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If one person could destroy our democracy — destroy our nation — what would you be prepared to do to stop him?
The Democrats hope you will vote. But that’s channeling fear in constructive ways.
And if there’s anything we know about modern America, it’s filled with people who will express their fear in destructive ways:
The 2017 Trump Inaugural Day riots that led to some 200 arrests.
The 2020 summer riots and other demonstrations that destroyed $2 billion in property and left 25 people dead.
The Jan. 6 riot that disrupted a joint session of Congress, injured scores of police officers and inflicted $1.5 million in damage on the U.S. Capitol.
Democrats are panicked about 2024
Political violence has grown more common since the presidential election of 2016 when Trump voters roughed up a counterprotester in Alabama, and Democrats beat up Republican voters exiting Trump rallies in California and New Mexico.
As we approach the 2024 election, these historic developments need to be front of mind as we recognize the growing potential for U.S. political disputes to devolve into burning storefronts and violent clashes.
As Democrats run four parallel prosecutions at Donald Trump, the former president has grown only stronger. He now leads in several polls and is up big in battleground states.
That has provoked panic in the Democratic Party, and the left is responding with words that shake the seismic needle.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Joe Scarborough, formerly a conservative congressman and now a paid talker for left-wing MSNBC, said Trump is “not a normal candidate. He’s running to end American democracy as we know it.”
It's the end of democracy, they warn
He echoes the views of Hillary Clinton, who sees certain doom in a Trump victory in 2024. “If in some scenario that were to happen, it would be the end of democracy in the United States.”
The end of democracy?
If not that, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow says, it’s the end of the free press.
When Trump suggested in September that the federal government would investigate Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal, Sarah Haines, a co-host on ABC’s “The View,” said to Maddow, “He wants to cancel the news, so they’re done.”
Responded Maddow, “He wants to put MSNBC on trial for treason so he can execute us.”
Yes, maybe. But Trump has played this game before. The result? The mainstream media grew bigger, stronger and richer.
Robert DeNiro, who would have been an MSNBC commentator had he not first become Vito Corleone, said “democracy won’t survive” another Trump presidency.
“I’ve spent a lot of time studying bad men,” DeNiro said. “When I look at him, I don’t see a bad man. Truly. I see an evil one.”
'Death squads' if Trump is reelected?
All of this is fair game in politics, and heaven knows Trump has produced infinite fodder for such talk. But as it rolls down the liberal food chain, it’s getting uglier.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, Trump met with sheriff’s deputies and U.S. Border Patrol agents in Texas. It was a moment of bonhomie, as mostly white and Latino officers yucked it up with the former president.
Will Stancil didn’t see it that way. A university researcher and sometimes writer for The Atlantic, Stancil tweeted:
“These are the people that are going to put a bullet in a lot of your heads if Trump gets reelected.”
Later, he added sarcastically:
“Ha, just kidding guys, there’s definitely no precedent for far-right strongmen using law enforcement agencies as any kind of paramilitary death squad. it couldn't happen here, anyway. look at those friendly faces.”
“Paramilitary death squads?”
Some even compare Trump to Hitler
The well-adjusted Democratic voters will push that aside as overcooked nonsense. But the less adjusted are going to believe it.
New York Democratic congressman Dan Goldman got caught up in the hype when he told MSNBC’s Jen Psaki, “It is just unquestionable at this point that that man (Trump) cannot see public office again. He’s not only unfit, he’s destructive to our democracy. And he has to be eliminated.”
To his credit, Goldman apologized for his comments and walked them back.
Not everyone is so decent.
The Lincoln Project, which carries water for the Democratic Party, has launched an ad that compares Donald Trump to Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Benito Mussolini.
Hollywood actress Ellen Barkin joined the chorus, calling Trump essentially the second coming of Hitler.
As words go, that’s the nuclear option.
Why it's dangerous to go nuclear so early
But what happens when you hit the nuclear option for the 10,000th time and it’s not even 2024?
Normal voters will tune you out. They’ve probably already begun.
A fraction of people, however, will believe you and begin to trawl the darker recesses of their minds. They may even believe that the extraordinary threat Trump poses calls for extraordinary action.
Univision is cozying up to Trump: No wonder
There’s a better way.
This fall, Democrats are reprising and sharing a short essay whose origins are a bit hazy. Many say it was composed in 2019 as an answer to an inquiry on the online site Quora.
Written in uniquely British understatement, the essay dissects Trump at a human level.
A better way to remind voters about Trump
Why do some British people not like him?
“A few things spring to mind,” wrote the essayist, believed to have been London-based copywriter Nate White.
“Trump lacks certain qualities which the British traditionally esteem. For instance, he has no class, no charm, no coolness, no credibility, no compassion, no wit, no warmth.
“... We like a laugh. And while Trump may be laughable, he has never once said anything wry, witty or even faintly amusing — not once, ever. ... His idea of a joke is a crass comment, an illiterate insult, a casual act of cruelty.
“... There is never any under-layer of irony, complexity, nuance or depth. It’s all surface. Some Americans might see this as refreshingly upfront. Well, we don’t. We see it as having no inner world, no soul.”
There you have it.
Democrats don’t need to beat the drums of looming dictatorship to get voters’ attention. Just remind everyone of things plainly seen.
Trump is missing many of the common virtues we expect in our fellow man.
Dedicated MAGA voters will never recognize it, but swing voters — the moderates who decide elections — surely have.
Phil Boas is an editorial columnist for The Arizona Republic. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Trump is Hitler? Why that dangerous talk for Democrats