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Sleepwalking toward authoritarianism


Half of the American voting public is either enthusiastically in favor of an authoritarian ethno-nationalist cult of personality running the nation, or is basically OK with it.

I presented a paper yesterday in which the first paragraph is about the 1/6 insurrection. I felt like a I was referencing something that happened ten years ago. It was less than ten months ago. Ten months later, and it’s as if it simply didn’t happen.

Donald Trump — an unambiguous authoritarian ethno-nationalist criminal who has spent the last year going from crypto-fascist to just straight-up fascist — is the unchallenged leader of the Republican party. There is no dissent against him within that party. Every single Republican in American politics above the level of maybe the Boulder city council has to swear complete fealty to this evil lunatic and the ravening hordes that make up his cult of personality.

Yet all somebody like Glenn Youngkin has to do is avoid literally embracing Trump on the teevee and the legacy media act as if NOTHING that I just described is the case. This is not hyperbole: this is fact. It might as well be 2012 again, in the land of dog whistles rather than air raid sirens.

What last night drove home to me more than anything else — and the New Jersey election did this even more than Virginia — is that a choice had to be made, both by the voting public, and by the media that frames what that rough beast is up to. That choice was to either reject the post-1/6 Republican party, and all its works, and all its pomps, or to normalize, in the most fundamental way, an authoritarian ethno-nationalist cult of personality as America’s ruling party.

Because of course the idea of an authoritarian ethno-nationalist cult of personality being something other than the ruling party is absurd. Such a party must either rule or be destroyed. For it to “compete” in a legitimate democratic process is as absurd as imagining that Putin’s Russia or Orban’s Hungary feature legitimate electoral processes.

Everything about our political culture is designed to deny the reality of our present situation. That is the insidious essence of American exceptionalism, which produces a type of purblind nationalism that simply takes it as axiomatic that it can’t happen here.

It is happening, right here, right now.

The first step toward engaging in actual resistance is to look our reality in the face.

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