are not numerous, but are extremely critical: what if he challenges the results of the election and remains adamant on calling for a recount or a new election entirely? What if he refuses to leave the White House and prevents the peaceful transition of power?

What if he calls on the military to occupy all major United States cities while he still is the Commander-in-Chief between Election Day and the inauguration of the new president? And what if he prompts his supporters to take up arms, converge into the streets, and violently confront the likely massive number of protesters who would demand Trump’s removal from the White House, which could lead to some kind of a civil war?

Although many Democratic leaders, including Joe Biden, and scores of journalists and others have spoken about their concerns in this regard, there is still no rife discussion about the above unthinkable scenarios.

Besides, does Congress – the House and/or the Senate – have the constitutional power to take action in such a situation, or does the Supreme Court have the authority to intervene? Is there anything else in the constitution that would address these troubling issues?

The 20th Amendment says that “The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January.” But what if he doesn’t leave? I posed this question to Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law and one of the country’s foremost constitutional scholars. “After all,” he said, “that has happened elsewhere in the world. 

My hope is that the courts would quickly rule that Joe Biden is the President and has all of the powers of the office… Every incumbent president who has lost a reelection bid, starting with John Adams in 1800, has left office without incident.”

In my view, however, Trump may well be an aberration. And what if Trump still will not leave the White House? Chemerinsky said, “I doubt that the military would stick with him in that circumstance. Of course, if it did, we would then have a military dictatorship, as other countries have experienced. What if some of the military with the right-wing militias support Trump.  Then we would have some kind of a civil war.”

While many Republicans and Democrats may think that any of these scenarios are far fetched, the fact remains that Trump has dictatorial tendencies and occasionally acts on them by testing the ground to gauge the public reaction and weigh how his base responds to his moves. Here is what he displays, and how much in common he shares with dictators in general.

President for life: Trump has said on many occasions that he will be president for life —in March of 2018, he played around with the idea after praising Xi Jinping for granting himself precisely that term extension. Trump also retweeted an absurd meme showing him remaining president for 88,000 years — slightly longer than the human lifespan.

‘I can do whatever I want: Like many despots, on Tuesday July 23, 2019 Trump suggested that the constitution gives him the power to do “…whatever I want as president.” But I don’t even talk about that.” Albeit, he often tries to do just that to see if he can get away with it.

Defies reality: Trump notoriously lies and create his own reality just like many dictators do. Bob Woodward reports in his book Fear that John Kelly described Trump as unhinged: “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here.”

Presents himself as infallible: Authoritarian leaders never admit that they made a mistake, and neither does Trump. For example, in a tweet he refused to back down from his “forecast” that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian, which was false. Trump went so far as to alter the National Weather Service’s map of Dorian’s trajectory to include part of Alabama to ‘prove’ that he was right.

Vindictive: Vindictiveness is second nature to all dictators. Following his impeachment acquittal, Trump was characteristically vindictive towards his perceived enemies. They were “evil, vicious, corrupt ‘dirty cops.'” He is habitually mean-spirited and spiteful. Trump’s cruelty is often gratuitous, without any explanation. It is just who he is.

Narcissist: We have yet to know one despot who is not self-centered to the core. Trump, in fact, is a textbook narcissist. Sander Thomaes, developmental psychologist at Utrecht University, maintains that Trump is “a prototypical narcissist.” He has grandiose visions of oneself; the need to be admired, and envied.

Domestic military intervention: Trump is quick, like all tyrants, to resort to the military to show his strength and authority. On June 1, 2020 Trump deployed the military to intervene during the protests in DC. He dispatched federal troops with no identification to quell the protests in Portland two weeks ago against the will of the mayor, which continue to haul peaceful protesters off in unmarked cars, akin to the Gestapo. He is further threatening to send more federal law enforcement officers to major US cities. “We’re not going to let this happen in our country,” he said, “all run by liberal Democrats.”

Praises dictators: Trump’s affinity for dictators, whom he envies for doing whatever they please without accountability, is well-known. On Sept. 7, 2016 Trump said on NBC: “If [Putin] says great things about me, I’m going to say great things about him. I’ve already said, he is really very much of a leader.” About the ruthless Turkish President Erdogan, he stated “I’m a big fan of the president.”

Attacking media: Free media is the biggest threat to authoritarian regimes. Trump’s attacks on the media are routine, calling it the “enemy of the people.” During last year’s trip to the G20 summit in Japan, Trump said to Putin regarding the media present: “Get rid of them. Fake news is a great term, isn’t it?”

Conspiracy theorist: Trump is a master in conspiracy theories. That’s what despots often concoct to punish their enemies. Among the many conspiracies he promotes, Trump claims Ukrainians, not Russians, interfered in the 2016 election and were working against him (despite overwhelming agreement from intelligence that Russians hacked the DNC server).

