‘The emergence of a third party is among us’ – Interview with Lincoln Project Co-Founder Rick Wilson

Joe Biden won the US presidential election with 306 electoral votes. But incumbent President Donald Trump has yet to concede, and the Republican Party seems to be at a crossroads after four years of Trumpism. What direction will the GOP take going forward?
The Lincoln Project’s Rick Wilson offers a very bleak outlook into the GOP’s future. He says ‘the Republican party has sold out itself to Trump’ and what follows Trump will be more dangerous, because it will be more sophisticated.

00:00
trump supporters rallying for him again
00:03
they won’t accept that their president
00:04
lost the elections
00:06
and they’re determined to keep him as
00:08
their leader
00:09
around 73 million americans voted for
00:12
trump
00:13
making them a formidable force of force
00:15
that also
00:16
threatens to run out of control
00:19
he loves america he loves america he
00:22
does not quit on america
00:24
and that’s why america will not quit on
00:26
him
00:27
i’d like trump to start a new party if
00:30
he wanted to
00:31
the republican party is changing real
00:32
fast so we’re
00:34
we’re gonna be represented by the
00:35
soldiers the veterans uh the
00:37
hard-working people of this country
00:39
not by the corrupt politicians that sit
00:42
up here and get fat on our money
00:44
and steal everything from us
00:48
there are many who want to take the
00:49
republican party down a more
00:51
moderate path to strengthen their case
00:54
they talk about this man abraham lincoln
00:58
he was the president who won the civil
01:00
war and ended slavery
01:02
and he was a republican he is the man
01:05
anti-trump republicans turn to when they
01:08
want to invoke
01:09
reason and moral values into present day
01:12
arguments
01:14
the lincoln project is a political
01:16
action committee
01:17
set up by former republicans to prevent
01:20
donald trump
01:21
being re-elected i want to hear their
01:24
thoughts on the future of the gop
01:26
from rick wilson one of the co-founders
01:29
how could donald trump happen
01:33
well donald trump was not just about the
01:35
republican party it was about american
01:36
culture
01:37
and this is a country that has become
01:39
largely addicted to
01:41
and mediated by reality television and
01:44
so
01:44
the man they saw on the apprentice for
01:46
14 years
01:48
on television looked competent smart
01:52
steady brilliant negotiator great deal
01:54
maker great businessman
01:56
of course we all know in the real world
01:59
that was never
01:59
even close to donald trump’s actual
02:01
character or who he really is
02:03
as a person and a leader but that was
02:06
something that
02:07
between fox and reality television
02:09
republican voters were insulated in this
02:12
uh sphere of irreality of fantasy
02:16
and so donald trump uh reached the
02:19
republican
02:20
presidential stage at a moment where
02:24
where republican voters had become
02:25
increasingly isolated from reality of
02:27
any kind
02:28
and had become increasingly addicted to
02:30
the kind of defiant
02:32
uh oppositional nature of
02:35
fox news and of their own facebook
02:38
groups and their own online
02:39
communities and as those moments um
02:43
you know evolved in the 2016 election
02:46
it became harder and harder for actual
02:48
republicans who had
02:50
you know the ideological predicates of
02:51
the past limited government
02:54
personal responsibility you know strong
02:56
international relations and good
02:58
relationships with our allies
03:00
all of those things were washed away
03:02
because donald trump
03:04
gave them entertainment and
03:07
i mean you you are a former republican
03:10
was there any sense
03:12
how dangerous it could be letting him
03:15
in well i was screaming about how
03:18
dangerous he was since 2015
03:21
and by the by the middle of his
03:24
administration by around 2018
03:26
there had been a massive schism in the
03:28
party there were only two types of
03:30
people left
03:31
those who understood how dangerous he
03:33
was and would speak
03:34
and the vast majority who understood how
03:36
dangerous he was and wouldn’t speak
03:38
you know there’s there’s a secret here
03:40
that most republicans the vast majority
03:42
of the elected officials
03:44
do not like donald trump they are not
03:45
trumpists they are afraid of them
03:48
but they don’t like him they don’t
03:49
regard him or admire him
03:51
now i will say that that doesn’t fix the
03:53
problem
03:54
because with donald trump there is never
03:58
a limit to which he will press these
03:59
folks as we saw this week in america
04:02
where
04:02
17 republican attorneys general in the
04:05
states
04:05
um went out and and pushed hard
04:09
to to have the supreme court invalidate
04:13
the 2020
04:14
election now these people they’ve
04:16
abandoned
04:17
all of their you know former political
04:19
and ideological predicates
04:21
for trump uh and so what you’ve seen is
04:24
a radical transformation of the gop
04:26
into the trump party what what should
04:29
the gop
04:30
do with all these trump supporters i
04:32
mean 73 million voted for him maybe not
04:34
all trump supporters but
04:36
you know i mean what should what should
04:39
the
04:39
the gop do luckily it’s not my problem
04:42
anymore
04:44
you know good riddance um but look
04:47
they have to have a painful
04:49
reconciliation with what they have done
04:51
there has to be a look back at the way
04:54
they have corrupted the party on trump’s
04:56
behalf
04:57
and until they do that i don’t think
04:58
there’s a real solution
05:00
going forward because he has been such a
05:03
transformative figure
05:04
