Donald Trump is possessed by a fascist mania

Time to get real about how far down the road to full-on fascism and dictatorship the country has already traveled

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published January 8, 2024 5:45AM (EST)

Former US President and 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump leaves after speaking during a campaign rally at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena in Durham, New Hampshire, on December 16, 2023. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)
Former US President and 2024 Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump leaves after speaking during a campaign rally at the University of New Hampshire's Whittemore Center Arena in Durham, New Hampshire, on December 16, 2023. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images)

During the holiday season, Donald Trump and his agents did not stop or otherwise rest in their campaign to make him America’s first dictator. In that way, Trump and his forces are possessed by a type of fascist mania, a compulsive drive for victory and domination. This helps to explain why they are such master propagandists. Trump is tied with or leading President Joe Biden in many early polls.

The last few weeks of relentless attacks and raging by Trump included this Christmas Day post on Truth Social where the ex-president proclaimed:

Merry Christmas to all, including Crooked Joe Biden’s ONLY HOPE, Deranged Jack Smith…

Included also are World Leaders, both good and bad, but none of which are as evil and ‘sick’ as the THUGS we have inside our Country who, with their Open Borders, INFLATION, Afghanistan Surrender, Green New Scam, High Taxes, No Energy Independence, Woke Military, Russia/Ukraine, Israel/Iran, All Electric Car Lunacy, and so much more, are looking to destroy our once great USA. MAY THEY ROT IN HELL.


Trump is transparent and direct in his threats and promises to be America’s first dictator on “day one” of his “presidency” when he takes power in 2025. The day after Christmas Trump would reiterate those intentions, sharing a graphic on his Truth Social platform that showed how voters associate words such as “dictatorship” and “revenge” with him.  

When the autocrat, would-be dictator speaks, you must believe him.

In response to Trump‘s “scandalous” behavior and “new low” during the Christmas holiday and new year, the mainstream news media performed their tired routine of being “shocked” and “disgusted” at the obvious and predictable. Instead, the focus should have been on Trump’s increasing fascist and totalitarian escalations.

In a series of legal challenges and other moves, Trump and his attorneys have argued that he is a king or other type of divine ruler who is above the law and therefore immune from accountability for his obvious crimes including the Jan. 6 coup attempt and the larger plot to end American democracy. Such claims and arguments have been widely condemned and mocked as being alien to the Constitution and the country’s legal and political tradition and culture.

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To that point, U.S. District Judge Chutkan wrote the following in her response to Trump’s petition to dismiss the charges against him for the crimes of Jan. 6 on grounds of presidential immunity and the Constitution:

The court cannot conclude that our constitution cloaks former presidents with absolute immunity for any federal crimes they committed while in office. Nothing in the constitution’s text or allocation of government powers requires exempting former presidents….Defendant’s four-year service as commander in chief did not bestow on him the divine right of kings to evade the criminal accountability that governs his fellow citizens.

Donald Trump’s claims to immunity have also been pushed back against for being an obvious bad faith attempt to delay his trials until after the 2024 election, where if Trump wins, he could then pardon himself for his crimes and then weaponize the Department of Justice to retaliate against his and the MAGA movement’s so-called enemies.

However, that Trump and his agents and followers would even assert such “rights” — and depending on the mood of a given Trump-nominated Supreme Court justice or right-wing judge could potentially find a sympathetic ear for such absurd arguments — embodies just how far down the road to full-on fascism and dictatorship the country has already traveled.

There was another dimension to Trump’s claims to be a dictator king that went largely unremarked upon by the mainstream news media and commentariat. During a speech in New Hampshire several weeks ago, Trump made the following announcement.

I am also going to indemnify our police officers. This is a big thing, and it’s a brand new thing, and I think it’s so important. I’m going to indemnify, through the federal government, all police officers and law enforcement officials throughout the United States from being destroyed by the radical left for taking strong actions against crime.

In essence, Trump has promised the police will be placed even more above and outside the law when they engage in thuggery and more generally violate the civil and human rights of the American people. This is a naked attempt by Trump to ensure that the country's police and law enforcement are loyal to him personally. 

Trump has indeed said similar things before (for example: empowering police to shoot and kill shoplifters). However, repetition makes such fascist and authoritarian threats and promises no less dangerous. For the news media  and other political observers to look away with a shrug of the shoulders or dismiss it as “not news” is to normalize neofascism and the condition of malignant normality that is fueling it.

