“The GOP’s ‘Off the Rails’ March Toward Authoritarianism Has Historians Worried”

Ben Jacobs for Vice:

Her concern is echoed by an increasing number of scholars who study American history and the rise of authoritarianism around the globe. While republics are often fragile, they see the United States in a unique position as a mature democracy at the point of fracturing. As Harvard political scientist Steven Levitsky, co-author of “How Democracies Die,” a study of the collapse of democracies across the world, put it bluntly, “I think we are headed for a crisis.” And, many scholars say, that fracturing is without historical precedent. 

“A mainstream democratic party, one of the major parties in a country, going fully off the rails . . . it’s hard to find analogues,” said Levitsky’s co-author, Daniel Ziblatt, also at Harvard. But Ziblatt and others were united in where to place the blame: “The radicalization and increasing authoritarianism of the Republican Party.” 

While Ziblatt’s book argued that American democracy is not inherently exceptional and the norms that hold it together were rendered vulnerable by the rise of former President Donald Trump, much of its assumptions seem almost naive after January 6. 

“The underlying assumption when we wrote [the book] was that an important, even a dominant faction of the Republican Party was committed to the democratic rules of the game, and that is no longer the case,” said Levitsky.

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