Over the past four years, your tiny tyrant has had a blast in the White House fanning the flames of white supremacy, edging towards nuclear war with Iran, and lying about a deadly virus as hundreds of thousands died. Now it’s time to go home, and your darling dictator’s refusing to leave. He’s pouting, tweeting conspiracies, and threatening bullshit lawsuits, the telltale signs that a tantrum or coup is imminent. So what’s a mature democracy to do?
Difficulty with transitions is common among autocrats and frustrating for their caregivers. We’re here to help with these expert tips for getting your fascist fella home for snack-time and ensuring a peaceful transition of power!
Give an early warning.
An early warning, repeated at intervals, might help your little autocrat adjust: “Ok, Donald, you have 15 more days!” Since baby despots often have difficulty with abstract concepts like time, democracy, and rule of law, you might also give the warning in more concrete terms that are easier for him to understand. “Ok, Donald, you can fire five more people before we leave,” or “Ok, Donald, you can press the imaginary nuclear button one more time before we leave, and then it’s Kim Jong-un’s turn.”
Create a ritual.
This adds consistency and excitement to the transition. “Aren’t you excited to leave Joe Biden a nasty letter in the Resolute Desk and purposefully mispronounce Kamala Harris’s name at the inauguration? You won’t get to do that unless we leave.”
Give him a fun job for the ride home.
Some budding strongmen will be more motivated to leave and feel a greater sense of ownership if you assign them a fun job for the ride home. For example, you might let him select the music in the car. As long as its not a campaign rally or inaugural ceremony, Adele, Elton, and Springsteen can’t sue!
Offer a choice.
This will make him feel like he has some say in the matter, even though he doesn’t. “On the way home, do you want us to keep counting the votes in Pennsylvania or stop counting them?”
Promise a fun activity for later.
This gives him something to look forward to. “Once we’re out of office, we can start our TV channel, use our golden toilet, and sleep with escorts again! Doesn’t that sound like fun? We can even stop by a KKK rally later and call our pal Putin!” If you have some less than enjoyable activities planned for later that day—a visit from the IRS, say, or a criminal indictment—don’t mention these.
Threaten to take away a favorite privilege if he does not comply.
Not all baby despots are motivated by rewards. Sometimes, a little tough love goes a long way. When the carrot doesn’t work, use the stick. “I guess you won’t be allowed on Twitter later. Live tweeting Fox & Friends is only for good boys who leave the White House and don’t threaten 240+ years of constitutional democracy….”
Remind him what a “dump” the White House is.
He said so himself. “Won’t it be nice living somewhere without all those Obama germs? Somewhere you can wander around in your bathrobe watching television and eating cheeseburgers without people making such a big deal about it?”
Lie and/or pretend to leave.
Devious, yes, but sometimes you have no choice. Promise him that you can visit the White House again soon and play President another day. Or, begin walking to the car with all his favorite aides and pretend to leave without him. “Donald, we’re going to miss you too much if you don’t come home with us. Jared will be lost without a domineering father figure, and who will play xenophobic games with Stephen?”
Grab him by the extra-long tie.
If all else fails, simply grab your fascist fella by the extra-long tie, carry him to the car, and wrestle him into his car seat or jail cell—whatever the case may be. This might be difficult given his size, but White House security personnel haven’t been hitting the gym for nothing. When the other NATO allies stare and gossip about your governing style behind your back, hold your head high. Raising a democracy is a tough job.
Above all, remember that tiny tyrants test our boundaries when they don’t feel safe. He may think he wants to be in charge but is also terrified of having so much power. America, it’s up to you to enforce proper rules so your little autocrat understands his limits. Show your darling dictator that you’re in charge, and democracy is safe in your keeping. When you’re a voter, they let you do it.
Emily Greenberg is a writer and artist currently based in Columbus, OH. Her writing has published or is forthcoming in The Iowa Review, Santa Monica Review, Witness, Chicago Quarterly Review, and New Stories from the Midwest. Winner of the 2020 Witness Literary Award in Fiction, she recently received her MFA from Ohio State and a Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XLV.