By and large, Washington pundits are still in agreement with political leaders as they speak about the safeguards that will withstand all Trump’s assaults. But the primary mechanism of those safeguards is that the three separate branches of government have enough power to assure that no tyrant can easily overcome the entire structure of government. Now that the Republicans hold the Supreme Court, Senate and House of Representatives, and the Presidency that mechanism is severely hampered, if not obliterated. Some political observers have reacted in astonishment and disappointment to the refusal of Republican leaders to defend and support institutions such as the courts and media. Despite Trump’s Banana-Republic leadership behavior; abandonment of our democratic allies around the world; and what maybe permanent damage to the U.S., these Republican leaders refuse to act. Some say that while many Republican leaders are offended by Trump’s boorish, un-presidential, and even un-American behavior, they need to stick with him as long as the base of Republican voters support him. Although some Republican leaders have pushed back against Trump’s humiliatingly public attacks on his Attorney General, Jefferson Sessions, and his apparent intention to fire Sessions and Special Counsel, Robert Mueller, Republican resistance is neither widespread not geared toward specific measures to stop Trump.
But, questions about why Republican leaders do not employ every measure they have to oppose Trump miss the point – there is no reason to question whether Donald Trump is a fascist or an authoritarian (It is probably more accurate to say fascist, rather than authoritarian, but the word fascist seems incendiary to Americans.) What is clear is that beginning with Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” the Republican Party has grown into a full-fledged an authoritarian party. Authoritarians fear outsiders and seek systems with strong leaders, and express unquestioning loyalty to those leaders. Authoritarians operate with little respect for “their people,” but still profess beliefs in nationalism, racism, and ethnic intolerance.
They do not want one-man-one vote; they do not want all children to have the opportunity to get a good education. They do not believe that healthcare is a right. They do not believe that a free press is an important component of the American system. They believe that the very wealthy are entitled to wealth and power because they are wealthy; they must be the deserving members of society. Those who have not achieved wealth must be less deserving and their misfortunes are their own problems, and their votes are not ones that should be counted. Measures of authoritarian preference (independent of political questions) are used to sample Americans over time. The Washington Post reported such a study comparing authoritarian views between Republicans and Democrats over the last several decades. While authoritarian preference was essentially equal among Republicans and Democrats in the early 1990s, Republicans have increased their authoritarianism and Democrats have decreased theirs. (The definitive work on Republican authoritarianism is John Dean’s Conservatives without Conscience.)