The “Chosen One”: Why experts say a new campaign ad from Trump signals impending violence

"People need to understand what comes next, always, is violence"

By Chauncey DeVega

Senior Writer

Published January 12, 2024 5:45AM (EST)

Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Donald Trump (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Donald Trump has declared that he will be a dictator on “day one” of his regime if he defeats President Biden in the 2024 election.

But Trump will not just be a regular political thug. Instead, he will be a type of dictator who claims a divine mandate. Some of history’s most evil and destructive dictators, most notably Adolf Hitler also believed that they were on a mission from god.

Public opinion polls and other research show that millions of Trump’s MAGA supporters already believe that he is a divine figure, anointed by their god. By extension, this means that they too are part of a divine struggle and are blessed by their god for supporting Donald Trump and that heaven will be their reward for such loyalty. This is the “logic” of religious-political radicalization and extremism and the violence and destruction it inevitably brings.

"The irony in all this is unmistakable since Trump is hardly a religious man."

Reiterating his malevolent intent, in a fundraising email he sent on Wednesday to his MAGA people, Trump (again) announced that “I AM YOUR RETRIBUTION!”

Trump has been escalating his claims of divine power as the 2024 election approaches. In early December, Trump told his followers at a rally in Iowa that God and Jesus Christ were on his side and are intervening to put him back in the White House. Apparently, Trump and the Christian Right’s version of god and Jesus Christ are fascist and authoritarian. In his most recent claim on divine power and authority – which in essence means that the ex-president is a type of divine figure and messiah – last Friday Trump shared a campaign video proclaiming that “God made Trump.” The MeidasTouch Network details the ad:

On Truth Social, Trump posted a video with the caption, “God made Trump.” In the video, a narrator explains “God gave us Trump” because he was looking for certain qualities God allegedly needed in a leader including a “caretaker,” and working long hours. Trump, who said he would be a president who never took vacations, spent over 400 days visiting Trump properties while president.

Besides the “caretaker” description, the video also contains messianic descriptions of Trump as “man who cares for the flock, a shepherd to mankind who won’t ever leave or forsake them.” Similar language is found in the Bible.

In Psalm 23, David describes God as a shepherd who provides for the flock. The teaching that God will “never leave or forsake you” is found multiple times in the Bible. Jesus called himself “the good shepherd” who “lays down his life for the sheep” and taught he “is with you always.”

This latest video echoes the teachings we’ve seen by Christian nationalists who make Trump out as a divine figure sent by God to save the world. American Christian nationalists have not just woven Trump into their faith, they’ve placed him on the throne and are rewriting, ignoring, and breaking away from historic teachings on helping the poor, migrants, and upholding justice as these conflict with their MAGA agenda.

Donald Trump already believes that he is immune from the law and therefore should not be held responsible for his many obvious crimes. To that point, Trump’s attorneys argued in federal court on Tuesday that while president, Trump had the legal authority and power to order his rivals killed or to accept money for pardons and other such favors. Of course, such claims of immunity from the law are hostile to the Constitution. But that Trump and his attorneys would dare to make such claims to total power is an eerie preview of what is to come next. If Trump wins the 2024 election, there will few if any limits on his power. 

In an attempt to better understand Trump’s claims of being God’s chosen candidate and a type of messiah, the implications for the country’s worsening democracy crisis, and what comes next with the ex-president and his neofascist movement’s rapidly escalating dangerousness, I recently asked a range of experts for their thoughts and suggestions.

Jared Yates Sexton is a journalist and author of the new book "The Midnight Kingdom: A History of Power, Paranoia, and the Coming Crisis":

The "God Made Trump" ad is disturbing but incredibly predictable. We've watched for years while Trump used every white religious fanatic in this country for his own purposes, bilking them out of their money and promising them their wildest and most extreme fantasies. Eventually, he was going to say, explicitly, that God sent him because that's what every cult leader eventually says. There's a thin line between Give me your money and I'll talk to God for you, and I am God. That's where we are. And people need to understand what comes next, always, is violence.

Rick Wilson is a co-founder of The Lincoln Project, a former leading Republican strategist, and author of two books, "Everything Trump Touches Dies" and "Running Against the Devil: A Plot to Save America from Trump - and Democrats from Themselves":

The “Chosen One” ad that Trump is promoting is just another touchpoint showing how he’s driven by nothing but ego and a need for adulation. Trump has built the MAGA movement not around policy but as a cult of personality with dangerous implications for the nation.

Trump is wrapping himself in this religious cloak not out of any real belief, but to convince his followers they are on a moral crusade. This is a dangerous moment for the nation because many of his supporters believe they must do whatever they can to put Trump back in power - including using violence - because God wills it.

