President Donald Trump is a dictator. He isn’t a very good dictator since he’s trying to pull it off in a remarkably resilient democracy, but he is a dictator, nonetheless. He embodies nearly all of the traits of a dictator outlined by Psychology Today. He is a nepotistic, corrupt, manipulative ideologue who viciously targets his political rivals and uses force to quash protest.
Trump rose to power on the back of xenophobic populism and since he was elected without a popular majority of support (something almost universally true of dictators) and because he has obsessively curated an image of power, he demands a cult of loyalty among those he surrounds himself with. They are advisers in title only, and dozens have been fired merely for disagreeing with him.
Trump is also guilty of a truly staggering amount of dubious at best, but more likely criminal, dealings by way of his personal properties detailed by the New York Times. He has enriched his family and his businesses directly by way of his actions as president and he will have access to the money upon leaving office.
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He has relished in descriptions of killing U.S. enemies abroad. He has degraded our closest and most reliable allies and the international organizations central to improving international relations. He has failed to affirm NATO’s Article 5 — the commitment by NATO allies to come to each other’s defense in the event one is attacked. He has done this while embracing and praising dictators and pushing for closer ties with some of the most prolific human rights abusers in the world. He has shown enormous adoration for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He failed to confront Russia about putting bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and he has shared classified intelligence from allies with Russian officials. He has routinely undermined efforts by his own intelligence services to raise alarm about Russian interference in American elections, presumably because their efforts are aimed at securing his victory.
And then there is the pandemic. Trump’s pathological need to appear strong and his insecurity when surrounded by people smarter than him has been the driving force behind a response that has caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. He has been incapable of acting with empathy or even a hint of reason. He has acted directly in opposition to the interest of the people he was sworn to protect.
And finally (not really, but for the purposes of this article), Trump has implied that he will remain president for more than two terms. This directly violates the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution and gains Trump acceptance to a club almost exclusively containing dictators that run sham democracies. He doesn’t think the rules apply to him.
None of this is new information and none of it is surprising after the campaign Donald Trump created in 2016. What all of it points to is that Trump is an authoritarian, a dictator. The nation has only been spared from his dictatorship by his spectacular incompetence and by a democracy that has been, despite an abundance of flaws and failings, remarkably resilient in the face of an autocrat. The consequences of Trump’s Supreme Court picks won’t be fully realized for decades and over 200,000 dead Americans will never be forgotten, but despite relentless attacks on every part of the U.S. government, the president is still just a president and we are still a democracy. He has done a tremendous amount of damage, but the country is still a far cry from what it would look like if Trump got his way. Muslims are allowed, if not altogether welcome; there is yet to be martial law and there is still an election in November.
The United States of America isn’t the United States of Trump. It is owed to a court system that upholds the Constitution, leaders that use federalism to its fullest extent, strong, smart and honest administration officials who refuse to serve a tyrant, courageous journalists who expose the Trump administration for its misdeeds and lies and Trump’s incompetence. It is also owed to the people. The people who stood in the face of bigotry, hate and evil. The people who marched for the climate, for women, for refugees, for children in cages, for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, for America. The election that is still happening is the best chance we get to make sure we stay the USA.
On Nov. 3, we owe it to all the people listed above who aren’t here to vote with us to vote for Joe Biden. We owe it to all of the Black people killed at the hands of police. We owe it to all the good cops who see the institutionalized racism in our criminal justice system as wrong. We owe it to all of the advisers and ambassadors and secretaries who never gave up the fight, no matter how hard Trump and his cronies pushed back, and continued to speak out even when they were fired. We owe it to the protesters who were killed in Charlottesville in 2017 and Kenosha this August. We owe it to Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Lewis: two titans of democracy who fought until their dying breaths for the equal protection of all Americans. We owe it to everyone who has ever laid down their life defending this country and the promise of democracy it endeavors to represent. We owe it to allies abroad that have stood by us through enormous hardship. We owe it to all of the people who live under tyrants and dream of someday coming to a nation where they will have rights. We owe it to everyone who has died speaking out against a tyrant. We owe it to everyone alive on Earth right now because climate change doesn’t care where you live or who you are.
We owe it to ourselves. We are a diverse nation full of remarkable people with a revolutionary democracy. The rhetoric that so often surrounds our democracy makes it out to be eternal and invincible. It isn’t. It is only as strong as the people that vote.
Aidan Rhodes is a journalism major from Flagstaff Arizona. He is a passionate chef, athlete and writer. Follow Aidan Rhodes on Twitter