the republican base vote the republican
05:07
the ordinary republican voters there’s
05:09
only one thing they hate more
05:11
than a democrat and that’s a republican
05:13
who hates donald trump
05:15
and so they’re going to be driving the
05:18
party further and further into the
05:19
trumpet space which is authoritarian
05:21
which is nationalist which is highly
05:24
regimented around the obedience to the
05:26
dear leader
05:27
you know it has frightening historical
05:29
precedence and what i worry about as a
05:31
former republican and knowing the sort
05:32
of character of the people still in the
05:34
party
05:35
i’m worried about the more competent
05:37
smart
05:38
presentable version of trump that’s
05:40
going to come down the pike in a few
05:42
years
05:43
that to me is um
05:46
an enormously concerning uh impact of
05:48
trumpism
05:50
what could come out of that asking as a
05:52
german
05:53
well yeah what could go wrong as i like
05:56
to say
05:57
um yeah those sort of things as i said
06:00
there are a lot of historical precedents
06:02
that are not good
06:03
um and not just the german precedent
06:05
there are many many other nations
06:07
um that that have gone down this
06:09
authoritarian statism
06:11
uh and it always leads to an abuse of
06:15
power it always
06:16
at the minimum two abuses of power uh at
06:18
the maximum to the worst case scenarios
06:21
and and i’m afraid that trump has
06:24
conditioned a generation of republicans
06:26
to believe
06:27
that if they don’t get their way that
06:29
they don’t need to work within the
06:30
constitution of the united states that
06:32
they can go an extra constitutional
06:34
extrajudicial extra political route
06:36
which may involve violence
06:38
which may involve the generation of of
06:40
enormous risks
06:41
for the future of one of the world’s
06:43
longest running and
06:44
most robust democracies rick um
06:48
i talked to republicans i have the
06:50
feeling that they are not understanding
06:53
what is going on
06:54
no a lot of them when you’re talking
06:56
about reconciliation but
06:58
from what i i mean experienced the last
07:00
couple of days
07:01
working on this piece i think that they
07:03
don’t quite
07:04
get it no they they don’t understand it
07:07
and they don’t understand that that
07:10
without donald trump
07:12
as the figurehead of their party they’re
07:14
going to lose a meaningful number of
07:16
their own voters
07:18
those voters have become members of a
07:20
trumpist movement a faction
07:22
if you will and that’s not going to go
07:25
away
07:26
his son will pick up the mantle when
07:27
donald trump dies or his daughter
07:30
or people that imitate him very closely
07:33
uh will pick up that mantle and there’s
07:35
nothing that can be done
07:37
about that because the republican party
07:40
has sold itself to trump
07:41
there is no institutional republican
07:43
party left to push back against trumpism
07:46
what does that mean politically for the
07:49
united states and for the rest of the
07:51
world so to speak
07:52
well it means that we have a that the
07:54
emergence of a third party
07:56
in the us is is upon us and that party
07:59
is not
08:00
an american party that party is
08:02
dedicated to authoritarianism
08:04
that party is dedicated to the worship
08:05
of a single family
08:07
um that party is is oppositional
08:11
to anything that gets in their political
08:13
way and that opposition manifests itself
08:16
in ways that are not traditionally seen
08:18
in the american political space
08:20
look the american political space has
08:22
long had a center left
08:24
and a center right and and the the edges
08:28
of both parties
08:29
were not terribly influential and there
08:32
was always a tug of war
08:34
between those center left center right
08:35
voices now
08:37
we have a voice on the extreme right of
08:39
trumpism
08:40
which is um which is driven by again
08:43
that oppositional defiance
08:45
of traditional norms and values and laws
08:49
it’s driven by a hatred of immigrants a
08:52
hatred of
08:54
various races it’s driven by a hatred of
08:58
the elite the educated the experts um
09:01
and that’s a recipe for a country
09:04
that has a major political party that
09:06
does not look like anything we’ve had in
09:08
our history
09:09
there’s never been a true large scale
09:12
i mean we had you know george lincoln
09:15
rockwell
09:16
you know and then we had some of the and
09:18
you had lindbergh in the bund
09:20
back in the 30s that was growing into a
09:22
political force
09:24
but they never manifested at the level
09:26
that the trumpest party is manifesting
09:27
itself
09:28
and that’s something that is that is
09:30
concerning a lot of americans who
09:31
believe
09:32
regardless of their ideology whether
09:34
they’re conservative or progressive or
09:36
whether they’re
09:37
moderate or they’re liberal it’s
09:39
concerning a broad spectrum of americans
09:41
to say
09:42
you know this is a pathway that leads to
09:45
a very bad outcome in this country
09:47
and the concern is rising and it’s right
09:49
to be it’s right to be rising
09:51
and that’s why our group the lincoln
09:52
project has stayed in this fight
09:55
we we know that defeating donald trump
09:57
was only the first step
09:58
trumpism is a more dangerous and more
10:00
pernicious movement
10:02
than anyone could have accounted for
10:04
even a couple years ago
10:05
but it has this very powerful allies in
10:07
the media it has a very powerful ally in
10:10
facebook which allows
10:11
all these these alt-right and
10:14
proto-fascist and
10:16
and and openly fascist groups like the
10:18
proud boys
10:19
to to organize and to use it as a
10:22
