Balz in WaPo:
The headline on the cover of the latest issue of the Economist magazine does not mince words: “Donald Trump poses the biggest danger to the world in 2024.” The alarm is twofold. First, that the former president could win the election next November; and second, what he might do if that happens.
Presidential elections are often about many things. In 2024, the economy will be a factor for most voters. For many, immigration will be another. Abortion, too, will continue to be a motivator. President Biden’s record certainly will be a consideration, as will the incumbent’s age and perceptions of his capacity to lead the nation for another four years, until he is 86.
But the Economist puts the focus where it needs to be, which is on the former president — what he did during his first term, including what he did to help provoke the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, and, most important, how much farther out he has gone rhetorically and substantively since then to preview what a second term might portend….
Trump’s rhetoric has become more extreme; it is language associated with authoritarian leaders of the past. The latest and most provocative came during a Veterans Day speech in New Hampshire, when he said this: “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.”
Those words quickly echoed across the country and beyond, reported by news organizations and replayed again and again on cable television. Should what he said be taken neither literally nor seriously, or has a Rubicon been crossed that, with an upcoming election, requires that he be taken both literally and seriously?