He attacks the free press, targets specific groups of people with extreme policies and exhibits disdain for checks and balances.
It can be very difficult to determine Trump's ultimate goals due to his erratic behavior. On virtually every issue, he often seems to be driven by his ego more than an overall strategy.
Yale historian Timothy Snyder thinks he has a pretty good idea of what Trump is aiming for: regime change in the US.
The moment you say it couldn't happen here, is the moment you are ignoring history.
In other words, Snyder believes Trump wants to fundamentally change the system of government in the US, moving the country toward authoritarianism.
The Housum Professor of History at Yale University explains his theory to Radio Open Source,
Our problem is that we are exceptionalists. We all think we live beyond history because we assume our reality is unchangeable. We have someone in office who has never said anything about how he supports democracy — on the contrary, he said if it doesn't go his way he wouldn't respect its results. We have a president who has never said anything about how he respects the rule of law — on the contrary, his entire career is challenging the law.
In Snyder's view, Americans shouldn't be fooled into believing authoritarianism can't take hold in the US. He believes we need to look out for various warning signs from Trump.
In a recent article for Time, Snyder writes,
A basic weapon of regime changers, as fascists realized nearly a century ago, is to destroy the concept of truth. Democracy requires the rule of law, the rule of law depends upon trust and trust depends upon citizens' acceptance of factuality. The president and his aides actively seek to destroy Americans' sense of reality. Not only does the White House spread 'alternative facts,' but Kellyanne Conway openly proclaims this as right and good. Post-factuality is pre-fascism.
The prospect of children and grandchildren growing up under tyranny is terrifyingly real. History can remind us of the fragile fundaments of our own democracy, but what follows now is up to us.
Snyder — who also researched the formulation of Nazi Germany — thinks we should be concerned about the president's tendency to express admiration for various authoritarians.
The historian has a point, especially when looking at Trump's behavior toward world leaders accused of numerous human rights abuses.
Snyder believes the US has about a year to defend American democracy, which is roughly the same amount of time it took Hitler to bring about regime change in Germany:
It took Hitler one year in 1933, that's how long it took the Poles in the current world to get rid of their supreme court. Hungary took two years.
While some might be tempted to dismiss Snyder as an alarmist and his theory about Trump as extreme, there's plenty of evidence to support his arguments — and that's not a good thing.