Donald Trump isn’t a despot. But he is increasingly acting like The Despot’s Apprentice, an understudy in authoritarian tactics that threaten to erode American democracy, including:
Donald Trump is borrowing tactics from the world’s dictators and despots. Trump’s fascination for the military, his obsession with his own cult of personality, and his deliberate campaign to blur the line between fact and falsehood are nothing new to the world of despots. But they are new to the United States. With each authoritarian tactic or tweet, Trump poses a unique threat to democratic government in the world’s most powerful democracy.
At the same time, Trump’s apprenticeship has serious consequences beyond the United States. His bizarre adoration and idolization of despotic strongmen—from Russia’s Putin, to Turkey’s Erdogan, or to the Philippines’ Duterte—has transformed American foreign policy into a powerful cheerleader for some of the world’s worst regimes.
The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump's Attack on Democracy explores how Trump uniquely threatens democracy—and how to save it from him.
SubtitleDonald Trump's Attack on Democracy
AuthorBy Brian Klaas, Foreword by David Talbot
Published14 November 2017
Dimensions5.00 x 7.75in.
About the author
Brian Klaas is the author of The Despot’s Accomplice and a Fellow in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, where he focuses on authoritarianism and democracy. Klaas received his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He has advised NATO, the European Union, national governments, and major international NGOs. He previously served as a US campaign adviser. Klaas is a columnist for DemocracyPost at the Washington Post and is a regular contributor to USA Today, Foreign Affairs, Newsweek, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Hill. He is also a regular guest on MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC News, Sky News, and National Public Radio. He is an American currently living in London, UK.
David Talbot is the New York Times bestselling author of Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years and The Devil’s Chessboard. He is the founder and former editor-in-chief of Salon and has written for the New Yorker, Rolling Stone, and Time. He lives in San Francisco.
—David Litt, New York Times bestselling author of Thanks, Obama: My Hopey Changey White House Years
"Thank goodness for Brian Klaas. At a moment of unprecedented political crisis for the United States, he's one of the very few experts to offer a much-needed global perspective on the Trump phenomenon. Trump, he shows, is less of an exception than part of an ominous global trend: disillusionment with democracy. A sharp-sighted and urgently needed book."
—Christian Caryl, editor of DemocracyPost at the Washington Post and author of Strange Rebels
“With so many individual scandals, it’s easy to lose perspective of the Trump administration's broad threat to our Republic. In The Despot’s Apprentice, Brian Klaas takes on the herculean task of documenting the abundant transgressions of a demagogue, giving us essential insight into the implications for free and open society. As Klaas skillfully explains, if we are to beat back the specter of despotism, it will be a result of citizens' devotion to democratic principles."—
Evan McMullin, 2016 Independent presidential candidate, former CIA officer and chief policy director for House Republican Conference
"Brian Klaas uses his knowledge of the world's despotic regimes to shed light on authoritarian tendencies in contemporary America. A chilling reminder of the very real threats that the Trump administration poses to American democracy, and essential reading for those who want to do something about it."
—Anne Applebaum, columnist for the Washington Post and Pulitzer Prize winner
"The Despot's Apprentice is morally righteous in the best sense of that word. Brian Klaas offers an erudite and persuasive plea to resist both budding and aspiring dictators, both in the United States and around the world."
—Yascha Mounk, Harvard lecturer, Slate columnist, and author of The People vs Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is In Danger and How to Save It
"If you care about American values, our Constitution, democracy, freedom of the press, the rule of law, and the future of your children and the planet—read this book!"
—Arthur I. Blaustein, chairman of the National Advisory Council on Economic Opportunity under Jimmy Carter, board member of the National Endowment for the Humanities under Bill Clinton, author of Make a Difference, Democracy is Not a Spectator Sport, and The American Promise
Praise for Brian Klaas' previous work, The Despot's Accomplice:
"This is an important book for all who want to understand and do something about the crisis of democracy in our turbulent world. Klaas tells a disturbing story, but he offers hope—and a dose of humor—while showing how the West can turn the tide, if it acts wisely and quickly. Essential reading."
—Walter Mondale, Former Vice President of the United States, Ambassador to Japan, and United States Senator
"For the last few decades, liberal democracy was on the march. Today, however, the world is going through a democratic recession. In this thought-provoking book, Brian Klaas points the finger at a surprising villain: the West itself. He argues that Western governments have too often been accomplices to authoritarianism; through sins of commission and admission. An enjoyable and challenging addition to the literature on democracy promotion."
—Mark Leonard, founder and director of the European Council on Foreign Relations
"This lucid, wide-ranging, up-to-date analysis of US democracy promotion offers penetrating critical insights as well as practical recommendations for doing better. Klaas is an engaging, lively guide through the complex thickets of democracy policy challenges and dilemmas."
—Thomas Carothers, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"This efficient and thought-provoking plea for the U.S. and other Western countries to prioritize democracy promotion is a must-read... [Klaas] is no armchair academic, and his analyses of policymaking challenges are informed by extensive, and sometimes dangerous, field work... [He] is able to make his points simply and clearly, as in his observation that democracy, like free speech, must be protected regardless of whether it yields a preferred result."
—Publishers Weekly starred review
"Written with precision and learning, with lively prose and dark humor. Klaas' proposals combine the conviction of an idealist with the experience of a technocrat. At a time when democracy is in retreat and the world seems headed for turbulence, this book can be the shot that revives this ailing patient."