Trump Was Just the Warm-Up Act
"How to Become a Tyrant" shows how a perpetual loser like Trump gains power. Ted Cruz and Ron DeSantis are taking notes.
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Becoming a lawless dictator is easy, at least according to the new Netflix series “How to Become a Tyrant.”
Without ever mentioning Orange Mussolini by name, the show sets out to explain why gullible (i.e. MAGA-like) hordes are so easily manipulated into believing that a con artist, loser or perpetual failure (or in the case of Trump, all three) can fix their problems and lead their country to greatness forever and ever, Amin.
The show’s flippant tone is reminiscent of the even-more-irreverent Nicolas Cage-hosted “History of Swear Words” which used comedy to give viewers an education in expletives.
“How to Become a Tyrant” has a more serious mission: It wants to educate viewers about the basics of the “Dictator Playbook” used by the likes of everyone from Adolf Hitler to Saddam Hussein to Idi Amin to Joseph Stalin to Muammar Gaddafi to North Korea’s Kim dynasty.
Narrated by Peter Dinklage, the series features six episodes, each highlighting the tried-and-true methods dictators use to: 1) Seize Power; 2) Crush Rivals; 3) Reign Through Terror; 4) Control the Truth; 5) Create a New Society; and 6) Rule Forever.
The show makes clear that, even for would-be dictators who are as clownish and ridiculous as Trump, it’s possible to pick the right moment, target the right message, and tap into the politics of grievance to rise to power and never let go.
The Hitler-loving Trump proved that the techniques in the Dictator Playbook work just as well in America as anywhere else, especially when given a helping hand by corrupt billionaires, malicious foreign powers, white nationalists like Steve Bannon, dirty tricksters like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone, and ratings-hungry media companies.
In America’s case, the only good news is that Trump was a bigger idiot than, say, Kim Jong-un. But as Zeynep Tufekci wrote in The Atlantic in November 2020: “America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent.”
The Post-Trump GOP Is Embracing the Dictator Playbook
You don’t have to watch “How to Become a Tyrant” to see what’s going on. The GOP is doubling down on all aspects of Trumpism—and blithely ignoring the fact that Trump failed America and his own MAGA voters in every meaningful way. The party is setting the stage for the next election to be a referendum on whether American voters wants democracy or dictatorship.
Why are Republicans so keen to embrace the Dictator Playbook? Because after decades of their failed policies, market-crashing incompetence and dismal results, instead of adapting their ideas, Republicans are embracing an anti-democratic vision where policies don’t matter, competence doesn’t matter and results don’t matter. Power is all that matters.
The party is now openly at war with American ideals, even to the extent of trying to control the truth about January 6th, because their entire strategy is built on destroying democracy and returning to—and retaining—power as a white-minority party.
Right now, Republicans may not know whether Trump will be on the ballot or in a prison cell in 2024. But the truth is they don’t really care about the Individual himself. If the two-time popular-vote loser frequently represented by the Orange-Clown-Poop emoji combination isn’t their candidate, his replacement will be someone currently prepping to step into Trump’s clown shoes.
If One-Term-Loser Trump isn’t the 2024 candidate, the GOP will field an unlikable fascist like Ted Cruz (who’s already focus-grouping his dictator-beard options) or a swaggering chump like failed Florida Governor and Trump “Mini-Me” Ron DeSantis (who is rapidly signing as many dictator-style laws as he can in his home state in anticipation of a Mini-MAGA run of his own).
Knowing in advance that they can’t bank on a third Trump run, the GOP is trying desperately to tip the scales in their favor in any and all future elections with a brazen plan to stop Black people voting. This Supreme Court-endorsed voter suppression effort is being coupled with relentless gaslighting and Fox News propaganda on non-issues such as “Critical Race Theory,” “Communism” and exactly what constitutes a “Nazi.” (Note: If Marjorie Taylor Greene calls you one, you’re not.)
Meanwhile, even as a popular President once again leads the nation from GOP disaster to Democratic prosperity, Republicans are attempting to filibuster the Biden boom to death, and letting Covid continue to kill their own voters.
In an added hypocrisy, the party that let Trump add $8 trillion to the debt without a peep, could even go so far as to cause a US default, leading to the kind of economic crash any would-be dictator would love to exploit.
As a series, “How to Become a Tyrant” may not be for everyone. And it probably won’t teach readers of this newsletter things they don’t already know. But if does do any good, it will help a few more Americans recognize when they are being manipulated by fascist propaganda—and perhaps make them a little less gullible when the next would-be GOP dictator tells them he’s the answer to all their resentments.