I have a friend who told me recently that democracy doesn’t work and “our country needs a dictator.” When he said this, I was stunned. My friend is one of the country’s “respectable” people. He is a quiet man, a doctor. His house is beautiful, and he keeps his yard looking good. And this was the moment when I finally understood the appeal of Donald Trump.

Until then, I had mistakenly assumed that people misunderstood who Trump really was, and I had worked to try to explain Trump’s extremism to them, believing that once they understood this, they would abandon him. But my friend showed me the error of my ways. We are now at the point in our country when people really do understand what Trump is saying, and they like it. They want what he is offering, and he is offering fascism. And that’s the problem.

Trump is clear about what he will do if he is elected again. He was dangerous the first time he held office, but the remnants of democratic norms and inexperience kept him from being as bold as he needed to be to achieve his goals. He worked to overturn the 2020 election, but his approach was ineffective. He depended on bookish lawyers, neglected to involve the military, made ambiguous promises to enraged crowds, and hoped things would go his way. He won’t make that mistake again.

What is Trump saying? It’s no secret, and others have written about it. He warns about the dangers of illegal immigration, which also concerns me. I have written about this, criticizing President Biden for not doing enough to protect our borders. But Trump condemns immigration for a reason that frightens me: because it is “poisoning the blood of our country.” 

What? He is rejecting everything our Founders stood for by saying that our country is based on purity of blood rather than on a set of principles. This should be shocking, but people love it because they know what he is saying. The fact that this clearly echoes Hitler is not a problem for them. They embrace the message and want to be a part of it.

And Trump’s talk about the so-called deep state is part of his appeal. What is the deep state? It is anyone in the government who stands in the way of Trump. It’s as simple as that. If he is elected again, he has made it clear that he will dismantle the bureaucracy’s merit system and replace it with one that places those loyal to him in place.

When Trump talks about draining the swamp, all he actually wants is to own the swamp.

And then came what was for me the final blow. At his recent speech in New Hampshire, Trump said: “We will drive out the globalists, we will cast out the communists, Marxists, fascists. We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country. … We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country, that lie and steal and cheat on elections and will do anything possible … legally or illegally to destroy America and to destroy the American dream.”

When I read this, I was horrified, but I now understand that its horribleness is what excites a lot of Americans. He clearly states he will get rid of people who have political views he rejects. This is a clear condemnation of our treasured First Amendment. He condemns globalists (an intentionally vague term), Marxists, fascists and the radical left (not the radical right?) who are American citizens. He describes those who disagree with him as “vermin.” Do vermin deserve to live? Obviously not. And it is talk like this that makes Trump so popular.

This is where we are today. My mistake was believing that shedding the light of truth on Trump’s ambitions would help. I now see that I was wrong. Trump wants to destroy democracy, and a vast number of Americans, along with my friend, are cheering him on. They want someone to channel their frustration with democracy, to be their “retribution,” as he recently called himself.

Trump is leading in the polls, but if his light fades, others will take his place. My friend wants a dictator, and he may very well get one. All I can say to my friend is, be careful what you wish for.