Trump’s Authoritarian Moment

If there were any doubt remaining that Donald Trump still represents a dire threat to American democracy, the events of this weekend dispelled it. As a new Congress gathers to confirm that the voters chose Joe Biden to be the next President, a proceeding that should be a mere formality, Trump is desperately trying to overturn the result and stay in office. Even more disturbing, large numbers of elected Republicans are joining in this unprecedented effort to reject the popular will. If the Republic gets through the next two weeks without a catastrophe, we must surely take steps to protect ourselves against the next would-be authoritarian, which could well be Trump himself in 2024…

On Saturday, eleven more G.O.P. senators announced their intention to join more than a hundred and forty House Republicans and vote against the Electoral College electors from Georgia and five other states where Trump claims there was voter fraud. Seeking to delay or derail the congressional certification of Biden’s victory, they also demanded the appointment of a bipartisan commission to audit the election results in these states. Soon after this news emerged, Vice-President Mike Pence, a politician who gives invertebrates a bad name, issued a statement saying that he “welcomes the efforts of members of the House and Senate to use the authority they have under the law to raise objections and bring forward evidence before the Congress and the American people on January 6th.”

…In giving credence to the President’s baseless claims that he is being cheated out of office, these prominent Republicans are just making it even more likely that, at least as far as the G.O.P. is concerned, there won’t be a post-Trump future but, instead, another lengthy period in which he and his grievance continue to dominate all else.

This is the fate of a Party that has embraced a populist personality cult—Trumpism—which has recently outed itself as what Steve Schmidt, the campaign strategist who advised John McCain in 2008, called over the weekend “an American autocratic movement with Fascistic markers.” Using plainer English, Stuart Stevens, another Never Trump Republican strategist, who advised Mitt Romney in 2012, summed things up on Twitter: “The bottom line is that the @GOP has become a threat to democracy. I spent decades helping elect members of the party and it’s painful to admit. But it’s a clear and present danger and should be treated as such.” This is primarily Trump’s work, but it’s not just Trump’s work. Not by a long shot.

I was an official Young Republican once. For about three weeks…when a buddy of mine needed a few more warm bodies to help him found a chapter of Young Republicans in our Southern New England town. Then, I wished him the best of luck in his political career and returned to projects closer to my heart: playing a 12-string guitar, supporting the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and philosophical studies in Materialist Dialectics.

Even then, I knew there was a tendency inside the “grown-up” Republican Party to rollover into a full-blown Fascist Party of Putschists.