It was just two months ago when Donald Trump sat down with Fox News’ Sean Hannity for a town-hall-style event in which the Republican said he wouldn’t be a dictator if he returned to the White House — “except for Day One.” When the host tried to help his guest, the likely GOP nominee doubled down, but assured the audience that his envisioned dictatorship would be temporary.
Republican officials initially insisted that the former president was kidding. As regular readers know, that defense quickly collapsed: In the weeks that followed, Trump repeated the line about a temporary dictatorship over and over and over again.
In theory, this seems like the sort of thing that might give GOP loyalists pause. It practice, as a Washington Post analysis explained, it doesn’t appear to be working out that way.
On Wednesday, UMass Amherst released the results of a poll conducted by YouGov in which respondents were asked about the concept. The framing of the comment was stark, excluding Trump’s specific plans for using his theoretical dictatorial power. It was just, “Trump recently said that if elected, he would be a dictator only on the first day of his second term. Do you think that this is a good or bad idea for the country?”
Among Republican voters, a third said the idea of a Day One dictatorship is “definitely good.” The same survey found that a combined three-quarters of GOP voters said it was at least “probably” good.
It comes against a backdrop of other recent polling showing Republican voters expressing support for Trump’s rhetoric that echoed Adolf Hitler.
It would be discouraging enough if the public-opinion research found the GOP base effectively saying, “Temporary dictatorships and Hitler-like rhetoric are bad, but I’m eager to support the former president anyway.” But the most recent data goes much further, with Republican voters expressing comfort with temporary dictatorships and Hitler-like rhetoric.
As Republican politics becomes more radical, the party’s voters don’t jeer in response to words like “dictator,” “vermin,” and “poisoning the blood”; they applaud such language and want to hear more of it.
“These statements are not just supposed to shock you,” Rachel recently explained on the show, “they’re supposed to work on you, to make you believe we need something new and extreme to deal with our terrible problems, if only for a little while — maybe just a temporary dictatorship. And these tactics have a terrible history of working really well.”
Alas, as too much of the GOP sours on democracy, the tactics appear to be working well again.
This post updates our related earlier coverage.