Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

Who will stand up to Donald Trump?

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Dec. 6.

Gerry Broome/AP

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally in Fayetteville, N.C., on Dec. 6.

Here’s a sentence that I expect to use a lot over the next four years: Donald Trump is a petulant, thin-skinned, and vindictive man-child.

Here’s the sentence that I’m increasingly fearful I’m going to end up writing in the next four years: The target of Donald Trump’s latest Twitter attack was violently assaulted.

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Trump’s lashing out at those who he believes have slighted him is only going to get worse — and the consequences could be dire.

None of this should be surprising. From his attacks on “loser” Mitt Romney and the “dishonest” media to the Khan family, Alicia Machado, and the Pope, Trump regularly took to Twitter during the campaign to attack those who had dared utter a negative word about him. Since winning the White House, Trump has given no indication that he intends to act more presidential, or even like an actual adult.

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Everyone, it seems, is fair game — whether it’s the cast of “Hamilton’’ or Alec Baldwin, who imitates him on “Saturday Night Live.’’

When the CEO of Boeing recently offered a tepid critique of Trump’s protectionist trade views, Trump immediately jumped on Twitter to attack the company. He claimed that, as president, he would end the $4 billion contract with Boeing to build a new Air Force One. Trump was of course lying. There is no $4 billion contract with Boeing. But the quick drop in Boeing’s stock price sent an unmistakable message about the consequences of getting on Trump’s bad side.

When questions were raised about Trump’s phone call with the new Taiwanese president, which upended more than 35 years of delicate US diplomacy in the Far East, Trump took to Twitter to defend the move and attack his critics, and then he turned around and bashed China — which only further compounded Trump’s diplomatic blunder. .

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While Trump’s childish attacks could have a chilling effect on those inclined to criticize him, there is greater reason for concern.

Consider the experience of Chuck Jones, the head of the local union responsible for the workers at the Carrier plant in Indiana, who accurately went on TV and said Trump was misleading Americans about the number of jobs he saved. Trump savaged him on Twitter. He accused Jones of doing a “terrible job” representing workers and said that if his local union was “any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana.” Once you get past the surreal nature of an alleged billionaire who lives in an apartment that looks like it was designed by Saddam Hussein’s interior decorator bashing working-class Americans who work in a factory in Indiana, this is pretty scary stuff. Here’s the president-elect of the United States attacking a private citizen who criticized him. Jones is now getting death threats from outraged Trump supporters.

All of this comes on the heels of the frightening escalation of the bizarre “pizzagate” story, a fever swamp falsehood that alleged a Washington, D.C., pizzeria was, in fact, the headquarters of a child sex ring run by Hillary Clinton. The utter insanity of the story did not dissuade many from buying the accusations, and this week, one true believer, Edgar Welch drove from North Carolina to Washington — with his trusty assault rifle — to free the children he’d read online were held in tunnels underneath the restaurant. Thankfully no one was hurt, though Welch did fire his weapon.

It’s only a matter of time, it seems, before someone does get hurt, perhaps emboldened by Trump’s unhinged behavior. Trump supporters are already verbally and physically attacking the same groups Trump scapegoated on the campaign trail. This week, it was a young Muslim woman on a New York City subway wearing a hijab. Who knows who’s next?

There are so many reasons to be fearful of a Trump presidency, but the ease with which he uses his bully pulpit to lash out at practially anyone who displeases him should send chills up the back of any freedom-loving American. These are the actions of an authoritarian, one backed up by his unquestioning supporters, who are all too happy, it seems, to translate his words into actions. Worst of all, there is evidently no one who can tell Trump to knock it off. Not the coterie of sycophantic aides who indulge his childish animosities; not cowardly congressional Republicans too fearful of upsetting Trump’s supporters or inflaming the man himself; and not the cable news networks and mainstream media who treat Trump’s actions as a topic of political debate rather than as evidence of his derangement.

The president-elect is the most dangerous man in America. The question now, for which there is as yet no answer, is: Who will stand up to him?

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.
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