America, we got lucky. On the laundry list of things Donald Trump has been terrible at in his life, transforming our country into a fascist autocracy was only the latest.
After four years of constant chaos, endless lying, the near daily horrors like an official policy to rip children from the arms of their parents to discourage illegal border crossings, we need to keep in mind that it could have been worse. As bad as it was, Donald Trump had zero capacity for strategic thinking, no interest in learning from his mistakes, a non-existent attention span. So, yes, he absolutely admired and praised murderous dictators and had authoritarian tendencies himself, including, of course, his repeated attempts to steal the election he could not win, capped off with the deadly QAnon Coup attempt of January 6. But he was inept, and terrible at implementing his impulses.
What happens, though, next time, when the fascism-curious president is smarter and more competent?
Donald Trump has blazed the trail and shown, with the help of a pliant Republican Party, that there is no consequence for trying to thwart the will of the voters. There will be others.
S.V. Dáte is a senior White House correspondent at HuffPost and the author of five novels and two political biographies, including one of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. He has been a journalist for three decades, including at the Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, National Journal and NPR. He is a bluewater sailor, tallying 35,000 ocean miles, including a two-year trip aboard a 44-foot cutter with his two children, as they sailed across the Atlantic, through the Mediterranean and back via the Caribbean.