“Authoritarians create a climate where they seem unstoppable,” Ben-Ghiat told me. “Creating an aura of destiny around the leader galvanizes his supporters by making his movement seem much stronger than it actually is. The manipulation of perception is everything.”
The aim is to hypnotize voters into forgetting the power and numbers that they possess, persuading them that politics is a hopelessly sordid and disappointing exercise. But that is not the story of the Trump years.
The purpose of this isn’t to downplay the gravity of the moment; it’s to channel anxieties about it in a constructive direction. As Brian Beutler writes on Substack, excessive public worries about Trump’s supposed inevitability bury the all-important truth that popular majorities have regularly, emphatically rejected Trump and all he represents, potentially making the convictions of the anti-Trump movement look feeble in the eyes of swing voters.
No more indulging in paralyzing fatalistic nightmares. We need a spirit of guarded and vigilant confidence — one that is fully aware of what’s at stake while drawing inspiration from the cognizance that this country has thwarted Trump in the past — and will likely do so again.