If authoritarianism is looming in the U.S., how come Donald Trump looks so weak?

A little bit more than 20 years ago the Republicans controlled Congress but not the White House. But so powerful – and threatening to the prospects of Bill Clinton’s reelection – were they, they were able to force the Democratic president to sign a rollback of the welfare state as dramatic and draconian as anything passed by Ronald Reagan.

Today, the Republicans are in full control of the federal government.

Instead of launching an assault on the welfare and entitlement state, as many of them had promised after their tax cut, they’ve announced defeat without ever having tried for victory.

“Besides the possibility of an infrastructure bill,” one of their most rightwing leaders acknowledges, “the only two things that will probably get done are an immigration deal and keeping the lights on in the government”.

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