The GOP’s ‘Off the Rails’ March Toward Authoritarianism Has Historians Worried

In particular, the real warning sign for Levitsky was that so much of the energy pushing the Republican Party in an authoritarian direction came from the bottom up and was not driven by elites. “This is a grassroots movement, really pronounced at the level of the activist base and the state level,” he said.

Ziblatt noted that once a party radicalizes, it’s very hard for the process to reverse itself. The violent events of January 6 actually presented the GOP with an exit ramp, a chance to condemn the violence and take steps toward becoming a more traditional center-right party. Instead, Levitsky argues, “they missed it.”

“Lots of GOP leaders said the right thing for 24-48 hours, took a step back, sniffed the wind, looked at the polls and continued the march towards authoritarianism,” he said.

We should probably be more worried than we seem to be. Collectively, I think the general trend in the U.S. is to not participate if we don’t have to, which is to say, complacency. Certainly, things have been stirred up far more than usual the past 10 years. So maybe things have changed on a fundamental energy. There certainly seems to be a lot more energy.