bullhorn and to proselytize and
10:24
and to propagandize the american people
10:27
and so we’re seeing
10:28
uh an enormous risk that what follows
10:30
trump is is more dangerous
10:32
because it’s more sophisticated than
10:34
donald trump ever was
10:36
last question rick um what should uh
10:40
the western world learn from this
10:42
example
10:44
you know how dangerous is it when you go
10:45
to bed with the devil as we say you know
10:47
sure and get out of it so what what is
10:49
your message kind of you know
10:51
well look there is there is a clear
10:52
message for for folks in europe
10:54
uh especially because there is a rising
10:58
uh tide of rescission from the
11:00
democratic norms
11:01
that define sort of the atlantic charter
11:04
field and the the eu’s
11:06
uh original mission that recision is
11:08
happening
11:09
all over europe i mean you have erdogan
11:11
in turkey who
11:12
is essentially a dictator um you have
11:15
people
11:16
um who are very alt-right who are who
11:18
are trying to
11:19
you know put on a suit and tie and it’s
11:21
not just the clownish sort of le pen
11:23
types it’s you know people who appear
11:26
presentable who say some of the right
11:27
things
11:28
but who are part of this global
11:30
alt-right movement this global
11:31
this global rising tide will zombasha in
11:35
in albania of all things there’s a guy
11:38
who you know looks presentable he
11:40
doesn’t come out you know wearing a an
11:42
armband
11:43
but the things he says and wants to do
11:45
are enormously dangerous
11:47
if you’re going to look at modern
11:49
european democracies or modern or modern
11:51
western democracies
11:52
writ large and these risk factors have
11:55
appeared in
11:56
asia in south and central america in the
11:58
united states obviously
12:00
and across europe and that’s one of the
12:02
reasons that again our group is fighting
12:04
so hard
12:05
to to in america now
12:08
increasingly abroad to face these kind
12:11
of challenges
12:12
from this from this far right uh
12:15
racially inflected movement
12:16
that has grown i mean look if you look
12:18
at the governments of albania and poland
12:20
and hungary
12:21
you are not looking at things that that
12:23
that the post-war
12:25
consensus would have recognized um as
12:28
embracing the values that that we all
12:31
believed
12:31
shaped the western civilization in the
12:33
in the years after world war
12:34
ii and in the years after the collapse
12:36
of the soviet union
12:38
and so it’s enormously troubling it’s a
12:40
fight that we’re in now and we’re going
12:41
to be in for
12:42
for apparently quite a long time are
12:44
there any leaders in the republican
12:46
party who could kind of take over again
12:48
do you see any figures there may be
12:50
leaders in the republican
12:52
party but it’ll be a smaller party i
12:54
mean look there are guys like mitt
12:56
romney
12:56
and adam kinzinger uh and and some of
12:59
the folks in georgia
13:01
who have said no the president not you
13:03
know was not cheated
13:05
um but that courage is
13:08
is very rare few and far between
13:11
i mean when you’ve only got uh 27
13:14
members of congress in the republican
13:16
side who have acknowledged that joe
13:17
biden won the election
13:19
you’ve got a much smaller party than you
13:20
once had so
13:22
as the conservative side splits the
13:24
trumpist party will be
13:26
two-thirds to five-eighths uh of
13:30
of what was the gop and there’ll be a
13:31
smaller romney sort of republican party
13:35
and that’s not an effective um that’s
13:38
not an effective political party at the
13:39
national scale
13:40
at that point that’s a disturbing
13:42
outlook
13:44
yeah i don’t sleep a lot so and did you
13:48
see like
13:49
how do you schedule how do you kind of
13:51
see the next kind of two years or so
13:53
evolve
13:53
what’s going to happen well i think
13:55
you’re going to see an awful lot of
13:57
republicans
13:58
trying to destroy joe biden’s
14:00
administration very quickly
14:01
they’re going to use legislative tactics
14:03
in the senate particularly
14:05
to deny joe biden the ability to do
14:08
coveted relief
14:10
or health care relief for our hospitals
14:13
and doctors and nurses who have suffered
14:15
so badly during the course of covet
14:17
you’re going to see them block his
14:18
appointments as much as they can
14:21
so their idea is to train wreck
14:25
joe biden’s administration the first two
14:27
years
14:28
so they can recapture the senate at the
14:30
same time you’re going to see a whole
14:31
crop
14:32
of new trump-ist style candidates
14:34
emerging tom cotton josh hawley marco
14:36
rubio mike lee
14:38
ted cruz they’re going to all be running
14:40
for president in 2022
14:42
and you’re going to have donald trump
14:43
and his he’s on paper running for
14:46
president
14:46
but you’re also going to see his son
14:48
preparing to run for president 2022
14:51
so there will be a strong set of
14:52
incentives to keep driving that
14:54
authoritarian statism and and that that
14:57
sort of new
14:58
fascism message of trumpism in the next
15:00
two years to four years
15:02
because that is where the republican
15:04
base has been transformed and that’s
15:06
where those people will go and run to
15:07
try to get their votes
15:10
rick thank you very much i hope we can
15:12
talk again in some
15:13
i would love to that’d be great this is
15:15
an ongoing conversation in the world
15:17
absolutely i’d love to i’d love to see
15:19
because this is kind of well this is
15:21
what we experience as you said in many
15:22
other countries as well
15:24
so stay safe thank you very much you too
15:27
great to talk to you on this i’ll talk
15:28
to you soon

