Paul Krugman: America Is on Its Way to Autocracy

The scene was eerily reminiscent of Shakespeare's "King Lear," only instead of a fictional play about daughters forced to laud their declining father, it was a very real cabinet lavishing praise on an unbalanced and erratic president. Mike Pence proclaimed, "The greatest privilege of my life is to serve as vice president to the president who’s keeping his word to the American people."

Our president openly admires dictators—and yesterday's cabinet meeting was, as Paul Krugman writes in his Tuesday column, "deeply un-American—the kind of thing you would expect to see in an authoritarian regime, not a republic where leaders are supposed to pretend to be humble servants of the people."

Then again, Krugman reminds us, even if America hasn't gone full authoritarian, the GOP is well on its way. They have, "so far showed themselves willing to accept any and all abuses of power, including almost comical levels of financial self-dealing. So this isn’t just a Trump story; it’s about what happened to the GOP." In 2017, Krugman rightly points out that "once you’ve made the decision to become Republican, you find yourself living in your own private Pyongyang."

Krugman provides two reasons: first, that for many congressional Republicans, "loyalty to party is all that matters for their political futures." He cites Nate Silver's research showing the decline of swing districts in which Republicans can lose "short of a political earthquake." Changing that would be the steepest of uphill battles: 

For all practical purposes, Republican primary voters get their news from wholly partisan media, which quite simply present a picture of the world that bears no resemblance to what independent sources are saying. Even though most Republicans in DC probably know better, their self-interest says to pretend to believe the official line. So if you’re Representative Bomfog from a red state, your entire career depends on being an apparatchik willing to do and say anything the regime demands.

The likes of Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell don't care about Russian collusion, cutting Medicare or even whether Trump fires special counsel Robert Mueller. "The one thing that might cause Republicans to turn on Trump," Krugman concludes, "would be the more or less certain prospect of a wave election so massive that even very safe seats get lost."

We have a world of work to do. 

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