This is just the start of American authoritarianism

If you despise President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to hold virtual bilateral meeting with Mexican president More than 300 charged in connection to Capitol riot Trump Jr.: There are 'plenty' of GOP incumbents who should be challenged MORE’s words, tactics and policies, buckle your seat belts. Things are likely to get worse. It has become commonplace to claim the Republican Party now is the “Trump party.” Republican leaders certainly have devoted themselves to doing his bidding and have performed remarkable feats of mental gymnastics to reconcile their previously articulated values with those of his administration.

But viewing the GOP as the “Trump party” is far too simplistic. This implies that once he is gone from the White House, things will return to “normal.” In fact, the GOP is far more likely to continue its radicalization, post-Trump, than it is to moderate.

Trump is just the beginning. The social trends that propelled him into office will only accelerate. Researchers have identified a strong correlation between those with authoritarian tendencies and support for Trump. In fact, authoritarianism appears to predict support for Trump better than any other factor. Scholars on authoritarianism also believe that latent authoritarian tendencies are triggered by external threats (such as from China, Russia, ISIS or Iran) and by rapid societal change.


The U.S. population continues to moves toward majority-minority status. As it does, a large bloc of voters — once the majority — will continue to search out a strongman leader, to reclaim their power.

Not only is organic demographic change fueling pro-strongman sentiment but famine, drought and conflict, exacerbated by climate change, will continue bringing scores of migrants to our borders and to Europe. Those willing to scare-monger about “migrant caravans” and “invasions” of “criminals and rapists” will have more fodder for their demagoguing, not less. Abjectly racist language could become normalized. Pseudoscience about racial superiority might proliferate. White supremacy and border militias will continue to increase.

Meanwhile, globalization and automation will continue to bifurcate our economy, widening the gulf between the haves and have-nots and squeezing workers. The divide will grow between the service workers who are paid starvation wages and the elite whose whims and desires are catered to every day. Half of jobs in our nation eventually could be killed by robots. Young men will continue to feel worthless and unlovable because our society tells them that “real men” are successful breadwinners and then denies them the ability to earn that bread.

This will accelerate the rise of male supremacy and violent extremism, though it likely won’t be only men who cooperate in reestablishing male supremacy. Plenty of women, frustrated by the lack of marriageable men and the dual demands of breadwinning and child-rearing, will look to return to a “simpler” time of a male-dominated economy.

To imagine such a future in America, behold the right-wing creators on YouTube. Don’t expect that GOP politicians will work diligently to appeal to Americans’ better angels and stem this reactionary energy. GOP politicians saw how Donald Trump came to power and they’ve watched what happened at the polls to those who tried to buck the trend.   


While this may be the likely future of the GOP, it is not inevitable that these forces win. As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) reminded us in a speech this week, we have faced down a rising tide of authoritarianism brought on by economic despair and cultural change before. When much of the world turned to fascism, Franklin D. Roosevelt had the foresight to recognize that dramatic action had to be taken to avoid a similar fate in America. Then, as now, authoritarian tendencies were triggered by economic collapse and cultural change. FDR’s response was, in his words, to be “fairly radical for a generation.”

The result was the New Deal, an aggressive, direct government intervention to shave the rough edges off a capitalist system that had left many destitute. Unionism flourished. Workers had more power, less despair. That period of history should give us hope, and it should give us a roadmap. But we should not fool ourselves that we are in for a short, or easy, fight.

Just as Trump has made some people nostalgic for the George W. Bush presidency, whatever comes next from the right could have us longing for the bumbling incompetence of Donald Trump.  

Krystal Ball is the liberal co-host of “Rising,” Hill.TV’s bipartisan morning news show. She is president of The People’s House Project, which recruits Democratic candidates in Republican-held congressional districts of the Midwest and Appalachia, and a former candidate for Congress in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @krystalball.