When democracies are replaced by authoritarianism, it isn’t necessarily because of a violent coup d’état or golpe de estado like the overthrow of Salvador Allende by fascist dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet and his allies in Chile in 1973. Sometimes, authoritarians are voted into office and gradually undermine a democracy’s check and balances until it becomes increasingly undemocratic, which is what has happened with Viktor Orbán in Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey. And it is what MAGA Republicans are trying to do in the United States.
Many of the warnings against the authoritarian efforts of former President Donald Trump’s MAGA movement have been coming from the left, but some Never Trump conservatives have been speaking out as well. One of them is Washington Post opinion columnist Max Boot, who warns that too many Americans — including some Democratic voters — fail to realize how great a “threat” U.S. democracy is facing.
Boot, in his May 10 column, points to a CNN poll released in February. CNN asked if it is likely that “in the next few years, some elected officials will successfully overturn the results of an election”; 51% of Republicans and 44% of Democrats responded that it’s not at all likely.
“This reminds me of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denying, before February 24, that a Russian invasion was imminent and telling people not to ‘panic’ even as Russian armies were massing in plain sight,” Boot writes. “Panic is generally a bad idea, but sometimes, it is warranted. Now is one of those times for anyone who cares about the fate of U.S. democracy.”
Boot continues, “Republicans have succeeded in restricting voting rights in 19 states. Democrats have failed to protect voting rights at the national level because they can’t break a Senate filibuster. Meanwhile, at least 23 supporters of the Big Lie — which holds that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump — are running for secretary of state posts to oversee elections in 19 states. Other election deniers are joining election boards.”
The conservative columnist, who supported now-President Joe Biden in the 2020 election and is a scathing critic of former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement, notes that “fealty to the Big Lie” has “become a litmus test for Republican candidates because it has become gospel for Republican voters.”
“Despite all the damning details that have emerged about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” Boot laments, “Trump remains the dominant figure within the GOP — which means that most Republicans have tacitly accepted that inciting an insurrection is no big deal.”
MAGA Republicans, Boot warns, won’t hesitate to steal the 2024 presidential election in an “authoritarian” way.
“(Trump’s) ‘trump card,’ so to speak, is the House, which is likely to be under GOP control after the midterms,” Boot explains. “CNBC founder Tom Rogers and former Democratic Sen. Timothy Wirth point out in Newsweek that controlling the House can allow Trump to steal the presidency if the election is close. Republican state legislatures in swing states that Biden or another Democrat narrowly wins can claim the results are fraudulent and send in competing slates of electors pledged to Trump. The House and Senate would then vote on which electors to accept.”
Boot continues, “Even if the Senate remains Democratic, a GOP-controlled House could prevent Biden from getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win. It would then fall to the House to decide the presidency.”
Although conservative, Boot is hoping that Democrats will hold the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms — although he believes they probably won’t.
“The only way to save democracy is to vote for Democrats in the fall,” Boot stresses. “And I say that as an ex-Republican turned independent. It doesn’t matter if you disagree with Democrats on some issues. The overriding issue is the preservation of our democracy. That may sound hyperbolic to some, but that’s precisely the problem. Like so many Ukrainians before February 24, most Americans remain in denial about the threat to our country.”