Aside from xenophobic pandering and generic self-promotion, the now-seditionist Donald Trump had precious few apparent policy interests during his "presidency." One that he kept coming back to again and again, though, was his belief that the United States government ought to be executing more criminals and for smaller offenses. Rolling Stone now has a remarkable report showing that Trump's obsession with expanding the death penalty hasn't abated in the slightest as he launches his new 2024 presidential campaign. This one's a real doozy.
Rolling Stone's Asawin Suebsaeng and Patrick Reis cite multiple anonymous sources recounting conversations with Trump to report that Trump has been musing in campaign meetings about "bringing back death by firing squad, by hanging, and, according to two of the sources, possibly even by guillotine, as well as possible "group executions." It's part of a Trump desire to turn federal executions into televised affairs—and flashy ones, at that.
Trump privately mused about the possibility of creating a flashy, government-backed video-ad campaign that would accompany a federal revival of these execution methods. In Trump’s vision, these videos would include footage from these new executions, if not from the exact moments of death.
Trump "wanted to do some of these [things] when he was in office, but for whatever reasons didn’t have the chance," says the source. "For whatever reasons" is doing some heavy lifting on this one; the likely explanation is that Trump's surrounding White House aides were working feverishly to dissuade him from launching "flashy" execution videos because they rightly or wrongly believed a president putting out snuff films would make all but the most grotesque of Americans vomit in horror.
"He had a particular affinity for the firing squad, because it seemed more dramatic, rather than how we do it, putting a syringe in people and putting them to sleep," a "former White House official" told Rolling Stone.
Trump's obsession with expanding the death penalty has never been secret, and he's often demanded the execution of "drug dealers," in particular, during campaign rallies and other public appearances. He has repeatedly praised authoritarian regimes for executing alleged drug dealers, including extrajudicial murders. The new musings appear to be Donald Trump contemplating whether even more aggressive rhetoric—promising flashy pro-execution television ads punctuated with footage from new, more "dramatic" federal executions—would appeal to Republican primary voters who no longer bat an eye at an attempted coup.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may be promising to fight "wokeness" by purging American classrooms of books about Black American athletes and heroes, but it will be difficult for him to compete with a frothing ex-president demanding American criminals be executed by firing squad or guillotine while the Republican base gets to watch.
It's difficult to know how to even respond to this one. On the one hand, it is so cartoonishly malicious and sociopathic, these Trump notions of bringing back firing squads and guillotines so as to make for "flashier" anti-crime campaigns, as a reminder that Trump remains nothing but a stupid, malignant boor whose every idea and policy stance appears to be cribbed from movies he's watched or television channels he's glued to. The Running Man as United States criminal policy?
And are we to believe that Trump's faux-patriot supporters would tolerate executions that use a French-sounding guillotine? Would they not demand it be rebranded with an American name, something like a "Freedom Knife"?
But on the other hand, Trump himself appears dead serious about all of it. Trump has long advocated for the use of gore in government-backed public campaigns; Rolling Stone notes past reporting of Trump in 2019 pushing for an anti-opioid advertising campaign meant to "scare kids" with "the most horrifying ads you've ever seen," including "people lying in a ditch. I want bodies stacked on bodies."
And Trump is not merely muttering about new campaign rhetoric to foist on his admiring rubes. In the last months of his presidency, Trump and his allied attorney general embarked on an unmatched federal execution spree, not for the sake of public safety but as a political move to solidify his desired legacy.
Trump's admiration for murderous authoritarian regimes remains quite real. His base's enthusiasm for maximum cruelty, whether it is aimed at refugees or schoolchildren, protestors or criminals, has only grown. A very large chunk of Donald Trump's base consists of Americans who like the idea of watching other Americans be executed on television. These are people who frothed for the capture of lawmakers during an attempted coup; there is no depth to which they will not willingly sink, so long as they have a leader willing to point the way.
Trump is a sociopathic and seditionist would-be dictator, but the Republican base loves him for it. This malignant, poisonous presence could very well decide to turn "flashier state murders" into a major campaign theme so that he can bellow that all the other Republican contenders are too "soft."
Donald Trump's next-term promises are a laundry list of fascist ideas
Republicans lean into racism, fascism, and glorification of sedition in weekend Nevada rally
In last weeks of Trump administration, Barr loads schedule with five more federal executions
Fascism: Trump vows pardons for Jan. 6 seditionists, calls for nationwide protests if indicted