No, Trump is Not ‘Authoritarian’

The President is an ignoramus and a blowhard and a petulant child but he's operating within the Constitutional limits of his office.

Historians Federico Finchelstein and Pablo Piccato take to the op-ed pages of the Washington Post to argue against United States-directed regime change in Venezuela. I’m in concurrence that such would be a bad idea. I dissent, however, from a bizarre and unnecessary line of argument used to advance their case:

As a populist who uses, and abuses, democratic rules to undermine democracy, Trump is incapable of leading a transition to democracy in Venezuela.

[…]

The authoritarian nature of the current leadership in Venezuela and the United States militates against that solution, however.

Dave Schuler finds the second of those quoted lines outrageous:

That is so stupid, fatuous, destructive, and vile I can hardly express it. The last time I checked Nancy Pelosi was not in jail, Jim Acosta had not been assassinated, and Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether Donald Trump and the Trump campaign had “colluded with Russia” was still proceeding in its methodical, plodding way as it has for two years. Were the Trump Administration authoritarian things would be very different. By comparison the Chavez and now the Maduro government have murdered hundreds of their own citizens, engaged in arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, and imprisoned and tortured its political opponents.

Just because you disagree with someone’s actions, opinions or rhetoric does not make them an authoritarian. To be an authoritarian you’ve got to, you know, do authoritarian stuff and to date the Trump Administration has not.

The editors and publisher of the Washington Post should be ashamed of themselves for publishing such tripe.

Quite.

Make no bones about it: Trump is an ignoramus and a blowhard and a petulant child. He chafes at the Constitutional constraints on his power more publicly and frequently than his predecessors and frequently threatens to unilaterally take actions which would be plainly illegal.

Yet, repeatedly, he has bowed to the institutional powers of the coordinate branches.

He has, to the best of my knowledge, complied with each and every judicial order to cease and desist carrying out policies that even the lowest-level Federal judges have ruled outside the scope of his powers. Oh, sure, he’s done so without grace.

Likewise, he has been repeatedly thwarted in achieving his political aims by the Congress. Aside from a tax cut, he got essentially none of his policy agenda passed in his first two years in office. ObamaCare still lives. The wall remains unbuilt. He’s intimated that he’ll simply declare a national emergency to get his way but, presumably because he has been advised that such declaration would swiftly be struck down as illegal by the courts, he hasn’t actually done it.

Yes, he’s fired an FBI Director and an Attorney General, and some number of more junior appointees,  for failing to be sufficiently loyal to him in the matter of the Russia probe.  It’s possible that a case will be made by Mueller or the now-Democratically controlled House Judiciary Committee that one or more of these instances constitute obstruction of justice and used to bring impeachment charges. But, until then, firing Executive branch appointees is manifestly within his powers under Article 2 of the Constitution.

Any comparison to Hugo Chavez or  Nicolás Maduro is simply absurd and offensive. So, yes, the editors of the Washington Post should have rejected the piece or demanded a tighter argument.

UPDATE: Judging from some of the early commentaries on the post, we have confusion over definitions here. I’m viewing the question based on common political science definitions of regime type and leadership styles (for a recent primer, see Marlies Glasius’s “What authoritarianism is … and is not: a practice perspective“), whereas readers (and, upon reflection, possibly Finchelstein and Piccato) are using lay definitions. In terms of the former, the question of whether Trump is authoritarian is practically absurd. At best, he’s engaging in illiberal democratic practices but is highly constrained by liberal democratic institutions. I happen to think he’s pushing the bounds harder—and in more dangerous ways—than his predecessors but they have all pushed them.

To me, the more interesting question is the degree to which Republican Members of Congress have a duty to constrain Trump’s illiberal impulses more aggressively than they have.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Latin America, Politics 101, Presidency, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. drj says:

    Oh, come on. This is really weak stuff.

    It’s totally obvious that Trump is an authoritarian, as you admit yourself:

    He chafes at the Constitutional constraints on his power more publicly and frequently than his predecessors and frequently threatens to unilaterally take actions which would be plainly illegal.

    Trump isn’t (yet) heading an authoritarian government, because a) the institutional restraints in the US are stronger than in Venezuela; and b) he is both stupid and lazy.

