Was Trump just a “warm-up act”? Canadian scholar warns of ‘right-wing dictatorship’
Within years, America’s deeply flawed and increasingly fragile democratic system could crumble under the weight of a long-standing reactionary attack and be replaced by a right-wing dictatorship – one for which the former president Donald Trump was “just an act of warming up.”
That was the stern warning that Thomas Homer-Dixon, executive director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University and specialist in violent conflict, issued in a comprehensive editorial published in the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail.
Homer-Dixon, the former director of a center for peace and conflict studies at the University of Toronto, warned that the “political and social landscape” of the United States – a deeply unequal and ideologically polarized nation which also happens to be “armed against the teeth” – is “flashing with warning signals.”
“By 2025,” he wrote. “America’s democracy could crumble, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be ruled by a right-wing dictatorship.”
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Arguing that prominent reactionary figures such as the late right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh and Trump – who awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2020 – “are as much symptoms” of American political dysfunction as their causes Homer-Dixon argued that the nation’s current crises have their roots in a myriad of historical phenomena:
Some can be attributed to the founding of the country – to a lingering distrust of government embedded in the country’s political culture during the Revolution, to slavery, to the political compromise of the Electoral College that slavery engendered, to the over-representation of rural voting power in the Senate. , and the failure of the Reconstruction after the Civil War.
“But successful policies around the world,” he continued, “have overcome equally fundamental flaws.”
So why is America’s democracy particularly vulnerable to full-scale collapse in the near future?
Homer-Dixon argued that “what seems to have pushed the United States to the brink of losing its democracy today is a multiplier effect between its underlying flaws and recent changes in the ‘material’ characteristics of the United States. the society. “
These changes include stagnating middle-class incomes, chronic economic insecurity, and increasing inequality as the country’s economy – transformed by technological change and globalization – has grown from muscle power, to heavy industry and manufacturing as the main sources of its wealth in the power of ideas, computing, symbolic production and finance. America’s economic, racial, and social divides have helped spark ideological polarization between political right and left, and deepening polarization has crippled government while deepening the gaps.
Eager and well positioned to exploit such divisions, Trump and his loyal Republicans, many of whom have endorsed the “big lie” that Trump won the 2020 presidential election but was robbed by the Democratic Party.
This lie – which helped fuel the Jan. 6 Capitol insurgency and, according to a new poll, is adopted by two-thirds of GOP voters – is “a potent anti-democratic poison,” Homer-Dixon wrote.
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“The willingness to publicly support the Big Lie has become a litmus test of Republican loyalty to Mr. Trump,” he observed. “This is not just an ideological move to promote Republican solidarity against Democrats. It alienates its adherents from the psychological dynamics of extreme dehumanization that has led to some of the worst violence in human history. Moral crusade against evil – Republican efforts to gerrymander congressional districts into pretzel shapes, to restrict voting rights, and to take control of state-level electoral machinery. ”
As the Guardian reported on Sunday, “Donald Trump’s allies and others who have been spreading baseless election conspiracy theories have launched campaigns” for key positions – from governor to secretary of state – who have a significant influence on the post-election certification process “:
“Republicans who embraced the lies about the election are also running for secretary of state in Michigan, Georgia, Arizona and Nevada. Neglected for years, there is now a wider realization of the enormous power these Secretaries of State wield over the way elections are conducted. This power manifested unprecedentedly in 2020, when secretaries of state made decisions on things such as the creation of ballot boxes and the automatic or non-automatic sending of postal ballot requests to voters.
“Secretaries of state wield tremendous unilateral power and, if elected, election deniers could cause considerable damage in future elections,” the Guardian said. added.
Though his worst-case predictions are dire, Homer-Dixon has made it clear that he is far from the only scholar who thinks American democracy is on the verge of total failure.
“Last November, more than 150 professors of politics, government, political economy and international relations called on Congress to pass the free vote law, which would protect the integrity of the American elections, but which is now blocked in the Senate, ”he noted. . “This is a time of ‘great peril and risk,’ they wrote.“ Time is running out and midnight is approaching. “”
Homer-Dixon also consulted with experts who have proposed a range of possible outcomes – “none benign” – if Trump returns to power in 2024:
They cited particular countries and political regimes to illustrate where it could take the United States: the Hungary of Viktor Orbán, with its coercive legal apparatus of “illiberal democracy”; the Brazil of Jair Bolsonaro, with its chronic social illness and administrative dysfunctions; or the Russia of Vladimir Putin, with its harsh hypernationalist one-man autocracy. All agreed that under a second Trump administration, liberalism will be marginalized and right-wing Christian groups overpowered, while the violence of vigilantes and paramilitary groups will sharply increase.
Homer-Dixon then invoked “another, historic political regime that could portend an even more dire future for the United States: the Weimar Republic.”
“Reading a history of the republic condemned last summer, I noticed no less than five disturbing parallels with the current situation in the United States”, he wrote, in particular that “in both cases, a charismatic leader succeeded in unifying right-wing extremists around a political program to seize the state.
Another potential parallel between Weimar and the United States could be “democratic collapse followed by the consolidation of the dictatorship.”
“Mr. Trump may just be a warm-up act – someone ideal to bring the first step, but not the second,” Homer-Dixon wrote. “Back in power, he will be the wrecking ball that demolishes democracy, but the process will produce a political and social mess. However, through targeted harassment and dismissal, he will be able to clear the ranks of his movement’s opponents within the state. … Then the stage will be set for a more competent leader in management, after Mr. Trump, to bring order to the chaos he has created. “
In October, Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House adviser, openly told the public that GOP “shock troops” should be deployed inside the federal apparatus as soon as the next president takes office. Republican in order to “reconfigure the government” from within.
Anticipating critics who might view his analysis of the state of American democracy as alarmist, Homer-Dixon warned that “we must not rule out these possibilities just because they seem ridiculous or too horrible to imagine.”
“In 2014,” he stressed, “the suggestion that Donald Trump would become president would also have struck almost everyone as absurd. But today we live in a world where the absurd regularly becomes real and l ‘horrible banality. “
As a Canadian, Homer-Dixon focused his call to action on the government of his home country, which he urged to “convene a standing, non-partisan parliamentary committee” to prepare for the possibility of a democratic collapse in the south, an outcome that could have major implications for Canada.
“We must begin by fully recognizing the extent of the danger,” he warns. “If Mr. Trump is re-elected, even under the most optimistic scenarios, the economic and political risks to our country will be innumerable.”
In the United States, advocacy groups are imploring Democrats who currently control the United States Congress to do everything in their power – including picking up a hammer to impose Senate rules – to protect voting rights and the democratic state-level institutions of Republicans, which are moving aggressively towards restricting access to ballots and “hijacking elections” ahead of the crucial midterm of 2022.
“End the filibuster,” rights group Fix Our Senat urged Democrats in a statement. recent tweet. “Pass a law on the right to vote. Save our democracy. “
Learn more about the too real crisis of democracy in the United States: