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Our Institutions Will Not Save Us From Republican Authoritarianism

If the GOP wins in 2022 and 2024, here’s how it’ll capture Congress, the courts, and the executive branch to make America into Hungary.

Immediately following the 2016 election, Masha Gessen published their seminal article “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” Their first three rules were: Believe the autocrat, do not be taken in by small signs of normality, and your institutions will not save you. People who exist in the center and center-left have consistently failed at adhering to the first two: Too many of them still regard Donald Trump and the GOP’s talk of single-party rule as hyperbole aimed at the base, and fail to see Joe Biden’s first two years in office as what they really are—the calm eye of the fascist storm—hoping to see them as proof that normalcy has reasserted itself.

The worst level of Pollyannaism applies to rule three, however. After states failed to overturn elections in 2020 and the court systems almost universally rejected Trump’s attempts, there has been a feeling that the guardrails of democracy held and that the danger is not imminent. For anyone paying closer attention, those guardrails have continued to weaken and are in the process of failing long before the next aspiring autocrat chooses to test them.


We can already see the system cracking and breaking everywhere under the pressure of a corrupted judiciary and institutions packed with unqualified partisan hacks. The most obvious example of this is the criminal investigations into former President Trump. Although Trump was effectively caught red-handed attempting to hold onto top-secret documents, Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointed district judge, issued a series of bizarre rulings that does everything possible to shield him from prosecution.  Similarly, judges in Texas have been refusing to uphold subpoenas from Georgia prosecutors over Trump’s interference in the election there.

In Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, Republican legislators have repeatedly submitted gerrymandered maps that courts have found violate state or federal law. The solution they found was not to draw maps that are legal but instead to keep submitting illegal maps and waiting for the courts to rule that it’s too close to the election to do anything about it. The result: Republicans pick up an extra five to seven seats in the House in a cycle where control of Congress will likely come down to just a few seats. If Republicans take the House, they are promising to use it to create a circus of subpoenas and impeachment hearings against Hunter Biden, Merrick Garland, and President Biden, while shutting down federal investigations of President Trump….

Should Trump and the GOP take power again in 2024, they are promising to capture and corrupt every other institutional guardrail they can by gutting them of institutionalists and replacing them with Trump loyalists and partisan hacks. This includes the military, the Justice Department, Homeland Security, the intelligence community, and the FBI. The potential for abuse is staggering. Imagine an FBI and a DOJ that are used extensively as weapons to investigate, harass, and jail political enemies. Or a Defense Department willing to use troops to put down anti-Trump protests with overwhelming violence. Or an intelligence community that produces an unending stream of pro-Russian pronouncements? The potential for abuse is endless.

And unfortunately, we are almost at a point of no return to prevent this. After the 2022 election, this future could be baked in. Once the United States falls down the same gravity well into competitive authoritarianism that Hungary and Russia have gone down, there’s almost certainly no coming back from it in my lifetime. Whatever institutions might save us from this are crumbling fast, being deliberately undermined, and won’t survive another four years under Trump.




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Trump Hotels Charged Secret Service Exorbitant Rates, House Inquiry Finds


The Trump Organization charged the Secret Service up to $1,185 per night for hotel rooms used by agents protecting former President Donald Trump and his family, according to documents released Monday by the House Oversight Committee, forcing a federal agency to pay well above government rates. The committee released Secret Service records showing more than $1.4 million in payments by the department to Trump properties since Trump took office in 2017. The committee said that the accounting was incomplete, however, because it did not include payments to Trump’s foreign properties – where agents accompanied his family repeatedly – and because the records stopped in September 2021.  

The records that the panel managed to obtain provided new details about an arrangement in which Trump and his family effectively turned the Secret Service into a captive customer of their business – by visiting their properties hundreds of times and then charging the government rates far above its usual spending limits for their protectors to follow.

“What gets me is, over and over again, how they just lie about this stuff,” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the Oversight Committee. “Documents don’t lie.”


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