    There really are no reasons to assume that Trump is a better democrat than Maduro.

    ETA: Also, the actual argument from the WaPo piece is simply true:

    The experience of Central America shows that regional and multilateral negotiations can end conflicts. […]

    The authoritarian nature of the current leadership in Venezuela and the United States militates against that solution, however.

    Do you think that Trump would do well in a multilateral negotiation? With people like Bolton egging him on?

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @drj: But that’s my whole point. Sure, he’d like to be an authoritarian. But he isn’t an authoritarian precisely because of the restraints imposed by U.S. institutions and the fact that he feels obliged to comply with said restraints.

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  3. Pylon says:

    He has, to the best of my knowledge, complied with each and every judicial order to cease and desist carrying out policies that even the lowest-level Federal judges have ruled outside the scope of his powers.

    Oddly, many Presidents don’t have that many of their actions challenged in court as outside their jurisdiction, much less found to be so.

    he’s fired an FBI Director and an Attorney General, and some number of more junior appointees, for failing to be sufficiently loyal to him in the matter of the Russia probe. …But, until then, firing Executive branch appointees is manifestly within his powers under Article 2 of the Constitution.

    He’s appointed an acting AG unconstitutionally. But moreover, abusing powers granted under a constitution is as much an authoritarian action as acting outside the constitution. I suspect that some of the authoritarians you cite as contra examples also did much of their work within the constitution of their country. Doing things like revoking press credentials, interfering in local elections, are authoritarian acts. Trump is an authoritarian who is sometimes constrained by laws that are enforced against him. In other words, the fact that checks against authoritarianism have often worked against him doesn’t make him less of an authoritarian, it just speaks to his success.

    https://www.businessinsider.com/bernie-sanders-says-trump-is-an-authoritarian-experts-largely-agree-2018-11

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  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Authoritarian leaning. If he thought he could get away with it…

  5. James Joyner says:

    @Pylon:

    He’s appointed an acting AG unconstitutionally.

    I’m skeptical that it’s unconstitutional but it’s almost certainly illegal. But we don’t know that for sure until we get a judicial ruling. So far as I know, the only suit filed on the matter came in November but we haven’t gotten an order out of the case (which I admit surprises me).

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Authoritarian leaning. If he thought he could get away with it…

    I think that’s right.

  6. Kylopod says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sure, he’d like to be an authoritarian. But he isn’t an authoritarian

    You should have included that sentence in your post. It undermines what you wrote and makes it sound like you’re splitting hairs.

    Let’s keep in mind, also, Trump’s open admiration for authoritarian leaders around the world. He has praised Kim Jong Un, Duterte, Xi, Erdogan, Putin, Hussein, Qaddafi, MBS. Meanwhile, he regularly bashes democratic leaders like Merkel, May, and Trudeau. Furthermore, the reasons he gives for these opinions almost invariably involve the idea that the authoritarians are strong and the democrats are weak.

    To argue that Trump is not an authoritarian while admitting he has authoritarian instincts–and that they lead him to at the very least chip around the edges of America’s system–but that he’s too weak and cowardly to follow through with most of his threats, is the very essence of a distinction without a difference.

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  7. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    But Trump is an authoritarian, he just isn’t always able to act like one.

    Being an authoritarian isn’t just about what one does, but also about what one favors. Check your dictionary. Also, “authoritarianism” is an ideology that even the powerless can adhere to.

    To say that Trump isn’t an authoritarian because he hasn’t had anyone murdered yet, is nothing but an extremely weak and rather transparent attempt to normalize Trump.

    Don’t fall for it.

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  8. Kathy says:

    Well, he’s not a successful authoritarian.

    Let’s not overlook his mixed success in undermining the legal system and the press, not to mention the electoral system.

  9. Teve says:

    Here’s what a quick dictionary search has to say about authoritarian:

    favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom.

    showing a lack of concern for the wishes or opinions of others; domineering; dictatorial.”

    so is Trump an authoritarian in the sense that he is the head of an effectively authoritarian government? No. Is Trump an authoritarian in the sense that he favors obedience to him over liberty, freedom, and the rule of law, has no concern for others, and is domineering? Fuck yes.

