Ruth Ben-Ghiat, an authoritarianist specialist, thinks the Republican Party’s staunch support for former President Donald Trump has taken it to the “bunker stage” of authoritarianism, where its extreme beliefs might backfire.
Ben-Ghiat thinks the Republicans will do everything it takes to retake the White House to stifle democracy, even though they know they are barred from doing so under the law. She thinks the right will alienate even more Americans while losing the popular vote.
In the post-Trump age, even Republican leaders are fair game for the violent far right’s conspiracy theories and vicious speech, just like their more regular targets on the political left. While in office, Trump has been able to appeal to those who have always been skeptical of the federal government and its institutions because of his anti-establishment persona and the party he leads.
Conservatives of any stripe were labeled “Republican In Name Only” (RINO) and threatened with excommunication if they didn’t toe the Trump line. Republicans who aren’t faithful enough to Trump’s election misconduct charges have been a regular target since his latest loss was verified in late 2020.
Extremists on the political right, such as neo-Nazis and white supremacists, challenge mainstream conservatives and progressives. They believe that violence begets violence and that radicals will prosper in the aftermath; thus, they use an “accelerationist” terrorist tactic in which they conduct acts of violence to create chaos.
Republicans in power have ignored their party’s radicals too frequently, but they should know by now that these people won’t be simply quelled and won’t back down from their demands.
Trump’s ability to use anger and violence against his political enemies has put those leaders in the sights of the extreme right’s tiny but violent fringe, and the threat against them is real and ongoing. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, on one side, and Trump supporters, on the other, are engaged in an ideological civil war inside the Republican Party. Trump supporters are more authoritarian in their views on election integrity, the press, and unquestioning allegiance to a beloved central person.
Of course, terrorists on the far left have unquestionably attempted the most severe violent schemes against the political right, such as the plot to assassinate Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalice.
Antifa and Black Lives Matter are as violent as any modern-day political movement.
Any polemicist who claims the right has a monopoly on fringe elements, violence, or the destruction of democracy is not to be taken seriously.
The right/left pendulum is always swinging, and the country could turn right at any time, just as it has throughout American history.