John W. Dean, “Authoritarian Nightmare”

John W. Dean served as White House counsel for President Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973. During the Watergate scandal, his Senate testimony helped lead to Nixon’s resignation. Dean has written about Watergate in his New York Times bestsellers Blind Ambition and The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It. Among his other books are the national bestsellers Worse Than Watergate and Conservatives Without Conscience. A retired investment banker, Dean is now a columnist, commentator, and teacher in a continuing legal education program for attorneys, the Watergate CLE. He is a regular political and legal commentator on CNN News.

The Science of the Authoritarian personality

  1. submissive followers
  2. “double high” followers: domineering and opportunistically submissive

 

https://www.politics-prose.com/book/9781612199054

Trump Wants You to Think You Can’t Get Rid of Him

His strongman threats are scary. But don’t forget that he’s weak.

Living under a president who daily defiles his office and glories in transgressing the norms holding democracy together is numbing and enervating. It’s not emotionally or physiologically possible to maintain appropriate levels of shock and fury indefinitely; eventually exhaustion and cynical despair kick in.

But every once in a while Donald Trump outpaces the baseline of corruption, disloyalty and sadism we’ve been forced to get used to. Outrage builds and the weary political world stirs. Sometimes even a few Republican officeholders feel the need to distance themselves from things the president says or does.

Child separation caused this kind of clarifying horror. There was a moment of it when Trump tweeted that four congresswomen of color should go back to the “totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came.” And now, thanks to Trump’s latest attack on democracy, we’re seeing it again.

At a Wednesday evening news conference, Trump was asked whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power after the November election. “We’re going to have to see what happens,” said the president. He then complained about “the ballots,” apparently meaning mail-in ballots, which he’s been trying to discredit: “Get rid of the ballots and you’ll have a very peaceful — there won’t be a transfer, frankly. There will be a continuation.”

His words — the demand to discard ballots, the dismissal of a possible transfer — were a naked declaration of autocratic intent. Looking at the BBC’s website, where a blaring headline said, “Trump Won’t Commit to Peaceful Transfer of Power,” you could see America being covered like a failing state.

Trump’s words were all the scarier for coming on the same day as Barton Gellman’s blockbuster Atlantic article about how Trump could subvert the election. The chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party told Gellman, on the record, that he’d spoken to the campaign about bypassing a messy vote count and having the Republican-controlled legislature appoint its own slate of electors. A legal adviser to the Trump campaign said, “There will be a count on election night, that count will shift over time, and the results when the final count is given will be challenged as being inaccurate, fraudulent — pick your word.”

As terrifying as all this is, it’s important to remember that Trump and his campaign are trying to undermine the election because right now they appear to be losing it.

