Making of a Dictator



In his article, The Mind of a Dictator, which appeared in the November 2011 issue of Psychology Today, James Fallon, Ph.D., described the traits of many modern-day dictators or authoritarians as self-absorbed, masterful liars, compassionless, power hungry, vain, narcissistic, and vindictive.

I am not a pundit. But like many Americans who are concerned about the direction that the government is heading to, I have observed how President Donald Trump’s behavior and pronouncements appear to strike a semblance to how dictators behave.

Like the former dictator Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines during the 1986 snap election, Trump has also refused to accept the result of the latest presidential election, describing it as “rigged” without presenting any proof or evidence.

Like Pol Pot of Cambodia, Trump has shown deep hatred of his political opponents and has threatened to jail them.

Like Adolf Hitler, Trump has not shown an iota of compassion for the hundreds of migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border as a result of the administration’s policy.

Like the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, Trump is a vindictive person who continues to insult and fire anyone in his inner circle who questions or disagrees with him. Trump has recently fired Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for the latter’s position not to use the US military against civilian demonstrators.

Like many dictators, Trump has an “inflated sense of self-importance,” only thinks of himself and what is good for him. He did not care if those people who attended his outdoor rallies got infected with Covid-19 or got sick because they had been stranded in freezing weather in Nebraska after attending his rally.

Alon Ben-Meir of The Jerusalem Post attributed to Trump one characteristic of authoritarians that’s not often mentioned: infallible. According to him, authoritarian leaders never admit that they make mistakes. He used as an example a tweet by Trump refusing to back down from his “forecast” that Alabama was going to be hit by Hurricane Dorian and went so far as to alter the National Weather Service’s map of Dorian’s trajectory to include part of Alabama to prove that he was right.

To make matters worse, he is surrounded by enablers, mostly the leaders of the Republican Party, who continue to spew the same lies that the president spread and question the legitimacy of the electoral process, again, with no evidence of fraud or irregularities.

And what worries me is Trump’s continuous expression of admiration for strongmen like Vladimir Putin of Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

Now that he has clearly lost the presidential election, not even by a narrow margin, he wants to remain in power. It appears that Trump does not want to leave the White House. Typical of an authoritarian, his power has gotten into his head that he and his minions will do everything to keep President-Elect Joe Biden from the White House.

The Trump who is now questioning the legitimacy of the American electoral process is the same Trump who, during the campaign period, vowed to stay in office regardless of the election results. That’s not a coincidence. He is definitely determined to create this self-fulfilling prophecy.

At a rally last August 17, Trump said, “We are going to win four more years. And then after that, we’ll go for another four years because they spied on my campaign. We should get a redo of four years.” Didn’t he just say he wanted to remain in office even after two terms? Go interpret what he meant.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has ridiculously warned: “There will be a smooth transition to a second Trump administration.” His show of bravado is misplaced because he knows that based on election results, Trump is going down the drain. This is sad for many of his followers, but true.

Trump will not succeed in his ambition to cling to power as Pompeo has predicted because he lacks legitimation. His attempt to create his own form of legitimation through vicious propaganda, implicit threat to Republicans in the House who do not toe the line, and use of rabid Democratic-haters TV hosts will not appeal to the majority of Americans, even if he plays the “nationalist card.”

Can he call on the military, like what many dictators do, under the guise of protecting the government from the Leftists and the Democrats? Who knows, Trump may be contemplating this “alternate reality” of military dictatorship as a last resort. It will fail. I do not think that the majority of Americans and the military, whom he called “losers” and “suckers”, are as unhinged as he is.

It is rare for dictators to step down without fighting because they often have many scores to settle. Trump’s legal woes are likely to put him on the spotlight once he is a private person again come January 21, 2021. In New York, the District Attorney is conducting a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization. He could also face federal income tax evasion charges. And, Trump could also face a lawsuit by Summer Zevos, a contestant in “The Apprentice” in 2007 who said that Trump kissed her against her will and later groped her in a hotel.

Like many other authoritarians or dictators, once Trump leaves the White House, he is destined to meet Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman who symbolizes the fair administration of the law without favor and prejudice.

Now I know why Trump wants to cling to power by hook or by crook. But like all dictators, the day of reckoning for Trump is coming.