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Historians Warn the GOP Is Pushing Nation Toward Trump-Based Authoritarianism

Far right Republicans must lose the midterms and the 2024 presidential race to ensure democracy survives, they said.

President Donald Trump claps during a rally at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, on November 4, 2019.

Two historians in Kentucky have vociferously expressed their concerns over the future of democracy in the United States and the possibility that Trumpism will make a return after either the 2022 midterms or the 2024 presidential election.

“This is real, this is serious and it’s frightening,” Brian Clardy, professor of history at Murray State University, said regarding the potential for the nation to descend into a far right authoritarian state focused on white supremacy.

The solution to countering that possibility, Clardy suggested, was for Democrats to point out how extreme the GOP has gone over the past decade or so — and what damage could result if Republicans are given the chance to run things again.

“The Democrats have to remind people that next year and in 2024, democracy itself will be on trial,” Clardy wrote.

John Hennen, professor emeritus at Morehead State University, agreed, adding that those who shared such concerns need to be part of a structure to “build a democratic resistance” to Trumpism. “In short, we must all become ‘antifa,’ or antifascists,” Hennen said.

Commentaries from Clardy and Hennen were highlighted in an opinion piece written by a third historian, Berry Craig, a professor emeritus of history at West Kentucky Community College in Paducah, in the Louisville Courier-Journal on Wednesday.

Many pundits and political analysts believe that being anti-Trump won’t be enough for Democrats to retain control of Congress past the 2022 midterms. Indeed, the passage of important legislation, including bills aimed at protecting voting rights and President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better economic package, are seen as necessary accomplishments for keeping voters happy and staving off electoral defeat next year.

Keeping Congress out of the hands of Trumpists, as well as ensuring far right Republicans do not win the presidency three years from now, is paramount to keeping democracy intact, Craig wrote in his op-ed.

Democrats are failing to call out Trump and his allies for what they are, Craig observed.

“Trump and his sycophants ceaselessly demagogue against President Joe Biden and his party, falsely portraying them as ‘radical socialists’ and even ‘communists’ who conspired to ‘steal’ the 2020 election,” Craig wrote. However, too many “Democrats resist calling Trumpism what it is — a racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic and religiously bigoted movement that is anti-democratic and embraces violence and vigilantism.”

The rise of authoritarian tendencies on the right is indeed worrisome — and it’s a bigger problem than some might believe, data seems to suggest. According to research from Morning Consult, 26 percent of the U.S. population qualifies as “highly right-wing authoritarian.” That rate is more than double what is seen in Canada and Australia, the organization noted.

These tendencies result in an acceptance of violent behavior to achieve political ends. Morning Consult’s research also pointed out that more than one-in-three right-leaning adults in the country (34 percent) viewed the attack on the Capitol almost one year ago as happening to “protect the U.S. government,” not an attempted overthrow of the 2020 presidential election results.