Has the GOP turned the corner towards authoritarianism?

In the past four years, the Republican Party has increasingly come to resemble the right-wing parties in Europe and South America – authoritarian, nativist, and quasi-isolationist.

Western political parties trace their development to the 19th century breakup of European monarchies. Left wing parties gravitated to forms of collectivism, including socialism and later Marxism. There are traces of socialism in today’s Democratic Party, though party regulars and President elect Biden have thus far remained dominant. By contrast, the parties of the right focused on a strong central government, stability, traditional institutions and law and order above all else.

American conservatism contained roots of this tradition, dating back to the 19th and early 20th century. Indeed, the Right was still decidedly isolationist right up until the eve of World War II. In the war’s aftermath, American conservatism benefitted from two developments that separated it from its European cousins. The first was the influence of the Austrian school of economics, which preached freedom as a counterweight to tradition, limited government, free enterprise and development of open markets. The second was a political movement that blended law and tradition with freedom and opportunity for all, regardless of social status. This effort to unite cultural conservatives with economic libertarians was popularized by Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, George W Bush and every other Republican presidential nominee until 2016.