On Veterans Day, Donald Trump made a truly horrific speech.
He called his political enemies “vermin,” and later said, “The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within.”
This rhetoric is disturbing in its own right, and this type of violent speech gives an insight into what a Trump revenge presidency could look like. Most concerning is the seemingly growing likelihood of mass violence directed toward those who oppose him.
To better understand this risk, let’s jump back to 1968, when a company of U.S. soldiers massacred over 300 civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai. Two decades later, Herbert Kelman and V. Lee Hamilton identified three processes that can lead to violent atrocities: dehumanization, routinization and authorization.
On its own, Trump calling his political enemies “vermin” would be frightening, but it is even scarier given his propensity toward all three of these processes.
Dehumanizing rhetoric has been a throughline for Trump since announcing his candidacy. He referred to immigrants from Mexico as “rapists” when he launched his campaign, called reporters the “enemy of the people,” and referred to critics as “dogs” and “groomers.”
Acts of violence have become more routine since Trump’s election. From his supporters ripping hijabs off women to white supremacist terrorists quoting him in their manifestos, a case could be made for Trump as a stochastic terrorist.
When it comes to authorizing violence, we don’t have to imagine what that would look like. Trump showed his proclivity for violence by inspiring his supporters to attack rally disruptors, supporting police violence, and tear gassing protestors.
If Trump was able to put all of these processes together to incite the Jan. 6 insurrection, just imagine what he would be willing to do with four more years of presidential power.
Billy Clouse, Salt Lake City