Withdrawal from international agreements/organizations: Authoritarian leaders often defy international agreements when it serves their interests to appeal to their political base. Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement on climate change in June 2017, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in May 2018, and the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018, among many others.

Trump’s attacks on critics: Dictators do not tolerate any criticism. In January 2017, in response to criticism from Rep. John Lewis, Trump said “Congressman John Lewis should spend more time on fixing and helping his district, which is in horrible shape and falling apart (not to mention crime infested) rather than falsely complaining about the election results.”

Surrounding himself with Yes men: Like any despot, Trump retains only those who agree with him. As a former National Security Council official told Politico “I feel like you already don’t have an A Team or B Team. You’re really getting down to who’s left that will say ‘yes.”

I do not believe that Democrats and responsible Republican leaders should simply dismiss any of the above alarming scenarios only because they did not happen before. Trump is unlike any of his predecessors; he is corrupt to the core and his self-interest as he perceives it comes before the nation.

He desperately wants to cling to power, in whatever way he can. Just like any dictator, he will stoop to any low, cheat, lie, threaten, viciously attack his opponents, suppress voting rights (especially of the Black and Hispanic communities), and continue to delegitimize the upcoming elections even before they take place.

His enablers, the leadership of the Republican party, stood idly by all along and allowed him to run wild, to jeopardize the country’s domestic security and global standing, for which they will pay dearly come November.

I am hopeful that none of the above scenarios will occur. But can we be certain that, given his disturbing behavior and consistent efforts to emulate dictators, Trump would simply concede if he loses the election and peacefully vacate his office come January 20, 2021?

We can only hope so, but it will be a grave mistake not to take these clear warning signs seriously. Be aware United States and be prepared to act.

——–

*Dr. Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU), teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

13 thoughts on “Trump the Wannabe Dictator

  • The divergence in the USA is most worrying.
    The fact that the right wing protests such as in Charlottesville a couple of years ago and in Michigan more recently are protected by militia heavily armed with weapons of war is also worrying.
    It seems obvious that trump is aware that his only option is to continue to stoke the fires and rally his far right core support. He is like a general looking desperately for an enemy in order to justify and prolong his position.
    It is to the eternal shame of the GOP and the majority of its members that they have not kicked the butt of this deranged man-child and curtailed his disastrous period of office.
    Is there a possibility that trump would drag his heals and attempt to cling on to power?
    Is there a possibility that trump would resort to provoking the far right and militaristic element of his support to violence?
    Yes and Yes.
    Is there a possibility of a third civil war ?
    I would suggest (and hope to goodness) that this possibility is very slim.
    Whatever happens, the presidency of this lunatic will go down as a very dark period in the history of the USA. Presidents are becoming increasingly, jaw-droppingly, ridiculous with the passing of time: Reagan, GW Bush etc.
    Let’s hope that with trump, the USA has now reached ‘peak ridiculous President’, that lessons are learnt and that things will improve.

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  • As I have previously pointed out, politics form a circle, not a left to right straight line with two extremes, The similarity in practice between communism and fascism is obvious. They are both totalitarian, with Nazism being a combination of the two.
    It is self-evident that Donald J Trump has a firm belief in totalitarian government. He is at his most comfortable when in the company of dictators and/or potential ones. Putin, Erdogan, Xi, Bolsonaro – the list is lengthy.
    Just as it is insulting to describe democratic socialists as “of the extreme left”, it is insulting to describe democratic conservatives as “of the extreme right”.
    The demonstrations in Charlottesville and in Michigan were by totalitarian fascistic supporters not by the average “right wing” voter. Suggesting that, equates with describing the Cuban, Chinese and now Venezuelan dictatorships as “left wing”. Such a description would be offensive to my democratic socialist friends.
    Inference -especially when deliberate – that all those democratic people who lie to the “right” have in some warped distorted way a connection with fascism is totally false.
    Donald J Trump’s actions and obvious beliefs, are not “of the right”, they are fascistic. His comfort zone is that of dictatorship. That is why in previous contributions in these pages, I have questioned whether he will voluntarily leave the White House if defeated – and which as one “of the right” I have previously expressed my hope that defeat looms!

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  • From the moment Trump gave his dark inauguration speech loaded with thinly veiled threats for those who would dare criticize him, many of us in the world shuddered for what we knew would likely come. Americans seemed to close to the forest to see this sinister plant seeding hate . But we in the rest of the world could not in our deepest mind know the lengths that this man would go to prove our fears were justified. He is in his 70s, with poor health habits and stresses constantly at being kept from his business and golf world so he will go eventually. What should scare us all are all those sycophants in government who looked the other way no matter what he did even after Trump had battered them mercilessly before.. .. Marco and Ted , are you listening….

