Political analysis in America would be enhanced by thinking of Donald Trump more like Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán than an extreme Republican, a political scientist explained on Saturday.
“The most maddening thing in US politics since 2015 has been people misreading Trump as a more extreme Republican, rather than as Palm Beach Orbán,” wrote Brian Klass of University College London.
“He’s an authoritarian, which means analysis that puts him into the normal US framework is consistently wrong. It’s happening now.”
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“The GOP had a terrible midterm election, so normally that would mean that the kingmaker former president responsible for those failures would slink away and his party would move onto a new ascendant politician. But Trump isn’t normal. So many pundits will again get it wrong,” he explained. “Authoritarian political movements aren’t about policy, but devotion to one man—and the feeling of social and personal identity in that group. Trump has an authoritarian cult of personality. MAGA diehards love him, not his policies. An election setback won’t change that.”
Klass suggested people imagine the mindset of those in Trump’s MAGA base.
“Imagine you’ve got Trump in a superman outfit riding an eagle while shooting a gun with an American flag background on your pickup truck. Now, Blake Masters loses. Do you just abandon Trump? C’mon. Get real,” he wrote. “That’s not how it works.”
“I’ve studied authoritarian movements all over the globe and they have a very clear logic. Trump fits it really well,” Klass explained. “Maybe Trump will lose the primary, as the midterms have shifted his political fortunes. But the idea that he’s toast because a few of his preferred candidates lost one election is delusional. The devoted MAGA base won’t blame him, and many will turn on those who question him.”
Klass is the author of the 2017 book The Despot’s Apprentice: Donald Trump’s Attack on Democracy.