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  10. Hal_10000 says:

    You guys are quibbling here and missing the larger point. What Dave and James are saying is that comparing Trump to Maduro or Chavez (or Hitler for that matter) is insane. It’s the sort of sloppy logic that undermines the entire resistance. Presidents have chafed at Constitutional restraints before (“I have a pen and a phone”). They have violated the Constitution before (Wilson and Roosevelt in particular). They’ve fought the Courts before (“John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!”), they’ve denounced investigation into their activities (Nixon and Clinton). Trump is on the extreme end of this, but he’s mainly an outlier on the century-long trend of Presidents usurping power from Congress. Or more accurately, Congress surrendering it to them.

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  11. drj says:

    @Hal_10000:

    You guys are quibbling here and missing the larger point. What Dave and James are saying is that comparing Trump to Maduro or Chavez (or Hitler for that matter) is insane.

    Wow. Nice straw man.

    Neither Finchelstein nor Piccato are saying that Trump is currently putting his political opponents in jail (he’d like to, though). That’s merely what that Schuler fool says they are saying.

    Quod non.

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  12. CSK says:

    Okay, Trump’s a wannabe authoritarian. That’s how he’s operated all his life. Why else would the top quality he looks for in an employee be loyalty to him? Not competence. Not knowledge. Not experience. Loyalty to him personally.

    But I agree that the equation of the U.S. with Venezuela is ludicrous.

  13. Jen says:

    He’d really, really *like* to be one, and has expressed support for dictators, as Kylopod points out.

    I think most of us knew he was ill-suited to the presidency based on his “business” experience. A closely held, private family business is an authoritarian setting of sorts, and I’m still convinced he thought (thinks?) that the presidency is more powerful than it is.

    No, he is not an acting authoritarian, but the very fact that he constantly has to be maneuvered back onto level ground from his flights of fancy makes me think that given the slightest unchecked opportunity, he’d grab it.

    It also explains some of his support.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Sure, he’d like to be an authoritarian. But he isn’t an authoritarian precisely because of the restraints imposed by U.S. institutions and the fact that he feels obliged to comply with said restraints.”

    I consider this very weak tea. You are saying Trump would be an authoritarian if he could, but is being prevented by others. Given how little of a fight Republicans in Congress have put up to him for the last 2 years, that’s a very fine line from saying that we only still do not have an autocracy because he was persuaded by Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan to let the trappings of democracy stay in place so long as they were doing what he wanted (and with Nancy Pelosi now the Speaker, this could change rapidly).

    And I find Dave Schuler’s comment even sillier:

    “The last time I checked Nancy Pelosi was not in jail, Jim Acosta had not been assassinated, and Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether Donald Trump and the Trump campaign had “colluded with Russia” was still proceeding in its methodical, plodding way as it has for two years.”

    The last time I checked, Trump has frequently called for Hillary Clinton to be in jail, has supported a candidate for Congress for physically attacking a member of the press, and frequently stopped just short of calling for his supporters to do the same at his rallies, and has frequently expressed how angry he was at Jeff Sessions for not stopping the Mueller investigation. In other words, he has no problems with the idea of being an authoritarian and to the contrary has expressed support for doing the very things Dave finds to be authoritarian. So complaining that the Trump Administration does not have an authoritarian nature seems misguided.

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  15. James Pearce says:

    So, yes, the editors of the Washington Post should have rejected the piece or demanded a tighter argument.

    For what purpose? To protect their reputation?

    @Moosebreath:

    The last time I checked, Trump has frequently called for Hillary Clinton to be in jail

    I recently watched a bit of the (now old) debates where Trump threatened to put Hillary Clinton in jail. It plays a lot differently now. Authoritarian?

    Nah, just more proof the guy has a superficial understanding of his job.

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  16. Erik says:

    Anyone who hasn’t read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer (free download ) should do so. It is a bit dated now, but would be a useful read even if we weren’t in the situation we are in currently.

    Bottom line: yes Trump is a person who would meet the criteria as an authoritarian, and yes you can be an authoritarian without being able to exercise the power of an authoritarian leader. It’s in the mindset/worldview, not in the execution.