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  • The Pendulum continues to swing right of The Political Spectrum.
    The question is how much momentum it has.

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    • I think Manuel E Gutierrez hits the nail on the head.
      Mr MacD, I agree to with you to an extent. But please note that I mention that it is to the eternal shame of the Republicans (U.S. Conservatives) that they have allowed trump to continue.
      For example the refusal to impeach.
      You can call trump and some of his supporters all the names under the sun (totalitarian, fascistic etc). But its the mainstream Conservatives who provide the critical support. It is those ‘of the right’ who refused to impeach. Only a few Republicans have broken rank. Some have (the sadly late – but entirely decent) John McCain was an early example. But most don’t. This, I’m afraid, is a statement of fact.
      And it is a fact that this sort of thing happens time and time again.
      Now you yourself Mr MacD may well be an example of someone ‘of the right’ who would never side with the likes of trump if you lived to be 1000 years old. But alas, many Conservatives do give their support. It’s a question of deciding which side of the bread’s got the most butter on.
      Put aside some of trump’s craziness, certain of his policies have apparently made the rich richer. And if there is one thing that the rich like, it’s getting richer. Then they instruct their ‘of the right’ political representatives to support trump at all costs.
      Coz that’s how their bread gets buttered. Similar choices were made by German Conservatives in the 30’s.
      But Mr MacD, I stress yet again, that I don’t tar all Conservatives with the same brush. That’s not what I do.

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  • You leftist just don’t get it. Trump is NOT a politician; he does not give a damn what you think he only cares what those who elected him think. Why the surprise? He is doing exactly what he said he would do if elected and a lot of Americans thought that was a good idea.

    I did not vote for the man, don’t really like his style, but I voted AGAINST Hilary Clinton, but the more the left and the media skew the facts, the more I feel I need to speak out. I spent 40 years as a journalist; worked around the world until my profession turned it’s back on the truth. My journalist creed was simply: “find the truth and report the truth”. That my friends does not carry water in today’s American Newsroom. If you have a different opinion than the left, the First Amendment does not apply to you.

    Because I think that those who claim to be “peaceful protesters” who after midnight become rioters and looters are criminals and should be arrested does not make my voice any less valid under our constitution,
    however if I say something that offends the people who run the operation, bringing in hundreds of anarchist to destroy, not disturb, destroy peace, then they will demand that my employer fire me, banish my family and disgrace all that I have done. Sound familiar my Cuban brothers and sisters? We are all citizens of this planet and though we have vast differences, we must not destroy our neighbor just because he has an opinion we do not agree with.

    Bless you in your struggle, which I will agree is partly due to American Politics. I look forward to the day when I might visit your beautiful island.

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  • Sandra Lally,
    Your analysis is spot on.
    The mainstream Conservatives did a ‘deal with the devil’.
    That’s what a lot of mainstream Conservatives traditionally do when given these kind of options.

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  • In general Nick, I would agree that the US Republican Party lies to the right of the US Democratic Party. But as i have previously opined, the problem for US voters is the two party system which is obviously divisive.

    Consequentially, the Republican Party attracts a whole bunch of what Hillary Clinton described as “deplorables”. Those of little education, bikers, hill-billies, KKK, neo-nazis and so on. They in particular are the hard-core Trump supporters.

    In the multi-party systems, most of them would support the likes of Farage or the extreme left, in Canada, the Reform or even Communist parties. They are not conservatives.

    Those who are conservatives are stuck on the horns of a dilemma. They cannot favour the left, because they seek fiscal responsibility, but the system of selecting presidential candidates has landed them with a narcissistic bully boy. I agree that the lack of intestinal fortitude has led to practically all the Republican Senators abandoning integrity in considering how to get re-elected – with only people like McCain and Romney demonstrating principles. Many will I expect and hope, will pay the price.

    It is more than unfortunate that the outdated US Constitution remains a holy cow. for it is the source of the problem. US politics has descended into a system in which there is no moderation – the scales tip to one or the other, of two bad choices.

    As for “deals with the Devil”, in the UK the Labour Party supported the Marxist and admirer of Maduro. Jeremy Corbyn, as leader – where were the Mainstream democratic socialists?

