Advertisement

Trump is following the authoritarian playbook

Advertisement
04:28 - Source: CNN
Team Trump tactics: Deny, conflate, confuse

Story highlights

Ruth Ben-Ghiat: The clues to Trump's presidency are already there from authoritarian regimes throughout history

From stifling of press to discrediting justices who object to extra-legal practices, Trump's record bodes ill, she says

Editor’s Note: Ruth Ben-Ghiat is a frequent contributor to CNN Opinion and a professor of history and Italian studies at New York University. Her latest book is “Italian Fascism’s Empire Cinema.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

CNN —  

In less than a week, America will embark on a new political experience: rule by an authoritarian President. Donald Trump won the Electoral College but lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. So, for every American who looks forward to the Trump era, there is likely another who fears he will lead us into ruin.

What can we expect from Donald Trump, based on his words and actions over the 19 months since he declared his candidacy?

Many Americans were initially confused by Trump and his unorthodox behavior, or dismissed him as a joke. I have spent decades studying authoritarian and fascist regimes and saw in Trump a deeply familiar figure: the strongman who cultivates a bond with followers based on loyalty to him as a person rather than to a party or set of principles.

Such individuals inevitably seek to adapt the political office they inhabit to serve their needs. They are clear from the start about this intention, refusing to submit to shared customs and norms – such as releasing tax returns – that would mean they were submitting to the will of the political class. Anyone who believes that Trump will morph into anything resembling a traditional politician will be sorely disappointed. Authoritarians never pivot.