Trump is down in most swing state polls, tied in Georgia and barely ahead in Texas. His most sycophantic enabler, Lindsey Graham, is neck-and-neck in South Carolina. The president is counting on his new Supreme Court nominee to save his presidency, and she may, if the vote count gets to the Supreme Court. But a rushed confirmation is unlikely to help Trump electorally, because in polls a majority of Americans say the winner of the election should make the appointment.

Trump may be behaving like a strongman, but he is weaker than he’d like us all to believe. Autocrats who actually have the power to fix elections don’t announce their plans to do it; they just pretend to have gotten 99 percent of the vote. It’s crucial that Trump’s opponents emphasize this, because unlike rage, excessive fear can be demobilizing. There’s a reason TV villains like to say, “Resistance is futile.”

We cannot allow Trump’s constant threats to undermine voters’ confidence that their ballots will be counted or discredit the outcome in advance,” Michael Podhorzer of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. recently wrote in a memo to allies. Podhorzer said that the organization’s polling suggests that “this close to the election, we do Trump’s work for him when we respond to his threats rather than remind voters that they will decide who the next president will be if they vote.”

This doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be alarmed. I’m alarmed every minute of every day. Trump is an aspiring fascist who would burn democracy to the ground to salve his diseased ego. His willingness to break the rules that bind others gives him power out of proportion to his dismal approval ratings. He blithely incites violence by his supporters, some of whom have already tried to intimidate voters in Virginia.

Yet part of the reason he won in 2016 is that so few of his opponents thought it possible. That is no longer a problem. Since then, when voters have had the chance to render a verdict on Trump and his allies, they’ve often rejected them overwhelmingly. Under Trump, Democrats have made inroads into Texas, Arizona, even Oklahoma. They won a Senate seat in Alabama. (Granted, the Republican was accused of being a child molester.) Much attention is paid to Trump’s fanatical supporters, but far more people hate him than love him.

In the run-up to the 2018 election, many people had the same fears they have now. Analyzing its survey results, Pew found that “voters approached the 2018 midterm elections with some trepidation about the voting process and many had concerns that U.S. election systems may be hacked.” After 2016 it was hard to believe polls showing Democrats with a lead of more than eight pointsBut the polls were right.

Certainly, things are different now than they were even two years ago. A pandemic is disrupting normal campaigning and changing the way a lot of people vote. Trump has much more at stakeInvestigations in New York mean that if he’s not re-elected, he could be arrested.

It’s also true that by floating the idea of refusing to concede, Trump begins to normalize the notion. The nationwide uproar over family separation has worn off, even though family separations continue. A House resolution condemned Trump’s initial racist attack on Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley. Now he says similar things at his rallies and it barely makes news.

One of the most oft-used metaphors for the Trump years has been that of the slowly boiling frog. (The frog, in this case, being democracy.) By threatening what is essentially a coup, Trump may have turned the heat up too quickly, forcing some elected Republicans to implicitly rebuke him by restating their fealty to a constitutional transfer of power.

But if history is any guide, those Republicans will adjust to the temperature. The next time Trump says something equally outrageous, expect them to make excuses for him, or play some insulting game of whataboutism by likening Biden’s determination to count ballots past Nov. 3 to Trump’s refusal to recognize the possibility of defeat.

Still, Trump can be defeated, along with the rotten and squalid party that is enabling him. Doing so will require being cleareyed about the danger Trump poses, but also hopeful about the fact that we could soon be rid of him.

Trump would like to turn America into a dictatorship, but he hasn’t yet. For over four years he has waged a sort of psychological warfare on the populace, colonizing our consciousness so thoroughly that it can be hard to imagine him gone. That’s part of the reason he says he won’t leave if he’s beaten in November, or even after 2024. It’s to make us forget that it’s not up to him.

Shortly after Trump was elected, the Russian-born journalist Masha Gessen published an important essay called “Autocracy: Rules for Survival.” Gessen laid out six such rules, each incredibly prescient. The one I most often hear repeated is the first, “Believe the autocrat,” which said, “Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization.”

Right now, though, I find myself thinking about the last of Gessen’s rules: “Remember the future.” There is a world after Trump. A plurality of Americans, if not an outright majority, want that world to start in January. And whatever he says, if enough of us stand up to him, it can.

 

America’s Authoritarian Governor

Georgia had an early surge of the virus, and now cases are spiking again. Brian Kemp has refused to learn a thing.

America has botched its coronavirus response in so, so many ways since the pandemic began. Even in a country that stands apart from the world for its horrific failures, there have been as many leadership bungles as there are states: Some failed to heed early warnings. Others refused to learn the lessons of outbreaks that came before theirs. Still others played politics instead of following science. And then there’s Georgia.

