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The GOP Has Descended Into Authoritarianism, Major Study Finds

The GOP Has Descended Into Authoritarianism, Major Study Finds

The Republican Party has slid into the type of authoritarianism that has overtaken democracies like Hungary, India, and Turkey, a major Swedish study has found.

Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The study, conducted by the Varieties of Democracy Institute, focused on thousands of political parties in 169 nations that have slowly crept toward the extreme right over the last half-century.

“The new V-Party dataset covers 1,955 political parties in 1,560 elections for 169 countries from 1970-2019. The data show that the median governing party in #democracies has become somewhat more #illiberal in recent decades,” the V-Dem Institute tweeted on Monday.

Since 2004, the study discovered, the American Republican Party has rapidly devolved into an authoritative political movement, culminating with the election of Donald Trump in 2016 and the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency.

The #Republican party in the #US has retreated from upholding #democratic norms in recent years,” the Institute wrote on Twitte. “Its rhetoric is now close to #authoritarian parties such as #AKP in #Turkey & #Fidesz in #Hungary, the new V-Party Illiberalism Index shows.”

The GOP is “more similar to autocratic ruling parties such as the Turkish AKP and Fidesz in Hungary than to typical center-right governing parties in democracies such as the Conservatives in the U.K. or CDU in Germany,” the authors of the study said.

Even more concerning was how extreme they determined the Republican Party to be.

“The Republican Party in 2018 was far more illiberal than almost all other governing parties in democracies,” they found. “Only very few governing parties in democracies in this millennium (15%) were considered more illiberal than the Republican Party in the U.S.”

Compare that to the Institute’s analysis of the Democratic Party, which “was rated slightly less illiberal than the typical party in democracies.”

For the study’s authors, a number factors helped determine their conclusions.

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“What we see is that the disrespect of political opponents, the encouragement of violence, and also the violation of minority rights… they have all clearly increased with the Republican Party in recent years, since [Trump] came in the leadership but also before that,” V-Dem deputy director Anna Luehrmann, one of the study’s lead authors, told CNN.

“The disagreement is not any more just about policy,” Luehrmann added. “We see that at least one political group seems to go by: ‘Take all means necessary to achieve our policy goals.'”

In the United States, the GOP’s most sacred crusade has been stacking the judiciary with young, right-wing judges, who will enjoy a lifetime on the bench.

The most recent, and arguably the most controversial, was Trump’s nomination of Appellate Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Barrett was selected to fill the seat of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Republicans flouted Senate rules to jam Barrett’s nomination through, the aim being a radically conservative 6-3 majority on the Court that would, Republicans hope, strike down the Affordable Care Act, strip women of their reproductive rights, rollback environmental protections, take away voting rights from minorities, reverse marriage equality, and even criminalize certain forms of protest and free speech.

Even if Trump loses next week’s election, the coalition of religious extremists, white nationalists, and efforts to disenfranchise voters that have usurped the GOP are not going to vanish overnight, and may become even more emboldened to advance their agenda.

More alarmingly, some of Trump’s fiercest defenders, like the Proud Boys and Ku Klux Klan, have vowed an armed insurrection if Trump is not victorious.

If Trump refuses to concede power, or somehow manages to manipulate his way into a second term by falsely claiming that there was widespread, mail-in voter fraud, the GOP has left him with a judicial apparatus that may render democracy inert.

A President-Elect Joe Biden – and American people – will have their work cut out for them to right the ship. Voting is our weapon.

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