Contrast this with President Biden, someone who goes to Church regularly and wears his faith on his sleeve. He governs with grace and humility while steering the nation through some very difficult foreign policy and domestic challenges. He epitomizes the thoughtful leader who puts the nation first. The difference between the two could not be more stark.

Dr. Lance Dodes is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a training and supervising analyst emeritus at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute:

Trump’s recent ad in which he describes himself as having been created by God is an instance of not just his dangerous and pathological grandiosity, but his efforts to fool the least thoughtful among us who may believe his delusional self-image. One hopes that leaders will care particularly about those least able to know the truth, either because of lack of education or opportunity in life. But Trump’s plan has always been to rely on the Big Lie technique to convince those who are easily conned. It is another example of the disdain for others and the sadistic drive to dominate, which he has shown repeatedly.

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David L. Altheide is the Regents' Professor Emeritus on the faculty of Justice and Social Inquiry in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University and author of the new book "Gonzo Governance: The Media Logic of Donald Trump":

Today, salvation and damnation are media performances. Ten years ago, Pope Francis launched a Facebook page and the Vatican offered indulgences to those who followed a service via Twitter. At least he is authorized by the Catholic Church. Donald Trump’s endorsement of a fan’s messianic poem/video “And God Made Trump” captures the important elements of a memetic fictional character who is devout, divinely directed, righteous, and the savior incarnate. The “shepherd to mankind,” who attends church on Sunday after working overtime to save the world from Marxists, deep state, and tame the world economy.

Trump’s endorsement suggests that he is playing to the fascist script of using God to embellish his attacks on established authorities and institutions. He apparently felt the divine power when he stated in his Christmas message that his enemies could “rot in hell.” The playbook is well known. Scholars argue that Hitler’s misuse of Christianity enabled the Third Reich terror that included murdering more than six million Jews. Indeed, Nazi propagandist, Joseph Goebbels venerated Hitler and created a pseudo-religion to gain popular support.

The poem plays off conservative radio personality, Paul Harvey’s (“So God Made a Farmer”), but it also illustrates a gross misreading of the difference between the reflexive non-linear digital media on which Trump depends, and Harvey’s linear radio. Harvey-era radio personalities used one-way communication to pitch their wares. Trump is a non-linear digital brand, a kind of meme that resonates with his disciples, who do not seriously engage the short snippets. This means that his utterances are largely insignificant for those who have bought his brand unless they challenge a foundational assumption of followers. And this could be a conundrum for Trump, who, in true Gonzo Governance fashion, attacks sensibilities and order about religious beliefs.

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Harvey's poem violates the religious views of many Trump disciples. The divine claim—made and chosen by God— may be a bridge too far even for some Trump disciples. Just as Trump attacks our election processes, courts, and law enforcement, the missive mocks and violates the historical, theological, and religious institutional barriers separating mere mortals from celestial musings. He is playing digital divination, reaching for the stars with another narcissistic leap. Perhaps Harvey foresaw the future of Trump’s hateful tirades and undying Republican support when he suggested in one of his broadcasts (“If I Were the Devil”) that the Devil had taken over the United States. Clearly, the devil is in the details.

Marcel Danesi is Professor Emeritus of linguistic anthropology and semiotics at the University of Toronto. His new book is "Politics, Lies and Conspiracy Theories: A Cognitive Linguistic Perspective."

Trump’s performative abilities are truly second to none—he knows how to talk, act, and behave according to his specific audience of followers, putting on a veritable “show” for them. In the case of his evangelical followers, he has always presented himself as the one chosen to save the world from atheistic secularism, which he claims is being imposed upon Americans by a radical left deep state. Trump has thus evolved into a Messianic figure among the primarily white religious right, who is fulfilling a divine mission—a conspiracy theory that he opportunistically promotes himself, portraying himself as an angry spiritual leader who alone can rid America of its deep state enemies.

The irony in all this is unmistakable since Trump is hardly a religious man. But this does not matter to his religious followers, who see him as a “savior sinner,” like other such sinners and martyrs in biblical history. Many on the religious right see Trump as a vessel who will adopt a moral agenda in office, no matter what opposition he faces. Before Trump’s rise to power, the mass media hardly paid attention to the religious right, generating a perception among evangelicals of news reporters and Democrats as harboring a liberal secular agenda and worldview that they have been imposing on America for decades. The sense of exclusion that those who belong to Trump’s base felt before his leadership, allowed him to become their spiritual leader, no matter his philandering past and his shady business dealings. For such individuals the MAGA narrative is perceived to be a redemptive religious one, implying a restoration of America’s moral heritage, in opposition to the view of America as a culturally diverse society (religiously, ideologically, and ethnically).

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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