IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Conservatives keep calling for an American dictator. Believe them.

Radio host Jesse Kelly isn't the only one who thinks that America "needs a dictator" or that "Weimar problems lead to Weimar solutions."

This week, radio host and frequent Fox News guest Jesse Kelly wrote on Twitter that America “needs a dictator.” Kelly’s assertion, part of a dialogue that included Covid denialism and warnings about “monstrous communists,” was met with an equally chilling declaration that he quickly agreed with: “Weimar problems eventually lead to Weimar solutions.”

The words “fascism” and “authoritarian,” once relegated to commentary from and on the fringe, have returned to mainstream political discourse. In many cases, according to scholars who study extremism, they are accurate descriptors for many of the most troubling actions on display from the right-wing’s leading figures. It’s not ideal that it’s become a routine occurrence to see media personalities, think tankers, and others whose large platforms give their rhetoric weight, call for a dictatorship in America.

It may come across as a lament, but in their eyes it is still a viable prescription for the supposed “woke mind virus” that has infected the country.

Because while it would be bad enough if Kelly was an isolated incident, aspirational fascism, as The Nation’s Jeet Heer called it on Twitter, has gained a foothold among the American right. Heer was specifically referring to an entirely different tweet, one from the head of the right-wing outlet The American Reformer, proclaiming that “America is going to need a Protestant Franco.” (It would take another whole essay to discuss the ways that dictator Francisco Franco was also a terrible role model.) And the words of white nationalists like Trump dinner guest Nick Fuentes — who agrees with Kelly that “we need a dictatorship” — have overlapped more and more with groups like the New York Young Republicans, whose president recently declared “We want total war.”

Beyond the approving nod to dictatorship in general, the specific dictatorship Kelly seemingly endorsed would in another day and age have been a bright red line that few would cross. The “Weimar” in question is a reference to the Weimar Republic, the name for what remained of the German Empire after its collapse at the end of World War I. In defeat, the Allied Powers demanded harsh punishments from the Central Powers, led by Germany, for acting as the aggressors in the war. Many of U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points for a lasting peace were shoved aside in favor of extracting massive financial and territorial reparations from Germany.

The Weimar Republic was plagued from the start with a series of crises, most pressingly the burden of those reparations. The once high standard of living enjoyed by most Germans before the war backslid tremendously during and after the conflict. The newly democratic government was plagued with instability under a system where the president could declare a “state of emergency” and act by decree in the event of paralysis in the legislature, known as the Reichstag. And with the center-right parties terrified of the liberal social democrats and communists on the left, there was little time where gridlock wasn’t the status quo.

Weimar leaders were also up against a humiliated and belligerent Germany military, which constantly worked to undermine the legitimacy of the new republic. Military leaders, to avoid blame for the recent defeat, encouraged an antisemitic conspiracy theory that the country was “stabbed in the back” during the war — i.e. that the German army had nearly won before a Jewish conspiracy led democrats back in Berlin to advocate for surrender. (In truth, Germany was militarily spent when it surrendered in 1918.) Many in the top ranks of the German Army weren’t shy about expressing their wish to return to an autocracy under a restored kaiser. The military was also more than willing to not only turn a blind eye to the rampant street fighting between paramilitary groups but to members sponsoring right-wing fighters. It was during this time that former enlistee Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party began their ascent as a political and paramilitary force.

As I noted in an essay on the center-right’s collapse in America, “the Nazi Party’s ascendency wasn’t the result of a coup. Its strength instead grew gradually as it stoked the growing dissatisfaction with democracy. By the time Hitler came to power in 1933, the political center was exhausted from three elections in six months.” And while the Nazis never held a majority in the Reichstag, Hitler was appointed chancellor nonetheless, with the establishment figures involved in the agreement sure that they were the ones actually holding the reins. It proved to be a disastrously mistaken belief.

The political turmoil in the U.S. today is nowhere near that of Weimar Germany. Even if it was, the “solution” being advocated was a disaster for the Germans, the people of Europe and the world. And yet, conservatives like Kelly are not shy at all about sharing their beliefs at this point: They are not being metaphorical when they are saying that dictatorship is in America’s future. It may come across as a lament, but in their eyes it is still a viable prescription for the supposed “woke mind virus” that has infected the country. And if you think that dictatorship is the cure for what ails America right now, I fail to see how that is at all different from an endorsement.