Donald Trump might not be considered a viable U.S. presidential candidate in traditional terms, but he has shown some promise as a self-styled “third-world” presidential candidate. You know, the kind who view an imperfect democracy as the easiest path to dictatorship.
Trump’s M.O. is pretty standard stuff for any tropical strongman regime: Scapegoating immigrants, threatening to jail your opponent, promising to bomb your enemies, putting your name on everything you build, not paying taxes, parking your money in Florida real estate, second-guessing the generals, throwing journalists out of press conferences, and using your position of power to boast of sexually assaulting women.
Trump has great instincts, but he needs coaching. You can’t just sniffle and bully your way into a tin-pot thugocracy. Being a dictator is hard work. You need a plan, and you need to execute it methodically.
As someone who spent many years living in a real Central American authoritarian kleptocracy, I’ve studied some of greatest masters of the trade. And together with Randall Wood, author of The Dictator’s Handbook, we’ve come up with a list of practical tips that Trump might use to do it differently next time.
1. Form your own party and give them uniforms
Donald, your first mistake was running for president on the party of Lincoln, Reagan, and Mitch McConnell. Any third-world dictator worth his salt knows you have to: A) form your own party using some combination of Your Name + the words Democratic, National, Liberation, or Freedom (or all the the above); B) surround yourself with sycophants; C) build your cult of personality. Your campaign is failing because you tried to do steps B and C without A. You can’t take shortcuts.
2. Threats must be implied, never spoken in public
You made a rookie mistake by threatening Hillary Clinton with jail during last night’s debate. Real dictators would never say that publicly, it’s just understood. You could have gotten that same threat across with a narrow-eyed glance, or an ice-cold stare into the cameras. Speaking directly to your opponent is a sign of weakness.
3. Don’t do debates
Debates allow your enemies to question you directly and make you look bad. You don’t need to explain yourself to anyone. Debates are bad. Don’t do them.
4. Don’t complain about third-world airports
Third-world dictators never use the term “third-world” to describe anything about their country. Your instincts are right to blame faulty infrastructure on your enemies but never call it “third-world.”
5. Gold = Strength
People respect gold statues more than anything. The Trump name should always be written in gold, and your large skulking figure needs to be cast into giant golden statues. Put one in D.C. and one in Manhattan. The D.C. statue should sit atop your personal Presidential Palace at the Trump Hotel, and it should look down on the White House. The Manhattan statue should dominate the New York skyline and face east so that your golden hair is the first thing the sun kisses each morning.
6. Don’t tweet solo
You’ve already mastered the art of late-night Twitter. But you can’t do it alone. There are way too many former beauty queens and other enemies who need to be tweeted into submission. Enlist help from the Trump Youth Brigade (see #7).
7. Form Trump Youth Brigade. Put Ivanka in charge.
The youth are the future of your movement. And the future starts now. Channel youth enthusiasm for your campaign into an official Trump Youth Brigade. Ivanka will help with recruitment. In addition to—as you once agreed—her being a “piece of ass,” she’s also smart and a good organizer. And most importantly, she’s a blood relative so loyalty is guaranteed. Donald Trump Jr. should be groomed for future leadership. Eric can be thrown into a volcano.
8. Remember, you’re on a mission from God
You need to make sure voters understand that your campaign is part of God’s plan as foretold in some obscure Biblical passage—maybe from the Book of Kings. Find that passage and print it on the back of all Trump Youth Brigade t-shirts. End every press conference by reciting that passage and evoking God’s name.
9. The Electoral College has got to go
You’ve done a good job creating doubts about the electoral system, which we all know is rigged against the will of the people. But you have to go further to push the whole electoral system into complete chaos. The Electoral College system must be replaced with a popular vote that can only be counted on Trump-certified voting machines. Assure high youth voter turnout by giving away free iPhones at select polling stations. Give Galaxy Note 7s to suspected Democrats.
10. Insist on Russian election observers
I’m not saying Russia is the greatest democracy in the world, but the Russians are experts in conducting great elections. You could use their help in defending the vote. America has never had a greater friend than Russia, and what are friends for if not to help strengthen each other’s democracies?