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In the United States, an authoritarian or even fascist government is conceivable. That was a major reason why Harvard professor Steven Levitsky and his colleague Daniel Ziblatt wrote “How Democracies Die” in 2018. They wanted to warn Americans about the alarming signals they saw in Donald Trump’s autocratic administration.
The Republican Party seems to be bent on undermining our democracy. In a nutshell, Levitsky thinks the danger to our democracy is more severe now than it was throughout Trump’s presidency, since the Republican Party is anxious to maintain its declining influence in the face of adverse demographic shift.
Today’s GOP, according to Levitsky, is “clearly an authoritarian party.” Worse, it is no longer just about Trump. He believes the GOP will continue on its anti-democratic course for many years to come, and that the disputed word “fascist” is becoming more acceptable in light of the GOP’s defense or denial of the Jan. 6 Capitol assault.
Recently, Dean Obeidallah of Salon had a conversation with Levitsky. Here are the most important points he made.
On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the most dire, his concerns for our democracy are at a five or six. They wrote their book because they were concerned and they saw warning signs.
It is way too optimistic to put the entirety of the blame on the Republican party, for dropping the ball and allowing him to become a demagogue. The speed and the extent to which the Republican Party has been Trumpified is way beyond anything that they expected, and that has to be addressed.
It’s scary enough to have an authoritarian president, but now one of the two major parties has now basically given up on playing by democratic rules of the game. That’s a new level of threat.
It is a good thing that the United States did have elections as an escape hatch, and that it’s a damn good thing we used it.
Trump not accepting the results of the election is not surprising, but that the vast bulk of the Republican Party would go along with it, is.
What happened on Jan. 6 was unexpected. The Big Lie has taken hold to the point where you don’t recognize who they are, not can you predict their compliance within reason.
What is also astounding is that they are now taking steps in various important states — Texas, Arizona, Georgia — to make it easier to overturn an election. There’s a good chance that the Republican Party, not just Donald Trump will try to overturn the results of the 2024 election, and there is a chance they will be successful.
He reiterates that even with all of this, we are still better off than if he was reelected.
He says that Americans are much more worried than they were five, six, seven years ago, but that doesn’t equate to what people in the media are feeling. For those who study and analyze politics, the level of urgency has increased.
The fascist is growing more defensible now than a couple of years ago, as it is easy to see and say that the Republicans are becoming a openly authoritarian party.
It used to stand that the Republican Party would turn away from violence, and accepted defeat. The Republicans are no longer doing capable of doing either of those things.
This is the kind of stuff that fascist parties are capable of – they glorify, defend, and promote violence. It is the path to power, so they become accustomed to it, from top to bottom, from grassroots activists to voters to leaders. They are okay with violent seizures of power.
He had hoped that Jan. 6 would turn the party around, but he saw that they put their finger up in the air and realized that the base was still with Trump. And because of the existence of primaries and because these guys are just too small to stand up for democracy over their own political careers, they went where their base was.
They were unwilling, for whatever reason — with the exception of Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney and a small handful of others, many of whose careers are over — to stand up to the base. Standing up the base means probably ending your political career and they just didn’t want to do it. They’d rather end democracy.
There is no magic solution. When you’re in a situation where one of the two political parties representing almost half the country is committed to an anti-democratic project, there is no easy out.
Levitsky feels that this is a battle we will be in for years.