Whoever wins or loses, the authoritarian streak in American politics is not going away. What does this mean for Democratic and Republican parties and their presidential candidates — before and after this year’s election?
John Dean says Republicans became an authoritarian party long before Donald Trump came along. Dean is former White House Counsel under President Nixon and co-author of “Authoritarian Nightmare: Trump and His Followers.” He says Trump depends on enablers and others much like himself. “If Trump didn't have the base, he’d be a joke, he'd be a bad joke. But they put him in the White House. So he's no longer a joke. Now he's a nightmare.”
If that nightmare continues, Joe Biden won’t respond in kind, says Evan Osnos, New Yorker writer and author of “Joe Biden: The Life, the Run, and What Matters Now.” “It doesn't have to be bloodsport, you don't have to lose. But you also do not have to treat everything as if it's scorched earth. And that turns out to be quite a meaningful insight.”
But Osnos doesn’t think it’s going to be easy. “I thought you could get rid of hate. And what I realized was that hate hides, and it waits for a leader to give it oxygen, and then it comes roaring back out.” He says some young Republicans want to rebuild their party into “something that people aspire to be part of.”
He shares Dean’s view that Trump’s leadership of the GOP was less a “hostile takeover” and more of a “joint venture.” He explains, “You had an executive class of Americans who decided on the Republican side of the aisle that Donald Trump was okay, and that there was enough for them there, that they signed on.”
Dean says authoritarians will prevail. “Democracy is not the kind of government they like. They will go into smaller groups where they, the leaders, can lead and dominate. And the followers can be told what to do and how to think.”