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  • In the USA there is no moderation? I would think there is indeed some moderation and certainly hope that there is enough.
    There is certainly a degree of divergence. But Mr MacD, your comment (and the comment from Dennis) suggests that the Democrat Party is likely to be ‘fiscally irresponsible’ or in some way ‘leftist’.
    By normal modern European standards, the U.S. Democrat party would be considered fairly centrist. A fairly mainstream, centrist, Capitalist political party. But then in the USA many people have been convinced by right wing media propaganda that a basic level of healthcare for all is an example of ‘leftism’. In Europe this is a basic and fundamental human right. The spectrum appears to be somewhat skewed.
    By the way, I’m no member of or defender of the British Labour or of Jeremy Corbyn. But my understanding is that the party members supported his leadership but the parliamentary party didn’t. Either way, to describe him as a Marxist is a blatant nonsense. As is the use of ‘Marxist’ as some kind of term of insult. It’s all a bit random and irrelevant to the topic in hand isn’t it?
    Perhaps throwing this in is an attempt to divert attention from what we are seeing in the USA: Yet another example of fairly mainstream Conservatives throwing in their lot with those very much further to the right. History is littered with examples of this. It’s a timeworn Conservative tradition. We are merely seeing the latest example.

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  • Corbyn, a supporter of the Castro regime, a supporter of Hugo Chavez, a supporter of Nicholas Maduro – even writing to congratulate him upon assuming presidency of Venezuela. But to you Nick, to associate such actions with support for Marxism “is a blatant nonsense”. Just face and accept reality!
    You choose to deny the view that I expressed that as the Republican Party lies to the right of the Democratic Party, and that it is consequentially logical to describe the Democratic Party as being to the left.
    Obviously, you must have been unable to access the debates within the Democratic Party during their leadership race. Mr. Sanders and indeed two other candidates, would have been quite at home in the British Labour Party. Indeed Mr. Sanders like Mr, Corbyn, described himself as a “socialist”, but was quick to add that unlike Mr. Corbyn, he is opposed to Marxism and communism. Hence the mainstream Republicans being concerned about fiscal responsibility – and note, that I was explaining the reason for their view. Do you think that was incorrect?
    It is correct that Joe Biden is regarded as moderate – in comparison with Mr, Sanders, and almost any candidate would be a welcome relief from Trump. I continue to wish Mr. Biden success.
    In bringing up the subject of health care, you provide much support for my expressed view that the US two party system has two bad choices. Neither party supports a universal health care system, Both support private health care systems with insurance, drug and medical providers receiving 17.1% of the GDP.
    I do not use the term Marxist as “some kind of term of insult” but as recognition of reality.
    I again note with amusement, your statement that you are no defender of the British Labour Party – but you are most certainly a constant critic of any political views that lie to the right of the policies of that party, and are always willing to find any ameliorating factors for the policies of the far left.

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  • Mr MacD,
    There are aspects of libertarianism that to me make sense. There are certain aspects of socialism which also seem perfectly reasonable to me. But if I was a big fan of Corbyn I would say so. And I reckon that if he was a ‘Marxist’, he would say so.
    As for myself, I would suggest that Karl Marx is one of the foremost Political Philosophers in history. His works are fascinating. But I’m not a ‘Marxist’. In fact I’m just as likely to quote Groucho as Karl and I would certainly never join any political party that would have me as a member!
    Ultimately I’m just a plain old pragmatist.
    Did Corbyn congratulate Nicholas Maduro? Wouldn’t surprise me. I recall that the Conservative Prime Minister, Teresa May went scurrying off across the Atlantic to be the first ‘world leader’ to congratulate trump. It’s what these people do.
    Regarding the U.S. Democrat Party, I take your point. It is a broad church. And you are correct in that there are Socialists amongst its congregation. But President Obama, Joe Biden and folks like that would be regarded as centrists by modern European standards.
    I also take your point regarding the two party system in the USA. But that just seems to be the way they like it.
    Why do mainstream Conservatives keep throwing in their lot with people way further to the right then Mr MacD?
    (You seem to have a certain expertise in obfuscation when it comes to that question – An obfuscation which always causes me to chuckle somewhat.)
    Perhaps it’s simply their idea of pragmatism huh?

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  • Are opinions from the right not allowed to be expressed in Havanatimes? It’s evident that Left points of view are highlighted and cannot even be challenged – that is NOT an open mind. Civil discourse, disagreement is GOOD! Castro, Ortega and Chavez are terrible 100% dictators but they are praised in some articles but Trump the wannabe does not get to have supporters with opinions? Than we are back to square one – CENSORSHIP.

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    • Occasionally a Trump supporter has something to contribute that isn’t a blatant lie and we have no problem with that kind of comment. In your case the biggest problem is you constantly send comments from different false emails under dozens of different names. If you are actually a serious reader and not some kind of troll use a real email (which nobody else sees but me the editor) and one name. That way I can contact you when there is a problem with a comment.

      Reply

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