    (Hmm, can’t seem to preview. Hope the link works)

  17. Erik says:

    Nope, let me try again with the link

    “https://theauthoritarians.org/Downloads/TheAuthoritarians.pdf” rel=”nofollow”

  18. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The last time I checked, Trump has frequently called for Hillary Clinton to be in jail, has supported a candidate for Congress for physically attacking a member of the press, and frequently stopped just short of calling for his supporters to do the same at his rallies, and has frequently expressed how angry he was at Jeff Sessions for not stopping the Mueller investigation.

    Yes, but here’s the thing: Hillary Clinton is not in jail, people still go to jail for attacking members of the press, and the Mueller investigation is still ongoing. What we have is a petulant child angry he doesn’t get his way but who can’t make others bend to his will. That’s the opposite of authoritarianism.

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  19. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “I recently watched a bit of the (now old) debates where Trump threatened to put Hillary Clinton in jail. It plays a lot differently now.”

    Not surprisingly, you are both behind the times and misinformed. Trump did not stop calling for Hillary Clinton to be put in jail when the debates (or even the election) ended. He tried to order the Justice Department to start a prosecution of her:

    “President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring [of 2018] that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.”

    Never stop carrying water for Trump. One of these days, your most fervent wishes will come true.

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  20. James Joyner says:

    @Erik:

    Anyone who hasn’t read The Authoritarians by Bob Altemeyer

    But Altemeyer is a psychologist using a completely different definition of the word. He’s describing an attitude, not a governing style.

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  21. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “What we have is a petulant child angry he doesn’t get his way but who can’t make others bend to his will. That’s the opposite of authoritarianism.”

    I think you are entirely off base here. As noted above, especially in the definition provided by @Teve: and in @Kylopod: ‘s comment that this is a distinction without a difference.

  22. Han says:

    I really wish people who like to lecture (not an insult, I’m one of them!) would keep somewhere in the front of their mind what a term of art is, while simultaneously remembering most people do not belong to their profession. The WaPo is not a trade magazine.

  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    Dave Schuler has chosen a path of moral recusal in the face of Trumpism. To deny that Trump very much wants to be, intends to be, tries to be authoritarian is utter nonsense. To draw a line between aspiration and effect is simply semantic obfuscation.

    Is a person not in any way what they intend to be? If you intend to be a serial killer but only manage to commit one murder before being caught, would that merit huffy denials when that person is identified as a serial killer? How dare you refer to my client as a serial killer, he only got around to killing the one person. Why, to call him a serial killer is an outrage I say!

    Trump daily uses his position to intimidate witnesses. That’s not authoritarian? He insists that only he is capable of knowing the truth. That’s not authoritarian? He attacks the media. Not authoritarian? Calls for his political opponents to be jailed. Calls for people who oppose him to be beaten. Allies himself with authoritarian governments. Lies to cover up the deeds of authoritarian governments. None of that makes him definitionally authoritarian?

    Dave Schuler is too smart for me to call him an idiot, but his decision to take an amoral stance as relates to this vile, racist, misogynist, ignorant, dishonest and yes authoritarian Russian asset and practicing criminal, is disappointing. And this attempt to define away his own failure to grasp reality is just sad and disappointing.

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  24. James Pearce says:

    @Moosebreath:

    He tried to order the Justice Department to start a prosecution of her:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but did the Justice Department click their heels and go “Jawohl” or did they go, “Umm…that’s not how this works?” Authoritarian…or clown without a clue?

  25. James Joyner says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Dave Schuler has chosen a path of moral recusal in the face of Trumpism.

    I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of Dave’s position. He regularly calls out Trump’s terpitude.

    To deny that Trump very much wants to be, intends to be, tries to be authoritarian is utter nonsense. To draw a line between aspiration and effect is simply semantic obfuscation.

    Morally, yes. As a description of our system of government, the distinction is huge.

    Is a person not in any way what they intend to be? If you intend to be a serial killer but only manage to commit one murder before being caught, would that merit huffy denials when that person is identified as a serial killer? How dare you refer to my client as a serial killer, he only got around to killing the one person. Why, to call him a serial killer is an outrage I say!

    Well, I say that the person in question actually isn’t a serial killer. Presuming he’s not just insane, I’d advocate for punishing him the maximum possible for the one murder we can prove on the basis of that intent. But mere desire to kill people isn’t a crime.