Georgia’s response to the pandemic has not been going well. It was bad from the beginning: Back in early April, weeks after other states took initial precautions, Georgia dawdled toward a shutdown while its coronavirus cases surged. Still, less than a month later, the state chose to be among the first in the nation to reopen, bringing back businesses known to accelerate the virus’s spread, such as restaurants and gyms, even though new infections had never made a significant or sustained decline. In June, the state welcomed back bars. What happened next was predictable, and was predicted: Case counts came roaring back. More people got sick and died. Many of these deaths were preventable. The state now has the sixth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the United States, behind five states with significantly larger populations.

Lots of states—such as FloridaCalifornia, and New York—have mishandled the pandemic since it hit in March. But when you look closely at Georgia, you see a state with a leader unique among his peers. First-term Republican Governor Brian Kemp presided over a late shutdown so short that his reopening drew a public rebuke from President Donald Trump, who has frequently opposed shutdowns altogether. Kemp’s administration has repeatedly been accused of manipulating data to downplay the severity of the outbreak. He has sparred publicly with the state’s mayors and sued to stop them from implementing safety restrictions or even speaking to the press.

To understand the course that Georgia has plotted through the pandemic, you have to understand Kemp’s failures. Those same failures, and the trajectory of the state governed by them, also represent a microcosm of America under Trump. The governor has demonstrated a willingness to defer to the president instead of his own constituents, sacrifice Georgians’ safety to snipe at his political foes, and shore up his own power at the expense of democracy. In short, Kemp is a wannabe authoritarian, and millions of Georgians have suffered as a result, with no end in sight

trajectory of the state governed by them, also represent a microcosm of America under Trump. The governor has demonstrated a willingness to defer to the president instead of his own constituents, sacrifice Georgians’ safety to snipe at his political foes, and shore up his own power at the expense of democracy. In short, Kemp is a wannabe authoritarian, and millions of Georgians have suffered as a result, with no end in sight.

Kemp has emulated strongmen since he entered state government. In 2018, as Georgia’s secretary of state, Kemp administered his own election by a thin, contested margin, despite calls to resign the office before running for governor. In his previous role, Kemp systematically purged more than 1 million voters from the state’s rolls, disproportionately disenfranchising Georgians of color. More than half a million of those voter registrations were voided in July 2017 alone, months into Kemp’s campaign for governor. Kemp’s office did not respond to a request for an interview, but in the past, he has repeatedly denied that these actions amounted to voter suppression.

In Georgia, and around the world, it has become clear that a novel virus doesn’t respond to the anti-scientific, expertise-shirking preferences of modern authoritarianism. When Kemp announced the closure of the state’s nonessential businesses on April 2, he said it was because he had learned something game-changing about the virus: that it is transmissible before an infected person develops symptoms. In reality, that had been a widely accepted belief for weeks, one that had helped encourage earlier lockdowns around the country. And unlike other states that were slow to shut down, Georgia already had a raging outbreak of nearly 5,000 identified cases. In southwest Georgia in late February, a funeral in the small, majority-Black town of Albany set off a chain of infection that sickened hundreds of people and left the local hospital system overburdened and overpaying for low-quality protective gear.

If a slow shutdown had been Kemp’s only major fumble, he’d be in broad and ideologically varied company both nationally and internationally. Instead, he has continued to double down on the state’s approach to the virus in ways that mirror not just Trump, but authoritarian leaders overseeing poorly controlled outbreaks all over the world, such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro and India’s Narendra Modi. He has also taken a more hard-line stance than most of his Republican peers. GOP governors in Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas have implemented statewide mask rules in response to worsening outbreaks, and others who haven’t, such as Ron DeSantis in Florida and Doug Ducey in Arizona, have still allowed cities and counties to enforce their own local requirements. Not only has Kemp repeatedly refused to require masks in Georgia, but the state’s current pandemic emergency order was written with an explicit restriction to prevent local leaders from implementing their own mask rules.

Kemp’s administration has gone so far as to sue Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms over the city’s mask mandate and its plan to roll back the city’s reopening to its earliest stage, closing bars and restricting restaurants to takeout. When Bottoms fought the lawsuit, Kemp sought to stop her from speaking to the press. Other cities in the state, such as Savannah and Athens, also passed their own mandates but escaped inclusion in the lawsuit, which has pushed some to question whether the governor was trying to punish Bottoms for her support of Joe Biden. A Kemp spokesperson told The Washington Post that the lawsuit was primarily about the new restrictions on businesses in Bottoms’s order, which weren’t present in other municipalities’ mask mandates, but as the paper pointed out, masks were listed as the first issue in the complaint. “One has to ask about the political aspect of a conservative southern governor and a strong supporter of the president having a very public legal action against the Atlanta mayor, who’s been a vocal supporter of Joe Biden,” Harry Heiman, a professor at the Georgia State University School of Public Health, told me. Kemp backed down from the lawsuit last week, and Atlanta’s local mandate remains in effect.

