Alexander Burns in the New York Times says that Donald Trump isn’t the first of his kind to run for president, but so far he’s the only one who’s gotten this far.
Since Mr. Trump first toyed with running for president in the 1980s, he has been hostile to foreign trade and immigration and suspicious of international organizations he views as impinging on America’s free hand. He is distrustful of alliances with less powerful countries, which he has characterized as freeloading off America’s wealth and power.
In the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump has suggested withdrawing from NATO and pulling troops back from longstanding bases in countries like South Korea and Germany. His threats are a precise echo of a speech he gave in New Hampshire in 1987, declaring that the United States had been “kicked around” by ungrateful allies in Asia and the Middle East.
In domestic matters, Mr. Trump’s main impulse is toward hard-line law and order. He is indifferent to civil liberties and contemptuous of objections to racial targeting. For decades, he has described the country as harried by rampant crime, and has typically placed blame with different nonwhite communities, including urban blacks, Hispanic immigrants and Native Americans.
Long before he called for banning Muslim immigration and torturing terrorism suspects, Mr. Trump argued for unleashing the New York Police Department to attack social unrest with a mailed fist. He spoke approvingly of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square. He recently expressed admiration for Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s autocratic president, and Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi dictator, whom he praised as tough on terrorism.
He is not the first American businessman with presidential aspirations to be drawn to strongman government: Hearst and Ford, the anti-Semitic car manufacturer who considered a presidential bid in 1924, both maintained cordial and even admiring relations with emerging fascist regimes in Italy and Germany.
Charles Murray, a conservative scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Mr. Trump’s autocratic tendencies placed him well outside the conservative intellectual mainstream.
“The word fascist is simply thrown around too easily, and so I don’t want to use that word. But part of Trumpism is the man on the white horse,” Mr. Murray said. “That’s neither left nor right. That’s authoritarian, and it’s really, really scary.”
And he could win.