1 Comment

I am a subscriber, regular reader, and admirer This is another great take. The only thing I will quibble with is your final sentence or so, where you claim that the root cause of authoritarianism is corruption and rot. I think that this is only part of the problem and possibly not the most important part. That gives the powers that be too much credit. The most important part of the opening for authoritarianism resides in policies and practices that few think of as corrupt or rotten. They are the regular policies and practices of ruling elites who play by the rules (that they write and/or leverage) to such an advantage that the common people get left behind in terms of income, wealth, opportunity, and ultimately dignity.

As FDR said, “If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land.”

The Republican Party, starting with Reagan, took power and by fully legitimate means instituted “trickle-down economics,” supposed designed to get more money to the wealthy so they would invest and creat good jobs. We know how that turned out. So by the time Trump came along, tens of millions of “our citizens” had lost their capacity to make a decent living, while a relatively small elite was enriched and al,so captured all of the best opportunities for their clan. One might call all of this rotten and corrupt, but then those concepts lose their meaning.

So, the table was set for authoritarianism by “legitimate” means and then the truly corrupt stepped-up and are now trying to take it to that next level that you describe. But I don’t think you get this latter movement without the former.

This has real implications for how one thinks about political strategy. I have been interested in the Never-Trumper Republican moderates, who are fighting mightily against Trump and to regain or reconstitute their party. The problem is, they refuse to do any sort of “immanent critique” of the role that more than a century of Grand Old Party policies and practices have played in creating our authoritarian moment. It will do us no good if they rebuild or reclaim the GOP without understanding and correcting the “legitimate” policies that they mostly still stand by (limited government, states rights, balanced budgets, “trickle-down economics, etc.), that create the inequalities and indignities that seed the ground for the Trumps and Pistons of the world.

We need the biggest possible coalition of people to vote against Republicans. But there is still going to have to be a reconning with the m,operate Republicans whip continue to belittle so much of the Democratic agenda and are therefore foul-weather friends. I wish some of the really bright and good people in that cohort, who run things like The BUlwark and other important “think vessels,” would realize the importance of this and get on it. If they did, we would get to a much more happy broad middle-ground of never-authoritarians in time to make a difference at home and abroad.

Expand full comment