Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

The United States Is Getting Infected With Dictatorship

| Apr. 13, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has provided an opening for Donald Trump to attack transparency, voting rights, and accountability.

HBO's The Plot Against America (based on the Philip Roth novel), presents an alternative history of the 1940s, where Charles Lindbergh is elected U.S. president and the United States begins a slow and troubling march toward fascism. If you read the New York Times columnist Paul Krugman's latest column, you might be wondering whether something similar could be happening in real life.

I've chronicled some worrisome trends on several occasions since President Donald Trump was elected in 2016 (see here, here, and here), and ignoring these warning signs would be just like Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Remember when he said that one day the virus was just "going to disappear" and bragged that "We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China. … It's going to be just fine."?

My advice: Don't be that guy.

But first: some good news. Although Americans are not happy with many government institutions, they remain strongly committed to the core ideals of a liberal society. Ninety-three percent believe it is important to have a fair judiciary, 84 percent say regular elections are important, 80 percent support a free media, and 77 percent prize freedom of speech, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey. Despite widespread political polarization, 67 percent believe having free opposition parties is also important. Such attitudes are reassuring, because public support for democracy turns out to be important for preserving a democratic order....

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Walt, Stephen M.“The United States Is Getting Infected With Dictatorship.” Foreign Policy, April 13, 2020.

The Author

Stephen Walt