In politics, one of the most overused attack lines coming from both the left and the right is to accuse the other’s president of being some sort of a dictator. I can’t count how many times I’ve had Republicans accuse President Obama of being “like Hitler,” even though there’s not a single shred of evidence to remotely back that up.
That was, of course, when they weren’t accusing him of “ruling like a king” — whatever the heck that means.
However, when it comes to accusations that Donald Trump wants to be a dictator, I feel that those are completely valid. Not because I’m a progressive — I never once called George W. Bush a “dictator” — but because Trump acts like a damn dictator.
While there are many traits most dictators share, here are five of the main “foundational” characteristics nearly every authoritarian tyrant has that Trump displays:
1. Vilify minorities: No good dictators hold their place in power without finding some sort of minority group to blame. Clearly a dictator can’t vilify the majority of the population — that wouldn’t make any sense. But they can happily find a minority group to tell the largest demographic in the country they should blame for many of their problems. You know, like Mexicans and Muslims — or Jews.
2. Push nationalism: If there’s one thing nearly every dictator does to distract people from how awful they are, it’s portray themselves as the beacon of nationalism to make it seem as if anyone who opposes them is a traitor to their country. It’s a very simple, yet effective, way to manipulate people into acting out against their own self-interests.
3. Claim “values” are under attack: Practically every dictator makes sure to prey on fear and nostalgia of “the good ol’ day,” by acting like progress is a threat to “traditional values.” Because humans tend to be very selective when they remember the past (I can show recorded evidence of people saying the same thing about “values” from practically every decade since humans have been able to record videos), it’s very easy to work people up by pushing the ridiculous idea that the “values on which they were raised” are under attack.
Even beyond dictators, this has been a go-to talking point for people who:
- Opposed ending slavery.
- Didn’t want to give women the right to vote.
- Wanted to keep segregation legal.
- Supported bans on interracial marriage.
- Don’t believe homosexuals should have equal rights.
- Fought to keep bans on same-sex marriage legal.
4. Discredit Critics: If there’s one thing dictators do, it’s push the conspiracy that those who stand against them are part of some movement against the “truth.” Whether it’s a rival political party, another nation or basically anything that discredits their propaganda — they’re going to do their best to undermine their credibility.
In a lot of ways, dictators are just really advanced versions of conspiracy theorists.
5. Attack and control the media: This goes along with #4 in that dictators really dislike freedom of the press. All a dictator wants the media to do is serve as their own personal propaganda tool for whatever lies they want people to believe. After all, one of the main enemies to a dictatorship is an educated, factually informed populace that won’t believe the nonsense they’re trying to con people into believing.
Dictators usually set up some sort of state-run media where information is completely regulated and controlled by the government. Which is exactly what Trump seems to be trying to do to the media here.
Since he can’t technically order the government to seize control of the major networks, he’s trying to delegitimize any network that calls him out as “fake,” while promoting “news sources” that are really nothing more than cheerleaders for his propaganda and lies. He’s basically trying to create an environment where those who support him only believe his hand-picked (basically state-run) “media sources,” while trying to discredit any network or journalist who dares to oppose the bullshit that he’s constantly trying to con people into believing.
If Donald Trump had his way, he would probably seize control over every major network so they’d do nothing more than push his asinine talking points, lies and propaganda.
To prove my point even further, Trump’s even heaped praise on the “strength” of dictators like Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and Saddam Hussein. So it’s clear he seems to admire leaders who wield power through brute force — just like he seems to want to be able to do.
While I’m not going to sit here and say that Donald Trump is “like Hitler” — because nobody is like a genocidal madman who slaughtered millions unless they do something as horrifically monstrous as that — it’s undeniable that he shares many of the foundational characteristics that nearly every authoritarian dictator shares.
That’s why I say that we didn’t elect our next president, we elected our nation’s first dictator.