None of Kemp’s actions has been popular among the state’s residents. According to findings released last week by the Atlanta-based market-research platform 1Q, 73 percent of Georgians surveyed believe that cities should be able to enforce their own mask mandates, and 70 percent disagree with Kemp’s refusal to institute a mandate statewide. In recent months, his overall approval rating has taken a hit. In May, Kemp was the only governor whose coronavirus response was less popular than the president’s among his own constituents. A recent poll pegged Kemp’s approval rating at 43 percent, down from more than 59 percent in January.

Kemp, like Trump, has recently started to encourage mask usage while still aggressively opposing any kind of enforceable mask rule. The problem with that approach, according to public-health experts, is that it sows confusion, making it more difficult for people to feel confident in their safety. The state’s own messaging has at times been misleading in other ways. On its Department of Public Health website, the state spent months backdating cases to a patient’s first symptoms, which meant that the most recent two weeks of the graph always looked as if the pandemic was in marked decline. The state has also released misleading graphics that it later insisted were honest errors in data rendering, such as a bar graph of case counts with the dates out of chronological order, again depicting a nonexistent downward slope.

In mid-July, two nearly identical maps of Georgia’s coronavirus outbreak began circulating on Twitter, depicting the state’s outbreaks on July 2 and July 17, over which time cases increased significantly. Both maps show only three of the state’s 159 counties shaded in red, marking the most dire spread of the disease. As case counts exploded, the state had raised the number of cases required for a county to change color. Once local media took notice, the state redesigned its map. The public health department’s website also now allows users to sort new coronavirus cases by date of diagnosis, the method used almost exclusively in other government and media visualizations of the pandemic.

Then there is the matter of reopening schools. The state’s accelerated reopening spiked cases just in time for the South’s typically early school calendar to begin, leaving educators, parents, and students to fend for themselves as Kemp urges the resumption of in-person instruction in order to protect kids from non-coronavirus threats such as malnutrition and abuse. But if Kemp’s concerns lie with the safety of the state’s children and the importance of getting them back in the classroom, why didn’t he do more to stop the spread of the virus? Why, instead, did he prioritize sending low-wage workers back to their jobs in bars, restaurants, nail salons, and gyms?

Some of Georgia’s school districts opened this week, and already the system is buckling under the weight of infection: Yesterday, we learned that the state’s outbreak had claimed its youngest victim yet, an otherwise healthy 7-year-old boy. One Cherokee County elementary-school class has already had to be quarantined after a second grader received a positive test result on the first day of school. Earlier this week, a photo from inside North Paulding High School in exurban Atlanta showed a crowded hallway with few teenagers wearing masks. An outbreak has already sickened members of the school’s football team, and students say they fear expulsion if they don’t show up. Two students were suspended for distributing photos of the school’s lax safety measures; at least one of those students has been reinstated following a public outcry over her right to free speech.

Georgia’s public universities, which are preparing for students to come back over the next couple of weeks, provide a bleak view of how the state is managing the dangers that a return to regular life presents for Georgians. For much of this summer, the University System of Georgia refused pleas from faculty and staff to require students to wear masks to class, or to allow individual colleges to make their own mask rules, before eventually relenting and requiring masks. At the University of Georgia, freshmen will still be required to live in cramped on-campus housing, much of which assigns two students to one privacy-free room, even if their classes are remote. For students who attend instruction in person, photos have begun to circulate on social media of the safety measures that await them: a small plexiglass divider loosely affixed to the front of a teacher’s classroom desk, or every other urinal in a public bathroom marked off with painter’s tape. With the majority of students yet to return, UGA already has the third-largest campus outbreak in the country, and Athens, the town where the school is located, ran out of intensive-care beds last week.

Despite all his mistakes, it’s not too late for Kemp to wrangle the pandemic, said Heiman, the Georgia State professor. He told me that a statewide mask mandate; closing bars, gyms, and indoor dining; and clear, consistent messaging from state leadership about pandemic safety can work quickly to limit transmission of the virus, just as such measures have in New York, following that state’s catastrophic outbreak. Once transmission is low, more businesses can be safely reopened, testing supplies and personal protective equipment can be stockpiled, school buildings can be altered for better ventilation, and life can return to something closer to normalcy while Georgians wait for treatments and vaccines to come along.

In order to do that, though, Kemp would have to do something authoritarians hate: admit he was wrong, and change his mind based on evidence, the advice of experts, and the will of the people. The same is true for the country as a whole. America is a few decisions away from a much different future.

