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Yesterday, all but nine House Republicans voted against holding Steven Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying a lawful subpoena to speak before the January 6th Select Committee. That lawmakers — people who are sworn to uphold the law — would embrace lawbreaking is extraordinary and dangerous. But this is where we are as Donald Trump orders the GOP to do his bidding. This is how would-be dictatorships work.
New York University professor Ruth Ben-Ghiat studies authoritarian leaders. Her book, Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, was published last year and is a must-read. I had her on my SiriusXM program several times, including last week, to discuss Donald Trump and what he has in common with dictators and autocrats of the past and present.
The GOP and the Trump base have lately been holding up Hungary and its authoritarian leader Victor Orban as a model for the U.S. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson went to Budapest with his show for a full week. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is heading to Budapest for its next gathering.
This is a breathtaking open embrace of anti-democratic, authoritarian, corrupt and criminal leadership. Orban and Hungary are on the brink of being expelled by the European Union because of human rights abuses — attacks on LGBTQ people and immigrants — and the stripping or rights of citizens.
In our interview last week, Ben-Ghiat noted:
With this kind of strongmen personality where they are so arrogant and they need to be in power, because they’re very corrupt and they need immunity from prosecution, they will stop at nothing to get back in power. And then once they do, they make sure that nobody can touch them again.
She was talking about Orban, but she may as well have been talking about Trump. Orban lost an election and then spent his entire time out of power claiming that he really had won and was a victim of voter fraud — his own Big Lie. When he rose to power a second time he stripped rights and consolidated power in a way that made it difficult if not impossible for him to ever lose power again. Trump is clearly modeling himself on Orban among others.
Ben-Ghiat and I discussed the current trajectory of the GOP and Trump, and why we can’t just push him aside or stop focusing on him. Every day they are organizing to subvert democracy.
Listen in and let me know your thoughts.
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