The GOP Bet the House on Authoritarianism and Lost
This is why America can now only turn to the Democrats to uphold democracy.
As I write this, Raphael Warnock has clinched the Senate race in Georgia and Jon Ossoff is on his way to do the same. With the Democrats being well on their way to controlling the upper house, the presidency and the lower house, one thing is for certain — the GOP banked on authoritarianism to win them democratic elections and lost.
And while the Republicans losing power may seem like a convincing victory for democracy — it’s not concrete. Take a look at the numbers — they’re not landslides — the Democrats are getting through by the skin of their teeth. And I’m not inclined to believe those numbers are getting better anytime soon. Because this election cycle has been anything but normal. Americans have had to face fascism head-on. They’ve had to fight misinformation, hold politicians to account for failed public health policies, and stick it to them for stimulus checks that were more insults than anything else.
And there’s a reason I bring all that up. This was this time. What about the next? When there’s no Donald Trump leading them, when everything isn't so “in your face” anymore? Will Americans realise that the GOP will still be the same? You see, once political parties hitch their wagon to authoritarians, they rarely, if ever, go back. And by that I don't necessarily mean that they’re always propping up dictators — no, what I mean is that the mentality doesn't change. The idea where they are “above” you, where the state exists to serve them and not you stays the same.
It’s been around 30 years since democratic dictators showed up on the political scene in my country. Over time, their parties became nothing more than propaganda and misinformation distributing machines for them. They’d lie, cheat and steal for them — on demand. And it doesn't stop even when the leader isn't electable anymore. These parties become a cult that makes serving themselves at your expense their life’s mission.
And I know that description is verging on the unbelievable. But it’s a case of them plunging themselves so far down the hole that, no matter what they do, they can’t climb back out. The GOP, as bad as it already seems, isn't at that point yet. Make no mistake — they’re well on their way. But it also seems like they have no intention of turning around.
And if you’re wondering why I’m drawing comparisons between Republicans and politicians of the Third World, it’s because the similarities between the two are staggering. Let me explain. First, take yourself back a few years. You turn on the news and see that a president was trying to stage a coup and that his party stood by his side throughout. Which country would be the first to come to mind? One that was known for corruption, unfathomable levels of poverty and political dynasties, right?
So if I asked you the same question today, which country would be the first to come to mind? Exactly.
What’s happened in America over the past few months is nothing short of unimaginable. And I do mean that. Had anyone told you in the run-up to the 2016 election that this is what would happen, you’d probably have denounced them as a nutjob. But here we are — a point where the only thing that’s differentiating Republican politics from that of dictators in the Third World is that the former is happening in a country with wealth.
And while it’s true that America’s money is bound to soften the blow of the GOP’s pursuit of authoritarian politics, the question America needs to be asking is, “for how long?” Because, like I said, the Republican party isn't showing any major signs that it’s going to be changing course. After all, it was their authoritarian president that got 73 million votes. And they realise that, if they’re to have any share of that for their own elections, they can’t be seen as “letting the side down.” That’s why Republicans have been largely silent as Trump worked day and night to set fire to American democracy.
So how can one expect a party that chose to stand by silently to uphold that democracy? When they've given you all the proof you need that they simply don't care? That they’ll do whatever it takes as long as they win? You see, the one thing the GOP has shown America is that, as things stand, the Democratic Party are the only ones the American people can rest their hopes on to actually be democratic.
And this is where Americans need to pay close attention. Because they managed to nudge the Democrats to victory this time. But what about the next time? When the forces of fascism and misinformation are not at Donald Trump levels of “in your face?” When they work in silence? Will Americans still vote in historic numbers then? I doubt it.
Perhaps it’s because Trump was so loud and obnoxious that the average American couldn't help but think he was the problem. While that’s partly true, giving Trump all the attention, if anything, does the GOP a massive favour. Because they want to be able to do their authoritarian bidding and get away with it. It’s why, in a country where everything’s so “loud,” they chose to back authoritarianism in silence.
And come the next election, America needs to show that it saw through that. That by backing Trump through thick and thin, the GOP made it clear who it owes its loyalty to. Because if they don’t, if the GOP manage to win, this is only going to get worse. A Republican win, either in two years or four, will solidify their belief that their brand of authoritarian politics is what’s going to keep them in office. And once they get to that point, they can only double down. This is why democratic dictators in developing countries seem to have a knack for getting worse with time. So while the GOP is already fast approaching the point of no return, democratic backing will only make that process faster.
That will inevitably lead to a political arena dominated by a blatant disregard for democracy. Americans will be walking into polling booths not knowing whether there will be another attempt to overturn their vote. Whether a Republican-controlled Congress will stand by them if it happens. And that’s not a democracy. That’s you being completely dependant on the goodwill of the authoritarians you’ve elected. And sure, if you vote for them, they’ll gladly declare the election to be one that was free and fair. Try and boot them out of office however and — well, haven’t you just experienced what happens next?
I hope that’s shown you authoritarianism has the capability of being cyclical. What happens once, happens again. Once politicians set precedents to squash democracy, as Donald Trump has done, it makes it infinitely easier for the ones after him to entertain the same idea. And the Third World is riddled with examples for this. It’s a question of, “Well, they got away with it. Why can’t I?” And while that sounds like a relatively harmless phrase you’ve heard time and again, it’s anything but when it’s being said in the context of assaulting democracy.
And that’s where the GOP is headed. They’ve set the precedents and, like democratic dictators in the developing world, it’s only a matter of time before they follow through. After all, why would they go through the trouble of doing so if they weren't?
So will America stop them at the next election? Because their democracy hasn’t eroded yet. It’s fallen, it’s been battered and bruised but it wasn’t knocked out. Will it be able to survive for much longer if Americans don’t intervene? If they let the GOP carry on with their authoritarian agendas? The next election will lead us closer to the answer. But what, paradoxically albeit, works in America’s favour is that it’s just seen a trailer of what will happen if it lets the GOP run riot.