The most scary thing I am hearing on the news here -both from traditional right wing commentators as well as the Democrats is the growing acceptance on the right of an autocratic approach to government. The argument is that indeed the idea of democracy really IS being undermined. AND it is coming from people who are thinking they are the true patriots and are just saving the country from a perceived “socialist” disaster. Underneath all of this is a very real fear from whites that the minorities and minority interests are taking over. Add gender issues, abortion, homosexuality issues and you have emotional issues to use as clubs to advance those autocratic issues.
To add to the scary scenario is the realization that given the media landscape, the internet, fake news, etc, the genie is already out of the bottle and there is little we can do about it. You cant have a free press AND control it at the same time. That means bad ideas can gain just as much currency as good ideas. Meanwhile in a world where “if it bleeds it leads” and the outrageous gets more coverage than everyday good news AND people can now tune into what they WANT to hear and never hear countervailing arguments means it is hard to corral people back to thinking in terms approaching the Truth. Indeed “truth” now depends on what “side” you are on.
The final ingredient to pulling off an autocratic take over is a “champion” that people can follow who will push for the issues they most care about while they are willing to put up with the things about the champion that they don’t like. As long as they THINK he is pushing for those issues it doesn’t really matter if the champion does not really care one way or another. Hitler had many supporters early on that he later turned on the more powerful he got. He also lied and lied and lied along the route to greater power. Those around him as well as the general public rationalized and rationalized and rationalized as well to the point that they ended up putting up with outrageous things that eventually led the entire country to disaster. Historically speaking, the Trump experience has shown us how easy it is to move a country towards what happened in Germany in the 1930s. The problem is – for US democracy – we are not out of the woods yet.