It all depends on who Trump shoots on 5th avenue: JVL is wrong about Americans liking a Tyrant.
JVL has recently made a point of suggesting that Americans will support a tyrant so long as he is their tyrant. I doubt this is true. Americans understand intuitively that the power used against others can and will be turned against them. It is why the Miranda Rights exist which every America knows since they understand anything they say or do can and will be used against them in a court of law. Even though the law exists to protect them, they know intuitively that it can be used against them. To be sure they will happily see that power used against their perceived enemies or those they believe deserve such a fate. Yet, they are under no illusion that they cannot be the target for such abuse.
If America were a class system such as the UK, then the certain classes, factions if you will remain unchanged or resist change to such a degree as to suggest they are permanent, could believe that a tyrant or a monarch would always rule in their favour since that would be how the system works. In other words, in such a system some people or groups *are* or that the law exists to serve them and not constrain them. Although they are not above the law, they are able to resist if not subvert the law when they are threatened by it. In the CCP the party elite, for example, are above the law to the extent they determine how the law is applied and to whom and the law isn’t what holds them to account.
Another reason why people do not accept JVL’s framing, is that the people will ask “who gets to be the tyrant?” since their preferred person might not be the tyrant, so they could be on the out even if their group is in power, they will be wary of a choosing a tyrant. An example of this situation is Jenna Ellis who has recently been attacked online for failing to support Trump as much as she did in the past as his one-time attorney. She denounces the abuse of Trump supporters when she had no such qualms regarding their abuse of her perceived “enemies”. Whatever tyrant you choose will sooner or later turn on you unless you are the tyrant. A person can only remain in the tyrant’s favour so long as the tyrant sees them as useful or loyal. The same logic, though, applies to the tyrant. When the tyrant fails to deliver what they once promised, they then becomes the target. All tyrannies face the threat of being overthrown from below or from within usually by violent means or even an assassination, which can in a sense act as a constraint or at least limit the excesses in most cases. Those within the party who see the benefit to replacing the leader, or fear that if they cannot continue, they are in danger, will seek to change the leader. What this means is that if they cannot be the tyrant, they will seek to stop others from being the tyrant. It is the adage that if you wish to avoid being ruled by men worse than yourself then you need to promote men better than yourself.
In the same podcast, Sarah Longwell is also wrong to argue that 2024 is like 2016. It simply is not comparable. Trump of 2024 is twice impeached. Once indicted. Once convicted. Once an attempted coup. These change the dynamic fundamentally. He cannot be the status quo and the change candidate at the same time. The insurrection and the indictment change the calculus for the median voter and the Trump supporter. The median voter, the average voter who might have taken a punt on Trump or give him a pass or be passive, as many were during 2016, that is holding their nose and voting for his “policies”, do not exist. In 2016, there was a clear choice between Trump and Clinton. Trump was change and Clinton was status quo.
Today, the choice is different. The choice is clear. It’s Trump or America. You have no choice. There is only America. If you vote for Trump, you are ending America. No, you’re not choosing your tyrant. You are ending America. All the things that you hate about your perceived enemies are the same things that keep you protected. What protects them protects you so when those protections disappear you are at risk as well. No, you will not simply be able to attack the “woke”. You will lose the same protections because the Trump people will seek retribution against anyone who is not sufficiently as extreme as they are. There are a lot of people who might vote for Trump who don’t wish to be that extreme. So, if you say you’re a Trump voter and you say “Oh, I support Trump because the policies”, but suddenly you’re like the Steve Zahn character, Glenn Michaels, in Out of Sight. He was a mild-mannered car thief who gets caught up with hardened criminals. He offers them an easy score of ripping off a white-collar criminal. Instead, they escalate into a grisly murder of a rival drug dealer. Glenn is unprepared for their extremism. He does not have the stomach to join them in their excess and fears he will be next. In the same way, the Trump fanatics will go after anyone who is not loyal enough. We can see this in their death threats against RINOS and their desire to kill Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence. They are also the ones who issue death threats to any politician who dares to oppose Trump. Those who might have supported Trump will leave him if only for self-preservation. In the choice between Trump and saving their own skin, they will choose to save themselves.
So, your Trump voter who was saying “Oh, I like that his policies are as good for my 401k” They’re not going to want this because when all the protections are gone, then their 401k will be expropriated. Like any dictator, be it Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or Putin they will demand complete loyalty that will force the lukewarm supporters to choose between Trump and their own well-being. That is why it’s not 2016. In 2016, none of this was apparent to the average voter or the voter who liked Trump’s policies. And that point needs to be hammered home. The choice is not Trump or Biden (or Hilary). It is Trump or America.
Even if you support Trump, you can’t support him enough.
To demonstrate this to Trump supporters, you can show this by a rhetorical technique that Aristotle developed where he posed an extreme statement to draw out the issue to its sharpest relief. Usually, you use the extreme position to identify a mean or middle path between the two extremes to better understand the issue. For example, we might discuss what it means to be fearful or rash as a way to illustrate what courage is which is a mean between them. Although we are not trying to discover the essence of a virtue, the technique can be applied to understanding Trump supporters.
This approach is related to but not the same as peeling off GOP voters for the so called “Bannon line” which is described as the 2 to 3% of GOP voters, who, if persuaded to withhold their vote from Trump, would stop him from being able to win a general election. The goal here, with this search for the mean between extremes, is to appeal to the median voter to understand the danger to America. The median voter who might be attracted to Trump is not going to go to that extreme. Yes, you’ll have the Trumpers out at the rallies, you know, the people who are deranged, who will literally say, “fine by me”. Trump has relied on this “loyalty” or unthinking support with his claim that he could literally shoot anyone on 5th Avenue in New York and he would not lose their support. The issue though is that the average person who agrees with Trump’s claim usually do not consider that they are the random person who is going to get shot.
If you ask them as somebody who’s a soft, borderline Trump supporter, not simply someone in the GOP but someone who might be persuaded by his “policies” or their distaste for Democrats to vote for him you can present the following scenario to show why Trump is problematic for them. Ask them imagine that it is their child who is the person that Trump plans to shoot on 5th Avenue. Trump is [insert terrible thing] their 11 year old daughter [niece] or more directly if he were to do that [insert terrible thing] to them. Do they forgive him or would you seek to harm him? In a literal sense, this is true given Trump’s support for increasing the availability of firearms that contribute to the increased number of mass shootings especially at schools. This puts the question of whether they would support Trump no matter what, even to the point of self-harm, front and centre. Right there you have the issue of the same explicitness as Trump or America. A sane person would say he will be dealt with in that moment. A cult would say no, Trump can do whatever he wants. Trump is blameless. Or “I won’t answer your question that would never happen.” And therein you have somebody who would be willing to excuse anything, and then you have them explain that to their wife, or their girlfriend or the mother of their child, why they would sit back and allow Trump to [insert terrible thing] their child or to themselves.
Unless you point to 2024 being in those terms, which 2016 was not, then you will get 2016 repeated because you will be letting the median voter off the hook for their choice. In 2016 the median voter could escape their choices saying Hilary was worse. After January 6 coup attempt, two impeachments, one felony indictment, and one conviction for sexual assault, you cannot say that anyone else is worse. Trump says what he’s going to do and he’s going to use the power of government to attack his enemies where anyone who disagrees with him or does not support him sufficiently is an enemy.
Therein we have the difference between 2016 and 2024 and why Americans will not support a tyrant as long as he is their tyrant.