‘Bloodbath,’ ‘Vermin,’ ‘Dictator’ for a Day: A Guide to Trump’s Fascist Rhetoric

Donald Trump has embraced fascist rhetoric and made bald declarations of his desire for dictatorial powers as he seeks a return to the White House in 2024. This is not politics as usual. The inflammatory language puts Trump a world apart from any presumptive, major-party nominee in modern American memory. And it’s getting worse.

At a March 16 rally near Dayton, Ohio, the former president wove two potent strands of far-right extremism, when he twinned the dehumanization of marginalized populations — referring to migrants as “animals” — and predicted a “bloodbath” if he fails to win in November.

A troubling fondness for authoritarianism is not new for Trump. Even before his leap into politics, in 1989, he took out a full-page ad demanding New York bring back the death penalty for the “Central Park Five” — alleged teen superpredators who were later exonerated. And a 1990 Vanity Fair profile alleged Trump kept a copy of Adolf Hitler speeches, My New Order, in a bedside cabinet.

But Trump is now blasting the kind of things he used to say in sotto vocce. During the 2016 election season Trump tweeted a quote from Mussolini and beamed at the MAGA masses chanting, “Lock Her Up!” As president, Trump infamously praised the torch-wielding nationalists in Charlottesville as “very fine people,” invoked the Stalinist phrase “enemy of the people” to refer to the press, and called on the future Jan. 6 thugs the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”

In 2024, Trump has gone from playing footsie with fascists to quoting them openly. He has repeatedly used the same words Hitler did about immigrants “poisoning the blood” of the country — privately bragging it’s a “great line.” And he has painted the criminals who stormed the Capitol, attempting to reinstall Trump as president through violence, as patriots and heroes.

Experts caution that dismissing Trump’s extremism is a mistake. “He’s becoming as explicit as it’s possible to be rhetorically,” says Jason Stanley, a Yale scholar and author of How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. “Some people think he’s trolling, but we know that the worst regimes in history, people also thought they were joking. It wouldn’t be fascism without that feature.” Stanley adds that the only open question is whether Trump will succeed in matching his rhetoric to action in a return to the White House, warning: “We may have to find out.”

Trump’s fascist rhetoric is popular with the MAGA base, polling shows, but does not go down easy with independents. To finesse the matter, Trump’s favored PR trick is now making extremist declarations aloud, followed by gas-lighty efforts to retcon a less-sinister intention on his words, or to deride those outraged by them as “snowflakes.”

Below is an incomplete survey of Trump’s darkest rhetoric of the 2024 campaign. Rolling Stone will be updating this list throughout the election season.

Post-election “bloodbath”

“If I don’t get elected, it’s going to be … a bloodbath for the country.” — Mar. 16, 2024

Context: Trump made this stark aside at a rally in Vandalia, Ohio, that began with a recording of Jan 6. convicts — whom Trump calls “hostages” — singing the national anthem. In the controversial remarks, Trump made a sudden detour from vowing to impose auto tariffs if he wins election. “Now if I don’t get elected it’s going to be a bloodbath for the whole — that’s going to be the least of it. It’s going to be a bloodbath for the country,” Trump said.

Spin: A campaign spokesperson insisted Trump’s comments referred only to the industrial policy Trump was discussing when he launched into the threat: “He was talking about the auto industry and tariffs…. Biden’s policies will create an economic bloodbath for the auto industry and autoworkers.”

Immigrants are “animals”

Trump has routinely referred to immigrants as “animals.”

“I don’t know if you call them ‘people.’ In some cases they’re not people, in my opinion,” he said on March 16 in Ohio. “But I’m not allowed to say that because the radical left says that’s a terrible thing to say …. These are bad — these are animals.”

“The Democrats say please don’t call them animals, they’re humans. I said no, they’re not humans, they’re animals. … I’ll use the word animal, because that’s what they are,” he said at an event in Michigan a few weeks later.

Context: Dehumanizing marginalized populations as subhuman is a hallmark of fascism.

Spin: Trump told Fox News of the remarks in Ohio that he was just attempting to “stir debate” by using “certain rhetoric” on immigration.

“Nobody better” than Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán

“There’s nobody that’s better, smarter or a better leader than Viktor Orbán. He’s a non-controversial figure because he says, ‘This is the way it’s going to be,’ and that’s the end of it. Right? He’s the boss.” — Mar. 8, 2024

Context: Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister since 2010, is a hero to many on the American right for leading an authoritarian lurch into what Orbán calls “illiberal democracy,” which has privileged conservative white Christians while imperling LGBTQ Hungarians, immigrants, and the Roma minority. Trump previously called Orbán “the man who can save the Western world.”

Trump has a long history of praising autocrats, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, and North Korea’s “rocket manKim Jong Un.

