Back in August I wrote a piece here in Salon about Trump's authoritarian tendencies and how it was a mistake for liberals to laugh too much about them. At the time, we were mostly concerned with his signature plan to deport over 11 million people and build his "big beautiful wall" with a "big beautiful door" and have Mexico pay for it. His rhetoric was crude and demeaning, as he theatrically accused undocumented workers of being violent criminals constantly referring to the murder of "beautiful Kate" and the rape and sodomy of an elderly white women to illustrate the threat.
He had also vividly shown his colors at that point with his daily evocation on the stump of Bowe Bergdahl, whom he called a "dirty, rotten, traitor" who would have been summarily executed back in the day "when we were strong." He promised to make our military so strong our heads would spin and he declared himself a big second amendment person. He promised to "renegotiate deals" with every country in the world to get a better result for America although he was vague about exactly what that meant beyond complaining about all the foreign cars he allegedly sees coming off of ships in American ports.
From the beginning Trump has said that we "don't have time" to be politically correct anymore, that our problems are so severe that we have to do "whatever is necessary" to make America great again. He has not hidden his intentions. But now that he has been a national frontrunner for more than six months, perhaps it's time to revisit this subject and look at his agenda as he's unveiled it since last summer.
First, on the deportation issue: When asked how he would go about it, he has said that he would have a "deportation force" to find, detain and repatriate suspected undocumented immigrants and their children, some of whom are Americans (but he'd fix that too.) When quizzed in the debates he had this to say to John Kasich's assertion that deporting all these millions of people is not a serious proposal:
All I can say is, you're lucky in Ohio that you struck oil. That's for one thing. Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president. People liked him. I like Ike, right, the expression, "I like Ike." Moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country. Moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border. They came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back. Let me just tell you that Dwight Eisenhower, good president, great president. People liked him. I like Ike, right, the expression, "I like Ike." Moved 1.5 million illegal immigrants out of this country. Moved them just beyond the border. They came back. Moved them again beyond the border. They came back. Didn't like it. Moved them way south. They never came back.
He, of course, plans to eventually build a wall so high that nobody can climb over it, apparently enlisting Jack and his magic beanstalk for engineering advice. But that comment was no joke. He's talking about the infamous Operation Wetback. And people never came back because they'd been left in the middle of the desert without water and died.
After Paris and San Bernardino his authoritarianism took another dark turn. His famous statement that the U.S. should ban all Muslims from entering the country "until we find out what the hell is going on" was actually the culmination of a number of comments indicating that there could be a registry of Muslims and surveillance of mosques and other places where one might find American Muslims. (In other words, everywhere.) He reiterated the standard fatuous right wing bromide about arming everyone so that they could shoot down terrorists before they have a chance to explode their suicide vests. And he enthusiastically endorsed torture. and not just for interrogation purposes but as a punitive measure:
"Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would — in a heartbeat," Trump said to loud cheers during a rally at a convention center here Monday night that attracted thousands. "And I would approve more than that. Don't kid yourself, folks. It works, okay? It works. Only a stupid person would say it doesn't work."
Trump said such techniques are needed to confront terrorists who "chop off our young people's heads" and "build these iron cages, and they'll put 20 people in them and they drop them in the ocean for 15 minutes and pull them up 15 minutes later."
"It works," Trump said over and over again. "Believe me, it works. And you know what? If it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway, for what they're doing. It works."
When discussing what he would do with the families of suspected terrorists he was a bit more vague, but when you consider his other commentary the implication is clear:
I would certainly go after the wives who absolutely knew it was happening, and I guess your definition of what I’d do, I’m going to leave that to your imagination.
He has a fantasy about the wives of the 9/11 hijackers having foreknowledge of the attacks and tuning in on TV with their children to watch daddy fly into the World Trade Center. Except for the fact that the hijackers weren't married and had no kids, it would be an interesting tale.
He has also blamed San Bernardino terrorist Sayed Farook's mother and sister, suggesting the government need to "get tough" to deal with them:
I think his mother knew what was going on. She went into the apartment. Anybody that went into that house or that apartment knew what was going on. They didn’t tell the authorities. They knew what was going on. The mother knew.
