During Donald Trump's four years as president of the United States, many Never Trump conservatives argued that Trump's movement was not motivated by traditional conservatism and a belief in smaller government, but by a longing for authoritarianism. Trump's presidency, much to the delight of Never Trumpers, ended on January 20 when President Joe Biden was sworn in. But author/attorney Richard North Patterson, in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on January 26, warns that an appetite for fascism is still alive and well in the Republican Party.
"Social science suggests that a majority of Trump voters are instinctive authoritarians," Patterson explains. "But one cannot separate Trumpism from the inherent character of the party which spawned him…. The word 'fascist' too often precedes anti-historical histrionics, but the term is useful in deconstructing the devolution of Republicanism into the minoritarian-authoritarian saboteur of pluralist democracy."
Patterson goes on to say that efforts to overturn the democratic results of the 2020 presidential election underscore the authoritarian nature of Trump's movement.
"Consider the predicates of nascent fascism," Patterson writes. "Trump relentlessly exploited a sense of decline, humiliation and victimization among marginalized Whites, even as he evoked America's loss of strength and purity. His supporters' 'redemptive violence' at our capital was preceded in Michigan, as one example, by armed incursion the state legislature and an abortive effort to kidnap and execute the governor. While claiming to protect democracy, the GOP persistently undermines the right of disfavored groups to vote."
Patterson notes that although there was no truth to Trump's claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election, that didn't stop countless Republicans from promoting them.
"Classical fascism conditions its followers to accept 'the big lie' which unifies their discontents and justifies their leaders' actions," Patterson explains. "So, in 2020, did the GOP. Granted that the big Republican lie did not equal Hitler's poisonous assertion that perfidious Jews stabbed Germany in the back, but the GOP's lie to its base was, nonetheless, breathtakingly ambitious: that an unfathomable conspiracy involving thousands of state and local officials and judges, many Republicans, had stolen the presidency from Donald Trump — from them."
Patterson notes some dangerous trends in the post-Trump Administration GOP — for example, he points out, "polling shows that a full one-third of Trump supporters" believe that the violent "mob" that stormed the U.S. Capitol Building on January 6 "represented their grievances." And he adds that "more broadly, half of the (Republican) Party's electorate believes that GOP lawmakers did not go far enough in attempting to overturn the election."
"One envisions Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, and Tom Cotton competing with Donald Trump, Jr. for the Republican nomination in 2024, with Nikki Haley straining to put an anodyne non-White veneer on the party's authoritarian meta-narrative," Patterson argues. "It is far too little to say that the GOP has lost its way. Quite deliberately, it has become American democracy's most dangerous enemy."