    Trump daily uses his position to intimidate witnesses. That’s not authoritarian? He insists that only he is capable of knowing the truth. That’s not authoritarian? He attacks the media. Not authoritarian? Calls for his political opponents to be jailed. Calls for people who oppose him to be beaten. Allies himself with authoritarian governments. Lies to cover up the deeds of authoritarian governments. None of that makes him definitionally authoritarian?

    I think many of those qualify as “authoritarian” under some definitions. But his lack of actual follow-through makes not an authoritarian in terms of his political science regime type.

    Dave Schuler is too smart for me to call him an idiot, but his decision to take an amoral stance as relates to this vile, racist, misogynist, ignorant, dishonest and yes authoritarian Russian asset and practicing criminal, is disappointing. And this attempt to define away his own failure to grasp reality is just sad and disappointing.

    Again, I don’t think that fairly characterizes Dave’s position. His most recent posting, for example, expresses consternation that the Mueller indictments thus far are about mostly about lying to investigators rather than the underlying crimes that were the purpose of the investigation. But he allows that “[V]arious Trump Administration and campaign officials lied to the FBI. I think they’re a bunch of creeps and lowlifes who are incapable of uttering a simple declarative sentence without lying.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement. But he seems to be less exasperated with Trump’s excesses and violations of the norms than I am. Maybe it’s a Chicago thing: he’s seen worse.

  26. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “As a description of our system of government, the distinction is huge.”

    Almost as huge as the difference between stating “Trump is not authoritarian” as the title to this post does, and “The current US Government under President Trump is not authoritarian”.

  27. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    Almost as huge as the difference between stating “Trump is not authoritarian” as the title to this post does, and “The current US Government under President Trump is not authoritarian”.

    I’m assuing people know what “authoritarian” means in the context of political leadership. And the subhead of the post is “The President is an ignoramus and a blowhard and a petulant child but he’s operating within the Constitutional limits of his office,” which rather defines the scope of my argument. The two professors in question are, after all, explicitly lumping together the presidents of the USA and Venezuela.

  28. Joe says:

    So the simple solution here is to install Trump as the President of Venezuela (perhaps as part of Reynolds’ pardon, resign, flee to a country with weak extradition treaties with the US strategy). We are rid of Trump and he can exercise his authoritarian intentions without the constraints of America’s pesky democratic structures. He even gets oil wealth. I call this a win/win (but for other Venezuelans).

  29. Teve says:

    Ken Dilanian
    @KenDilanianNBC

    Senior intelligence officials have said that it’s extremely difficult to convince Trump he is wrong about something, no matter how much evidence they can put in front of him. He believes what he believes.

    9:48 AM · Jan 30, 2019 · Twitter Web Client

    in a sane world, Republicans would impeach him just for that. That’s dangerous as all shit.

  30. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “And the subhead of the post is “The President is an ignoramus and a blowhard and a petulant child but he’s operating within the Constitutional limits of his office,” which rather defines the scope of my argument.”

    I think our difference stems from your repeated use of the word “blowhard”, which implies that he is a braggart but does not expect to actually do anything, and what I am seeing, which is that he is very much an authoritarian in his aspirations, and likely will violate Constitutional limits if not curtailed.

  31. James Pearce says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I don’t think that fairly characterizes Dave’s position.

    Shocking…

  32. drj says:

    @James Joyner:

    Again, I don’t think that fairly characterizes Dave’s position. His most recent posting, for example, expresses consternation that the Mueller indictments thus far are about mostly about lying to investigators rather than the underlying crimes that were the purpose of the investigation.

    For the record, I took the trouble of actually looking at his most recent posting. And it’s both wrong and breathtakingly dishonest.

    He writes:

    But based on my understanding every single crime with which they have been charged emerged from the investigation, i.e. would not have occurred but for the investigation.

    Even if this were correct (which it isn’t – both Gates and Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States), Schuler blithely ignores that Russia stole DNC emails and used those to influence the 2016 elections in Trump’s favor. This is not seriously contested.

    In a situation like this, lying to federal investigators about your contacts with these very same Russians is not a big nothingburger.

    Schuler pretends it is reasonable to assume at this point that we are dealing with an unfortunate combination of coincidences and overzealous prosecutors.

    Nobody is truly that stupid.

