Don’t worry, America. Trump promised to not destroy democracy, ‘except for Day One’ | Opinion

Out with MAGA. “Fascist for a day” should be Donald Trump’s new campaign slogan.

The former president wants Americans to think he’s not that anti-democratic. Despite vowing to use the White House to go after his political opponents, fire public servants he doesn’t like and send the military into American cities, Trump promises he will be your run-of-the-mill commander in chief — “except for Day One.”

“Under no circumstances — you are promising America tonight — you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Fox News host Sean Hannity asked the former president Tuesday.

“Except for Day One,” Trump replied.

“I want to close the [U.S. Southern] border, and I want to drill, drill, drill,” he went on after Hannity sought clarification.

“After that, I’m not a dictator.”

On the spectrum of bizarre Trump statements, this one ranks along side his recent realization that “us” is spelled the same as “U.S.” — “I just picked that up,” he said at a New Hampshire rally in October. But it’s a glimpse into the mind of Trump and many of his supporters: Democracy is great but it’s meant to be used sparingly — only when it yields outcomes in their favor.

It’s likely that beyond “day one” there will be many exceptions to democracy in a second Trump term. He’s signaled he will end the autonomy of federal agencies meant to operate independently, concentrate more power in his own hands, nix employment protections for civil servants who he believes stand in his way and throw out the post-Watergate norm of a Department of Justice that’s independent from the White House. Trump has openly mused about directing the DOJ to persecute his political enemies. He promised to repeal birthright citizenship for babies born on U.S. soil to undocumented immigrants even though that’s protected under the Constitution.

The prospect of a 2024 Trump election sounds scarier than it did in 2016. The GOP of seven years ago, caught off guard by his election, has transformed into Trump’s party. In his first term, Trump had several aides and appointees who tried to stop his undemocratic tendencies. Those safeguards will disappear if he wins again and staffs his administration with loyalists willing to implement his MAGA agenda at all cost.

But it’s not just Trump’s promises that point to his authoritarian tendencies. Trump lied about the results of the 2020 election and tried to overturn it. He incited his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol to stop the certification of electoral votes on Jan. 6, 2021. He empowered his allies to concoct a fake electors scheme in seven states where they submitted fake documents to Congress asserting he had won reelection. Prosecutors in three of those states have filed charges against Republicans who allegedly participated in this plan. Trump himself has been indicted twice for his efforts to overturn the elections.

Trump, who openly admires dictators and strongmen, has encouraged shooting shoplifters, called his opponents “vermin” who must be “rooted out,” accused undocumented immigrants of “poisoning the blood of our country” and suggested the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be executed for treason.

Sure, there are those who will say they don’t care what Trump says and only what he does. But Trump has shown us his vision for democracy — and we do not expect it to stop after “day one.”

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