If the past week — and past four years — have proven anything, it’s that we are not as different as we believed. No longer is the question, "Can it happen here?" It’s happening already. As this podcast goes to air, the current president of the United States is attempting what — if it occurred in any other country — we would call an anti-democratic coup.
This coup attempt will probably not work. But the fact that it is being carried out farcically, erratically, ineffectively does not mean it is not happening, or that it will not have consequences.
The most alarming aspect of all this is not Donald Trump’s anti-democratic antics; it’s the speed at which Republican elites have consolidated support around him. Some politicians, like Lindsey Graham, have wholeheartedly endorsed Trump's claims. On Monday, Graham said that Trump should not concede the election and that "Republicans win because of our ideas and we lose elections because [Democrats] cheat." Others — including Mike Pence, Marco Rubio, and Josh Hawley — have signaled solidarity with the president, while not quite endorsing his conspiracies. The message is clear: When faced with the choice of loyalty to Trump and the legitimacy of the democratic process, Republicans are more than willing to throw democracy under the bus.
Anne Applebaum is a staff writer for the Atlantic, a senior fellow of international affairs at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and most recently the author of Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. In it, Applebaum, once comfortable in center-right elite circles, grapples with why so many of her contemporaries across the globe — including right here in America — have abandoned liberal democracy in favor of strongman cults and autocratic regimes. We discuss:
- How the media would be covering Trump’s actions — and the GOP’s enabling of him — if this were taking place in a foreign country
- How the last four years have shattered the belief in the idea that America is uniquely resistant to the lure of authoritarianism
- Why most politicians under increasingly autocratic regimes choose to collaborate with the regime, and why a select few choose to dissent
- The “apocalyptic pessimism” and “cultural despair” that undergirds the worldview of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters
- How Lindsey Graham went from outspoken Trump critic to one of Trump’s most vocal supporters in the US Senate
- Why the Republican Party ultimately took the path of Sarah Palin and Donald Trump, not John McCain and Mitt Romney
- Why what ultimately separates Never Trumpers from Trump enablers is a steadfast commitment to American democracy
- What we can expect to happen if and when a much more competent, capable demagogue emerges in Trump’s place
- Whether the Biden administration can lower the temperature of American politics from its fever pitch
- The one thing that gives me a glimmer of hope about the Biden presidency
"Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight" by Ezra Klein, Vox
"History Will Judge the Complicit" by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic
“Laura Ingraham’s Descent Into Despair” by Anne Applebaum, The Atlantic
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Producer/Audio engineer - Jeff Geld
Researcher - Roge Karma
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