  33. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    I’m viewing the question based on common political science definitions of regime type and leadership styles (for a recent primer, see Marlies Glasius’s “What authoritarianism is … and is not: a practice perspective“), whereas readers (and, upon reflection, possibly Finchelstein and Piccato) are using lay definitions.

    Is it possible that since this article was on the OP-ED (I assume) page of WaPo instead of Foreign Police or a similar journal, that your focus may be a touch off point? I grant that without that focus, this post is a non-starter, but, as others have already noted, you’re starting to look like a Trump apologist against your own interests. I simply see it as another example that you are coming back around to your conservativeGOP roots and needing to find ways explain Trump away as the “root of the problem” with both conservatism and the GOP, but I’m cynical. Probably too much so.

    (Since I’ve started to treat you as though you are a troll–and I know you’re not. I promise not to comment on either of your two posts today again.)

  34. grumpy realist says:

    Saying that Trump isn’t an authoritarian simply because our present systems are keeping him in check is like saying “the doofus who attempted to swing a sword to cut that guy’s head off, tripped, and stabbed himself isn’t a murderer.” You’re right. It is however ALSO true that he’s guilty of attempted murder, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

    How close does Trump have to get to actually putting his enemies in cages before you admit that yes, he IS an authoritarian?

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  35. Gustopher says:

    @grumpy realist:

    How close does Trump have to get to actually putting his enemies in cages before you admit that yes, he IS an authoritarian?

    Trump is such a weak and ineffective authoritarian that he can only put children in cages.

  36. Gustopher says:

    To me, the more interesting question is the degree to which Republican Members of Congress have a duty to constrain Trump’s illiberal impulses more aggressively than they have.

    If Trump were not so lazy and incompetent, and so determined to be the smartest person in the room that he surrounds himself with sycophants and people even dumber than him, he would be a grave danger to our democracy. Instead, he gets hamstrung in the norms he tries to destroy and complains about the “Deep State.”

    It seems pretty clear, though, that the Republican Party is ready to embrace a strongman leader, given how little opposition and oversight they have done on Trump. Party over Country.

  37. Teve says:

    If Trump were not so lazy and incompetent, and so determined to be the smartest person in the room that he surrounds himself with sycophants and people even dumber than him, he would be a grave danger to our democracy. Instead, he gets hamstrung in the norms he tries to destroy and complains about the “Deep State.”

    It seems pretty clear, though, that the Republican Party is ready to embrace a strongman leader, given how little opposition and oversight they have done on Trump. Party over Country.

    indeed, what’s scary about Trump is not that he’s going to become a malevolent dictator, because he’s too incompetent. What’s scary about him is he exposed the lie we tell ourselves that basically all Americans are fundamentally good and decent people who would never go along with such a thing. Trump shows that thirtyish (27? ) percent of the American public are stupid shitty people, who would go along with a dictator as long as he hated the same people they hate.

  38. An Interested Party says:

    It seems pretty clear, though, that the Republican Party is ready to embrace a strongman leader, given how little opposition and oversight they have done on Trump. Party over Country.

    This is the key point in all of this…as bad as Trump is, the Republicans are far worse for not keeping him in check…and all because they are afraid of his base? That’s pathetic…

  39. Franklin says:

    @James Joyner: Just to chime in, I agree with this post. He almost certainly would prefer to be an authoritarian, but the system is much smarter than him.

  40. Scott O says:
  41. James Joyner says:

    @Scott O:

    @Erik: Allow me.
    https://theauthoritarians.org/Downloads/TheAuthoritarians.pdf

    Audio version on youtube
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6aEaubXjWx4

    This may or may not be a fine book. But it’s a pet theory by a psychologist having nothing to do with authoritarianism as a political form.

  42. Erik says:

    @James Joyner: i don’t think it is fair for you to dismiss this theory through diminution as a “pet” theory. It should stand or fall as a theory on its own merits, not how much attention someone lavishes on it.

    But to get back to the main point, I get that you do not want to link the way he uses the word and the way you are using it, although I’m not sure why. Consider that the authoritarian governing style you are writing about could well be rooted in the psychological predispositions Altemeyer writes about.

  43. gVOR08 says:

    Hitler wasn’t an authoritarian, operating secret police, imprisoning political opponents, dictating press coverage, and killing Jews – until he was.