Economist Paul Krugman: 'American democracy' is 'hanging by a thread' as Republicans embrace 'authoritarian takeover'

Economist Paul Krugman: 'American democracy' is 'hanging by a thread' as Republicans embrace 'authoritarian takeover'

If there is a lesson for Americans to learn from the current political climates in Hungary, the Philippines and Turkey, it is that liberal democracies don't necessarily turn authoritarian overnight; sometimes, authoritarians are voted into office and erode democracy gradually. The United States dodged a major bullet when former President Donald Trump was voted out of office in 2020, but liberal economist Paul Krugman — in his May 24 column for the New York Times — warns that the Republican Party hasn't grown any less "authoritarian" since the 2020 election and that U.S. democracy is now "hanging by a thread."

"America's democratic experiment may well be nearing its end," Krugman laments. "That's not hyperbole; it's obvious to anyone following the political scene. Republicans might take power legitimately; they might win through pervasive voter suppression; GOP legislators might simply refuse to certify Democratic electoral votes and declare Donald Trump or his political heir the winner. However it plays out, the GOP will try to ensure a permanent lock on power and do all it can to suppress dissent."

In his column, Krugman stresses that within the Republican Party, the greatest threat doesn't come from obvious extremists like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a QAnon supporter, but from establishment conservatives who are willing to go along with them.

"Conspiracy theorizing is hardly a new thing in our national life," Krugman explains. "Richard Hofstadter wrote 'The Paranoid Style in American Politics' back in 1964. White rage has been a powerful force at least since the civil rights movement. What's different this time is the acquiescence of Republican elites."

Krugman continues, "The Big Lie about the election didn't well up from the grass roots — it was promoted from above, initially by Trump himself, but what's crucial is that almost no prominent Republican politicians have been willing to contradict his claims, and many have rushed to back them up. Or to put it another way, the fundamental problem lies less with the crazies than with the careerists; not with the madness of Marjorie Taylor Greene, but with the spinelessness of (House Minority Leader) Kevin McCarthy."

The Times columnist goes on to say that it is "the predominance of craven careerists" that has "made the Republican Party so vulnerable to authoritarian takeover."

"Surely, a great majority of Republicans in Congress know that the election wasn't stolen," Krugman argues. "Very few really believe that the storming of the Capitol was a false-flag Antifa operation or simply a crowd of harmless tourists. But decades as a monolithic, top-down enterprise have filled the GOP with people who will follow the party line wherever it goes. So, if Trump or a Trump-like figure declares that we have always been at war with East Asia, well, his party will say that we've always been at war with East Asia."

Krugman adds, "If he says he won a presidential election in a landslide, never mind the facts — they'll say he won the election in a landslide. The point is that neither megalomania at the top nor rage at the bottom explains why American democracy is hanging by a thread. Cowardice, not craziness, is the reason government by the people may soon perish from the Earth."


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