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In a healthy democracy and society, the law protects the rights of all people equally. Moreover, the law is supposed to function as a type of social leveler that ensures that the less powerful have some protection(s) from the powerful.

By comparison, in an authoritarian society, the law is a tool for the powerful to abuse the less powerful and to assert their will and interests over others in a way that is corrupt, unaccountable, and unchecked. In many ways, this is survival of the fittest and a type of state of nature that is anathema to democracy, human flourishing, and progress. Trump and the Republican fascists and the larger white right are committed to this second project.

For all of their talk about “law and order," Trump and the other Republican fascists and “conservatives” actually view the law as primarily being a weapon they can use against their “enemies," the other, and those people they deem to be less than and not “real Americans." And for all of his claims about “backing the blue” and “Blue Lives Matter," Trump has promised to pardon the Jan. 6 MAGA rioters (a group he describes as “heroes” and “patriots” and "political prisoners") and endorses putting the Capitol police who defended American democracy on that horrible day in prison.

On this, Thom Hartmann warns in a recent essay:

As fascist followers act out their violent threats against their leaders’ perceived enemies, they get an inner sense of strength and the feeling that they’ve joined a community: that diminishes their own fear for a short while.

The more an “other” — political enemies; racial, religious, and gender minorities; women — are blamed for the ills of the nation, the more vigilante-style violence against them is justified and the more violent the future becomes.

When the state pushes back against that violence, as America did after January 6th, the calls for increased violence become even louder. Trump is practically shouting “kill them!” with a bullhorn and even our court system is afraid to stop him by throwing him into jail as they would have any other common criminal who encouraged such violence against judges, juries, witnesses, court officials, and their families.

Soon, nobody in or out of the government is willing to stand up to the fascists; it’s too dangerous and too exhausting. Being the object of regular threats of violence or death is not something anybody would volunteer for unless they saw the stakes as being very, very important.

This is what Trump and the GOP he’s captured are working toward: the silencing of dissent and accountability, replacing them with fear and a guilty complicity. Just take a look at the state of social media today, particularly Xitter and Facebook, which have dialed back on their content moderation and thus loosed the fascists on anybody who dares criticize Trump or the GOP.

In an excellent new essay at The New Republic, Brynn Tannehill makes this intervention about how close America is to being taken over by Trump and the Republican fascist Party's MAGA dictatorship and the horrors that would bring:

As bad as this is, I haven’t even gotten to the really depressing part. Most people assume that if fascism came to America, we would recognize it as individuals and refuse to go along with it. In reality, very few people are directly affected by living in an authoritarian country; life is mostly “boring and tolerable” for the majority. “Yes,” most people would say, “but if asked to do things I know were wrong, I would refuse to comply. Because I’m an American, and I know better.”

Except, we’re already testing this every day in red states, and failing miserably….

Ultimately, when the power of the state comes to bear on people, including Americans, the vast majority will not do the right thing. Most (sane) people admire Martin Niemöller, but when confronted with the reality of how fascism corrupts ordinary men, almost no one emulates his willingness to do the right thing by defying the state. When Trump takes power and turns the full might of the government against anyone who might resist, the guardrails of individual conscience will evaporate faster than a snow flurry in hell.

Trump and his agents have also repeatedly threatened to deploy the military to occupy black and brown communities in “blue states” and invoke martial law to fight “crime," i.e. crush any form of resistance or dissent. And as I warned in an earlier essay here at Salon, Trump is already empowering his MAGA followers to act as his violent enforcers when he takes back the presidency. In total, Trump and his agents are attempting to create a type of internal security force that will enforce the regime’s will and power over the American people. Such plans are almost literally from the dictator’s playbook.

Instead of feigning shock and surprise at Trump’s repeated foul and vile behavior, the American news media should instead be focusing on his and the Republican fascists and MAGA movement’s escalating threats to democracy, the rule of law, and civil society — and then educating and mobilizing the public about how to stop them.

Once again, when the autocrat, would-be dictator speaks, you must believe him. Trump and his MAGA people are declaring loud and clear exactly what they are going to do if he wins the 2024 election and becomes dictator for life.

By Chauncey DeVega

Chauncey DeVega is a senior politics writer for Salon. His essays can also be found at He also hosts a weekly podcast, The Chauncey DeVega Show. Chauncey can be followed on Twitter and Facebook.

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Commentary Democracy Crisis Donald Trump Election Fascism News Media