This is an excerpt from ¡Mira!, a Globe Opinion newsletter from columnist Marcela García. Sign up to get this in your inbox a day early.
Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”
It’s astonishing to me that there are still people who refuse to believe that Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, will fully embrace the role of a dictator if he is elected in 2024.
Even Trump himself just said so — well, sort of.
In a Fox News town hall earlier this week in Iowa, host and prominent pro-Trump commentator Sean Hannity asked the former president: “They want to call you a dictator. ... You are promising America tonight you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”
Trump answered, vaguely, “except for Day One.” After a follow up from Hannity, Trump said, “We’re closing the border. And we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator.”
The idea that Trump would steer clear of authoritarianism during a second presidency is nothing short of delusional. Yet it’s still a notion that’s being entertained by many political figures and pundits, and not just those belonging to what I like to call the RID contingent, or Republicans in Denial. They’re all ignoring Angelou’s maxim at great cost. Trump has already shown us who he is — time and time again.
Look, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump will clinch the presidential nomination next year. It’s too early to consider what polls say at the moment about a potential Trump vs. Biden match-up and what impact the criminal trials that Trump faces next year will have in the presidential race. But it’s more than valid — and instructive — to assume that Trump is going to give President Biden a run for his money.
Nor is it defeatist to assume that Trump would become a dictator if given the chance. I urge you to read The Atlantic’s “If Trump wins” series on the many threats that a second Trump presidency poses to our democracy. Another must-read is this piece in The New York Times from last month detailing Trump’s immigration policy blueprint. “The constellation of Mr. Trump’s 2025 plans amounts to an assault on immigration on a scale unseen in modern American history. Millions of undocumented immigrants would be barred from the country or uprooted from it years or even decades after settling here.”
None of that is news or novel. Trump already tried to enact some of the most draconian immigration policies seen in this country. There is no question that he’d try again and try harder. That’s why we don’t have to imagine anything. We don’t have to publish a satirical front page with mock headlines to project what Trump would do if president — like we in Globe Opinion did in April 2016.
Dictators have several common denominators but two are critical: They hold on to power by all means necessary and they undermine and oppress the free press. Trump already engaged in both of such efforts before. There is no question he would abuse the power of the presidency during a second term. And make no mistake: He would never leave office.