We better get a little tough, and a little smart, or we’re in trouble.”
And he's openly said he would commit war crimes and explicitly target the families of suspected ISIS terrorists:
"We’re fighting a very politically correct war. And the other thing with the terrorists — you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families! They care about their lives, don’t kid yourselves. They say they don’t care about their lives. But you have to take out their families.”
On the domestic front, Trump has made it very, very clear that in addition to his "deportation force," he believes the country needs to allow the police agencies much more latitude:
"We’re going to get, you know, the gang members in Baltimore and in Chicago and these are some tough dudes. They’re going to be out so fast.
One of the first thing I’m going to do is get rid of those gang members. We’re going to be – you know, you look at what’s going on with Baltimore, you look at what’s going on in Chicago and Ferguson and St. Louis the other night. We are going to get rid of those gang members so fast your head will spin.
You know, we can be very tough. I just met your cops outside. Those police are tough cookies. Those guys – we need law and order. We need law and order.
I mean, they allowed – in one night, that first night in Baltimore – they allowed that city to be destroyed. And they set it back 35 years. One night. Because the police were not allowed to protect people. They weren’t allowed to protect people.
We have incredible law enforcement in this country and we have to be – the head of the police in Chicago is a person I know. Originally from New York. He’s a phenomenal guy. He can stop things if they’re allowed to stop them. He can stop it. Believe me.
He has never explained exactly what he means when he says he plans to "get rid of those gang members so fast your head will spin," but evoking his relationship close to Chicago's police chief might be a clue.
“One of the first things I’d do in terms of executive order, if I win, will be to sign a strong, strong statement that would go out to the country, out to the world, anybody killing a police man, a police woman, a police officer, anybody killing a police officer, the death penalty is going to happen.”
Considering the summary execution pantomime he does on the trail every day when he talks about Bowe Bergdahl it's fair to assume he has some ideas about how that might be handled.
Finally, Trump has welcomed the approbation of Vladimir Putin, Russia's authoritarian-strongman leader, even going so far as to defend him against charges that he has killed journalists who challenged him. He has joked that he wouldn't kill any journalists himself --- well, probably:
I hate some of these people, I hate 'em," Trump told the crowd. "I would never kill them. I would never do that."
Then he decided to reconsider.
"Uh, let's see, uh?" he said aloud, his voice rising. "No, I would never do that."
Trump's comments on journalists came after he spoke about Russian President Vladimir Putin, who lavished Trump with praise last week.
Claims that Putin ordered the killings of Russian journalists are well-documented, but Trump has argued that those deaths are disputed and without evidence.
Trump did charge once again that some of the reporters in the back of the room are "such lying disgusting people," but as the crowd turned to angrily face those reporters, Trump pulled them back.
This past week Trump spoke admiringly of another despot --- North Korea's Kim Jong Un:
“You’ve got to give him credit: How many young guys — he was like 26 or 25 when his father died — take over these tough generals and all of a sudden, you know, it’s pretty amazing when you think of it. How does he do that?”
“Even though it is a culture, and it’s a culture thing, he goes in, he takes over, he’s the boss. It’s incredible.”
“I mean, it’s amazing that a young guy would go over and take over. You know, you would have thought that these tough generals would have said no way this is gonna happen when the father died.
“So he’s gotta have something going for him, because he kept control, which is amazing for a young person to do."
He did say Kim was a "total nut job" but it's fairly obvious Trump doesn't see that as much of a problem. "He's the boss" and "he kept control" and that is what Trump sees as true leadership. He figures that just as he would get along well with Putin, he and Kim Jong Un could forge and understanding. They all have a lot in common.
And millions of freedom loving Republicans think that's just terrific. His poll numbers have never gone down since he threw his hat in the ring last June. They aren't backing him because he's promising to shrink the government or lower taxes or create jobs. He very rarely even brings such issues up. What he talks about on the stump is how popular he is, how much money he has, and how hard he will bring the hammer down on all the "bad people" who are making America not so great. And he will have so many victories they'll be coming out of your ears.
He will do all this because all it takes is "being tough and smart" and having a proper disdain for "political correctness" -- formerly known as democracy, the constitution and the rule of law.