“The Republican Party is betraying democracy,” a Yale professor and expert on facism told Insider, adding that “someone has got to push back.”
If Americans are concerned that President Donald Trump and Republicans are moving the US toward becoming a one-party, authoritarian state, they are running out of time to stop them, experts warned.
Trump has exhibited autocratic impulses since his 2016 campaign and from the moment he entered the White House.
The president has attacked virtually every democratic institution in the US when he’s felt its actions were unfavorable to his agenda or public appearance. Meanwhile, he pushed traditional US allies away while openly embracing many of the world’s most repressive leaders.
These trends have raised concern among top experts on authoritarianism, fascism, and democracy, but they’ve often said that the robust political system in the US, with its checks and balances and constitutional norms, has prevented Trump from becoming a full-blown authoritarian and doing whatever he wants.
Since Trump was acquitted in the Senate earlier this month after being impeached in the House over his dealings with Ukraine, there’s been a White House purge of impeachment witnesses, and Attorney General William Barr has intervened in the trial of a close associate of the president, Roger Stone. And the experts’ tone has changed dramatically.
‘Someone has got to push back’
“The system is enabling Trump,” Jason Stanley, a Yale philosophy professor who wrote “How Fascism Works,” told Insider.
“There need to be mass protests,” he said. “The Republican Party is betraying democracy, and these are historical times. Someone has got to push back.
“The deeply worrying moment is when you start to become a one-party state,” Stanley added. “The Republican Party has shown that it has no interest in multi-party democracy … They are much more concerned with power, with consolidating power.”
Stanley said recent actions by Republicans and Trump were “straight from the literature on authoritarianism.”
Only one Republican, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, voted to convict Trump of abuse of power in his Senate impeachment trial. Romney was also one of just two GOP senators to vote in favor of an ultimately failed motion to call witnesses. (All 15 Senate impeachment trials before Trump’s had witnesses.) With their vote, Republicans blocked potentially crucial testimony from the president’s former national security adviser John Bolton.
Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, has since been excoriated by fellow Republicans and treated as a pariah.
Stanley said there should have been mass protests in the streets after the vote against witnesses, warning that the absence of significant public outcry served as “a further sign to the party in power that they can go ahead and do what they want.”
Trump urged Ukraine, a vulnerable US ally, to dig up dirt on his political rivals during a reelection year — including on former Vice President Joe Biden, who until recent electoral setbacks was thought to be the leading contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. And Trump did so while withholding almost $400 million in vital, congressionally approved military aid from Kyiv as it fights a war against pro-Russian separatists.
There was a mountain of evidence that Trump directed a broad, complex scheme to essentially blackmail Ukraine into smearing his political opponents, but not all of the evidence was delivered under oath, because Republicans prevented key witnesses from testifying.