It’s dawning on Trump, allies that the ‘dictator’ platform may not be a winner

As mainstream reporters hone in on Donald Trump’s fascist fantasies for a second term, his campaign and allies are discovering that a dictatorship platform might not be a winning message next year.

The Trump campaign itself is responsible for this message they are beginning to see as problematic. As Trump kicked off his 2024 bid, the signature line he pushed at every rally was, “I am your retribution,” stoking the image of a mighty strongman who would mete out justice on his own terms

The journey from that to Trump’s admission this week of being a dictator “on day one” of a second term has been filled with rhetoric plucked out of the playbook of the Nazis and other fascist regimes. But Trump’s cheeky “dictator” dodge, implying that he wouldn’t be a dictator “except for on day one” has drawn renewed scrutiny from reporters and opposing candidates alike.

The Biden campaign’s rapid response X (formerly Twitter) account has been feasting on the topic, tweeting out clips like this one from Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei.

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Trump’s wife, Melania, VandeHei says, is pushing for former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to be Trump’s vice president. Stephen Miller, architect of Trump’s Muslim ban, could be attorney general and has talked about implementing “detainment camps” and “mass deportation[s].” And Kash Patel, who has talked about using the “machinery of government” to target Trump’s political enemies, could end up as CIA director, for instance, says VandeHei.

The Trump campaign and some of its allies are starting to pick up on the fact that the broad and pervasive push toward an authoritarian-style government might not be the best campaign theme. While “Fascism for All” has a ring to it, it’s likely not a winner in a country where people can still cast meaningful votes for their leadership. The Washington Post writes:

[I]n recent days, the former president and his allies have been pushing back more forcefully on comments from historians, policy experts and political opponents that a second Trump term would be more extreme and autocratic than his first. Two Trump advisers, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk more candidly, said recent stories about his plans for a second term are not viewed as helpful for the general election.

Fox News’ media reporter Howard Kurtz, for instance, suggested the coverage was a smear campaign, saying, “It’s not that [Trump] shouldn’t be held accountable for his own rhetoric and social-media posts, but I have never seen anything like this in my professional lifetime.”

The feeling is mutual, Howard. Trust us.

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