The GOP's telltale signs of authoritarianism

Having been established as the GOP’s undisputed ruler, Trump is encountering some of the headaches and tensions common to all autocrats. The first and most obvious is the lack of a clear succession principle. In 2020, the party proudly defined itself as an organization devoted to Trump, forgoing the creation of a party platform beyond ‘We ❤ Trump.’ No wonder other notables who would seem to have their own independent bases of support, like Nikki Haley and Sen. Mitch McConnell, can’t bring themselves to quit him, and dissidents like Reps. Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger face de facto excommunication. How could any of them make a claim to become the new leader of the party if the party only exists to serve the current leader? Because actively opposing Trump is impossible, Republicans with presidential ambitions have no choice but to ingratiate themselves to him in the hope of gaining an advantageous position in the squabble for his endorsement should he choose not to run.

Another issue common to both authoritarian regimes and the Trump-era Republican party is the paucity of trustworthy, honest information. Most autocrats struggle to figure out who is telling them the truth and who is a yes-man—the incentives of lower-level officials to inflate their success to their superiors are infamous. Trump embraces the problem, eschewing anyone who dares to give him bad news.

And then, of course, there’s the brain drain.