The Great Replacement “conspiracy”

“Who would want this open borders where people are allowed to come in from mental institutions and jails? … They’re trying to sign them up to get them to vote in the next election. … Biden’s conduct on our border is by any definition a conspiracy to overthrow the United States of America. … Biden and his accomplices want to collapse the American system, nullify the will of the actual American voters and establish a new base of power that gives them control for generations” — Mar. 2, 2024

Context: Speaking at a Richmond, Virginia, rally Trump outlined, without naming it, the “Great Replacement” theory, popularized by neo-Nazis. It holds, without evidence, that globalists (usually said to be Jews) are conspiring to flood the nation with pliable voters of color who will strip political power from native whites.

Immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of America

“They’re poisoning the blood of our country. That’s what they’ve done. Mental institutions. Prisons all over the world. Not just from South America. Not just the three or four countries that we think about. But all over the world they’re coming into our country — from Africa, from Asia, all over the world.” — Dec. 16, 2023

Context: Trump went on a December blitz insisting migrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country, a talking point he soft-launched in September. Adolf Hitler used the exact phrase, when writing: “All great cultures of the past perished only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.”

Spin: At a rally in Iowa on Dec. 19, Trump addressed criticism of his use of the phrase by doubling down: “They’re destroying the blood of our country. That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country. They don’t like it when I said that — and I never read Mein Kampf.” Later in the month, Trump insisted in a radio interview “I know nothing about Hitler. I’m not a student of Hitler. I never read his works.” Trump nonetheless claimed his use of the phrase was different from Hitler’s: “He didn’t say it the way I said it. … What I’m saying when I talk about people coming into our country is they are destroying our country.”

“Dictator” for a day

“I want to be a dictator for one day” — Dec. 9, 2023

Context: Trump set off a firestorm over his autocratic tendencies by doubling down on remarks he made to Sean Hanity. The Fox News host had asked Trump days earlier: “Under no circumstances, you are promising America tonight, you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?” Trump responded: “Except for day one.”

Spin: Trump told a crowd of Young Republicans in New York: “You know why I want to be a dictator. Because I want a wall, and I want to drill, drill, drill.”

Root out “vermin” and the “threat from within”

“We will root out the Communists, Marxists, Fascists, and Radical Left Thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our Country. … The threat from outside forces is far less sinister, dangerous, and grave, than the threat from within.” — Nov. 11, 2023

Context: Trump debuted this “vermin” warning in a Truth Social post on Veterans Day and hit the same theme, using nearly the same words, in a campaign speech that night. “This idea of purification is central to fascist ideology,” says Stanley, the Yale scholar. “Labeling political opponents as ‘vermin’ — it’s even more exterminationsist than ‘Lock her up.’”

Spin: A campaign spokesperson soon claimed that those upset by the vermin remark were “snowflakes” that were “suffering from Trump Derangement Syndrome,” and whose “sad, miserable existence will be crushed when President Trump returns to the White House.” Confronted on Fox News in March 2024 about his use of words like “vermin” that echo fascists like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump claimed “I did not know that” — before again insisting he did it “because our country is being poisoned.”

Execute generals

“This is an act so egregious that, in times gone by, the punishment would have been DEATH! A war… could have been the result of this treasonous act.” — Sept. 22, 2023

Context: Trump appeared to call for the execution of his former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Gen. Mark Milley in a post on Truth Social. Trump alleged Milley was a turncoat for placing a reassuring call to Chinese officials late in Trump’s term — never mind that Milley made the call with the direction and approval of Trump’s own White House. The bad blood was mutual. Several days later Milley said in a speech that military officials serve the constitution and “don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator.”

“Lock up” political enemies

Glenn Beck: “Do you regret not ‘locking her up.’ And if you’re president again, will you lock people up?”

Donald Trump: “The answer is you have no choice, because they’re doing it to us.” — Aug. 29, 2023

Context: Trump appeared on Beck’s show amid his mounting legal troubles, with Beck harkening back to the informal slogan of the 2016 Trump campaign, “Lock Her Up!,” referring to then-rival Hillary Clinton. Trump claimed he was being victimized and said of his political and legal antagonists “these are sick people; these are evil people.”

“I am your retribution”

“I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.” — Mar. 25, 2023

Context: Trump was speaking at a rally rally in Waco, Texas — home to a cult compound that was infamously set ablaze during a federal raid during the presidency of Bill Clinton. “No more Wacos” is a battle cry of the extreme right, who see that disaster as emblematic of federal overreach.

Terminate the Constitution

“A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution.” — Dec. 3, 2022

Context: Shortly after launching his campaign, Trump posted on Truth Social calling for the Constitution to be abridged as part of a purported solution to the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen.

Dining with Nazi lovers

“Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago. Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about.” — Nov. 28, 2022

Context: Trump on Nov. 25 had invited Kanye West to Mar-a-Lago. Ye was then in the midst of a virulently antisemitic media blitz — he’d already called for going “death con 3” on Jewish people and been dropped by corporate partners Adidas and Balenciaga. Ye brought to the meeting his then-political adviser Nick Fuentes, the Holocaust denier who leads a movement of young fascist who call themselves Groypers, and who has adopted the same slogan Trump stole from the U.S. fascist movement of the 1930s and ’40s: “America First.”

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