Instead, like the authoritarian he’s shown himself to be, Kemp seems intent on maintaining the disastrous course his administration has plotted so far, at the expense of the people of Georgia. “It’s truly unbelievable,” Heiman said. “It will be a case study for decades to come of what an utter collapse of political and public-health leadership looks like.”

When American conservatism becomes un-American

From Harvard Law School comes the latest conservative flirtation with authoritarianism. Professor Adrian Vermeule, a 2016 Catholic convert, is an “integralist” who regrets his academic specialty, the Constitution, and rejects the separation of church and state. His much-discussed recent Atlantic essay advocating a government that judges “the quality and moral worth of public speech” is unimportant as a practical political manifesto, but it is symptomatic of some conservatives’ fevers, despairs and temptations.

Common-good capitalism,” a recent proposal by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), is capitalism minus the essence of capitalism — limited government respectful of society’s cumulative intelligence and preferences collaboratively revealed through market transactions. Vermeule’s “common-good constitutionalism” is Christian authoritarianismmuscular paternalism, with government enforcing social solidarity for religious reasons. This is the Constitution minus the Framers’ purpose: a regime respectful of individuals’ diverse notions of the life worth living. Such respect is, he says, “abominable.”

Vermeule would jettison “libertarian assumptions central to free-speech law and free-speech ideology.” And: “Libertarian conceptions of property rights and economic rights will also have to go, insofar as they bar the state from enforcing duties of community and solidarity in the use and distribution of resources.” Who will define these duties? Integralists will, because they have an answer to this perennial puzzle: If the people are corrupt, how do you persuade them to accept the yoke of virtue-enforcers? The answer: Forget persuasion. Hierarchies must employ coercion.

Common-good constitutionalism’s “main aim,” Vermeule says, is not to “minimize the abuse of power” but “to ensure that the ruler has the power needed to rule well.” Such constitutionalism “does not suffer from a horror of political domination and hierarchy” because the “law is parental, a wise teacher and an inculcator of good habits,” wielded “if necessary even against the subjects’ own perceptions of what is best for them.” Besides, those perceptions are not really the subjects’, because under Vermeule’s regime the law will impose perceptions.

He thinks the Constitution, read imaginatively, will permit the transformation of the nation into a confessional state that punishes blasphemy and other departures from state-defined and state-enforced solidarity. His medieval aspiration rests on a non sequitur: All legal systems affirm certain value, therefore it is permissible to enforce orthodoxies.

Vermeule is not the only American conservative feeling the allure of tyranny. Like the American leftists who made pilgrimages to Fidel Castro’s Cuba, some self-styled conservatives today turn their lonely eyes to Viktor Orban, destroyer of Hungary’s democracy. The prime minister’s American enthusiasts probably are unfazed by his seizing upon covid-19 as an excuse for taking the short step from the ethno-nationalist authoritarianism to which he gives the oxymoronic title “illiberal democracy,” to dictatorship.

In 2009, Orban said, “We have only to win once, but then properly.” And in 2013, he said: “In a crisis, you don’t need governance by institutions.” Elected to a third term in 2018, he has extended direct or indirect control over courts (the Constitutional Court has been enlarged and packed) and the media, replacing a semblance of intragovernmental checks and balances with what he calls the “system of national cooperation.” During the covid-19 crisis he will govern by decree, elections will be suspended and he will decide when the crisis ends — supposedly June 20.

Explaining his hostility to immigration, Orban says Hungarians “do not want to be mixed. . . . We want to be how we became eleven hundred years ago here in the Carpathian Basin.” Ivan Krastev and Stephen Holmes, authors of “The Light that Failed,” dryly marvel that Orban “remembers so vividly what it was like to be Hungarian eleven centuries ago.” Nostalgia functioning as political philosophy — Vermeule’s nostalgia seems to be for the 14th century — is usually romanticism untethered from information.

In November, Patrick Deneen, the University of Notre Dame professor whose 2018 book “Why Liberalism Failed” explained his hope for a post-liberal American future, had a cordial meeting with Orban in Budapest. The Hungarian surely sympathizes with Deneen’s root-and-branch rejection of classical liberalism, which Deneen disdains because it portrays “humans as rights-bearing individuals” who can “fashion and pursue for themselves their own version of the good life.” One name for what Deneen denounces is: the American project. He, Vermeule and some others on the Orban-admiring American right believe that political individualism — the enabling, protection and celebration of individual autonomy — is a misery-making mistake: Autonomous individuals are deracinated, unhappy and without virtue.

The moral of this story is not that there is theocracy in our future. Rather, it is that American conservatism, when severed from the Enlightenment and its finest result, the American Founding, becomes spectacularly unreasonable and literally un-American.