...from historian Christopher Browning (North Carolina). Some are interesting, some just superficial. The best line is describing Mitch McConnell as "the gravedigger of American democracy." His main theme is not that we are heading for Nazi-style totalitarianism (one big obstacle, which he only indirectly mentions, is the absence of a constitutional provision for the suspension of all civil liberties, which made Hindenburg's complicity with Hitler possible), but that we are heading in the direction of "illiberal democracy," in which there are elections, but checks on the abuse of power are muted. Here's a good example:
[O]ther hallmarks of illiberal democracy are the neutralization of a free press and the steady diminution of basic human rights. On these issues, often described as the guardrails of democracy against authoritarian encroachment, the Trump administration either has won or seems poised to win significant gains for illiberalism. Upon his appointment as chancellor, Hitler immediately created a new Ministry of People’s Enlightenment and Propaganda under Joseph Goebbels, who remained one of his closest political advisers.
In Trump’s presidency, those functions have effectively been privatized in the form of Fox News and Sean Hannity. Fox faithfully trumpets the “alternative facts” of the Trump version of events, and in turn Trump frequently finds inspiration for his tweets and fantasy-filled statements from his daily monitoring of Fox commentators and his late-night phone calls with Hannity. The result is the creation of a “Trump bubble” for his base to inhabit that is unrecognizable to viewers of PBS, CNN, and MSNBC and readers of TheWashington Post and TheNew York Times. The highly critical free media not only provide no effective check on Trump’s ability to be a serial liar without political penalty; on the contrary, they provide yet another enemy around which to mobilize the grievances and resentments of his base. A free press does not have to be repressed when it can be rendered irrelevant and even exploited for political gain.
Professor Browning also suggests that appointing Federalist Society loyalists to the federal courts is comparable to the attack on judicial independence in, say, Poland. This is misleading (or perhaps reflects a lack of appreciation of the extent of the assault on judicial independence in Poland). Here it might be worth recalling the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi, fourteen years ago, involving a U.S. citizen challenging his detention at Guantanamo. The best opinion in that case was by Justice Scalia, the worst by Justice Thomas, both stalwarts of the Federalist Society. I fear that some of those elevated to the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, may be more like Thomas than Scalia, but certainly not all are. Federalist Society ideology is not as monolithic, or consistently reactionary, as Professor Browning may suppose. A conservative Supreme Court can do damage on many fronts, but it is far from being a rubber-stamp for executive power.
(Thanks to Moti Gorin for the pointer.)