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Recognizing the Trump Threat

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We have, to understate briefly, been critical of the political press for enabling Trump with horse race and Both Sides coverage. So I should acknowledge when a major article is completely straightforward about what a second Trump presidency would be like, and Savage, Swan and Haberman really rise to the occasion here:

In the spring of 1989, the Chinese Communist Party used tanks and troops to crush a pro-democracy protest in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Most of the West, across traditional partisan lines, was aghast at the crackdown that killed at least hundreds of student activists. But one prominent American was impressed.

“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it,” Donald J. Trump said in an interview with Playboy magazine the year after the massacre. “Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak.”

It was a throwaway line in a wide-ranging interview, delivered to a journalist profiling a 43-year-old celebrity businessman who was not then a player in national politics or world affairs. But in light of what Mr. Trump has gone on to become, his exaltation of the ruthless crushing of democratic protesters is steeped in foreshadowing.

Mr. Trump’s violent and authoritarian rhetoric on the 2024 campaign trail has attracted growing alarm and comparisons to historical fascist dictators and contemporary populist strongmen. In recent weeks, he has dehumanized his adversaries as “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” declared that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” encouraged the shooting of shoplifters and suggested that the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, deserved to be executed for treason.

As he runs for president again facing four criminal prosecutions, Mr. Trump may seem more angry, desperate and dangerous to American-style democracy than in his first term. But the throughline that emerges is far more long-running: He has glorified political violence and spoken admiringly of autocrats for decades.

Worth reading in its entirety, and I hope we see more of it.

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