GUEST COMMENTARY - Former U.S. President Donald Trump pledged during a Veterans Day speech on Saturday to "root out" those he described as "radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country" if he's elected in 2024, an openly fascistic threat that drew comparisons to Nazi rhetoric.
"We are a failing nation. We are a nation in serious decline," Trump, the current Republican presidential front-runner, told the crowd gathered in Claremont, New Hampshire. "2024 is our final battle."
The former president vowed to target communists and Marxists—ideological groups that he described as "radical left lunatics"—and "rout the fake news media until they become real."
"The real threat is not from the radical right. The real threat is from the radical left, and it's growing every day—every single day," Trump claimed. "The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave than the threat from within."
David DeWitt, editor-in-chief of the Ohio Capital Journal, characterized Trump's remarks as "rhetoric literally out of the Nazi playbook" and joined others in criticizing The New York Times for initially headlining its coverage of the speech, "Trump Takes Veterans Day Speech in a Very Different Direction."
The former president also said Saturday that his administration would launch the "largest domestic deportation operation in American history," institute "strong and ideological screenings for all immigrants," revive the Muslim ban, further slash taxes, gut regulations, and prioritize the approval of fossil fuel pipelines.
Trump's speech heightened alarm over his authoritarian intentions should he win another term in the White House four years after attempting to overturn the election that removed him from power. The former president is currently facing more than 90 felony charges, many of them stemming from his election subversion efforts and the January 6, 2021 insurrection that he provoked.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month that Trump and his allies "have begun mapping out specific plans for using the federal government to punish critics and opponents should he win a second term, with the former president naming individuals he wants to investigate or prosecute and his associates drafting plans to potentially invoke the Insurrection Act on his first day in office to allow him to deploy the military against civil demonstrations."
"In public, Trump has vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to 'go after' President [Joe] Biden and his family. The former president has frequently made corruption accusations against them that are not supported by available evidence," the Post noted. "To facilitate Trump's ability to direct Justice Department actions, his associates have been drafting plans to dispense with 50 years of policy and practice intended to shield criminal prosecutions from political considerations. Critics have called such ideas dangerous and unconstitutional."
Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Will Bunch argued the scheme "would be, in essence, the military coup that [Trump] wasn't quite able to pull off on January 6, 2021."
Pointing to a recent survey that showed Trump leading incumbent Biden—who is running for reelection—in key battleground states, Bunch warned that "America is on the brink of installing a strongman in the White House whose team has been surprisingly open about their plans for an autocratic, 'Red Caesar' rule that would undo constitutional governance."
In response to Trump's threat to "root out" leftists, Bunch wrote on social media, "Looks like someone picked up the book of Hitler speeches on his nightstand recently."
(Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams where this article was first published.)