Where is the lesson of the 20th century where authoritarianism was defeated by these means? I don’t think there are any. These are intellectual speculations that have little to do with their defeat. Instead, fascism was defeated by force of arms, not intellectual dispute. There is little, if any, evidence that authoritarians yield to rational argument, instead they yield to superior power.
That is how all politics work. Our founders understood that it was not the declaration of independence that gained their freedom from the autocrat King George, it was the French navy and shedding the blood of British soldiers. For them, democratic politics was not an intellectual exercise, but an alternative to violence for exercising power.
The real problem we face is that our ruling elite built a powerful central government on the assumption that it would always be at their service. The power of that government is now in the hands of autocrats and they are unlikely to let go of it peacefully. The real lesson of the 20th century is the one Thomas Jefferson expressed in the 19th century, “ The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”
Successful resistance depends on the willingness of people who are prepared to put themselves, their lives and their fortunes as risk.The brilliant conversations in the comfort of Harvard and Yale are really irrelevant at this point. Standing Rock is a lot closer to the front lines.