“Running men out of town on a rail is at least as much an American tradition as declaring unalienable rights” — Garry Wills
A critical thing to understand about Trump’s iron grip on his party is that it is much more because of his authoritarianism than in spite of it:
Parts of each of those are probably correct. But there’s a broader, simpler explanation, too: For many Americans, a turn toward authoritarianism isn’t seen as a negative. Many Americans support that idea.
Last month, PRRI released the results of its annual American Values Survey. The pollsters asked respondents a slew of questions measuring their views of the country and its politics in the moment. Included among the questions was one that specifically addressed the question of authoritarianism: Did they think that things in the U.S. had gone so far off track that we need a leader who would break rules in order to fix the country’s direction?
About 2 in 5 respondents said they did. That included nearly half of Republicans.
Back in early 2016, political scientist and consultant Matthew MacWilliams identified support for authoritarian tendencies as a key indicator of support for Trump among Republican primary voters. Before the 2020 election, he revisited the idea, noting that “approximately 18 percent of Americans are highly disposed to authoritarianism, according to their answers to four simple survey questions used by social scientists to estimate this disposition.”
And needless to say Republican elites are if anything even more strongly committed to anti-democratic politics, including those that are nominally anti-Trump.