Experts told Parker that perhaps the most proximate example is Hungary under Viktor Orban, who returned to power in 2010 after being ousted in 2002 and over the past decade has transformed the country into a soft autocracy. Admirers of the country’s government include Tucker Carlson, who in August extolled it as a model for the United States, and the high-profile Conservative Political Action Committee, which will host its next gathering in Budapest.
Brian Klaas, a political scientist at University College London, believes there are many reasons — the threat of primary challenges against Republicans who defy “Stop the Steal” orthodoxy, gerrymandering, the influence of social media — that the Republican Party’s anti-democratic turn might not just continue but accelerate: “There are no countervailing forces. There’s nothing that rewards being a sober moderate who believes in democracy and tries to govern by consensus.”
‘The quicksand we’re already in’
Could a plan of the kind Eastman devised to manipulate the Electoral College count really have succeeded? Teri Kanefield, a lawyer, doesn’t think so. The plan was “alarming,” to be sure, but “It was never within the realm of possibility that Americans would passively tolerate” a de facto dictatorship, she writes in The Washington Post, “and at any rate, U.S. military leaders had no interest in using force to keep Trump in power, either.”
The same argument could apply to the other methods of subversion Hasen outlines. After all, if Republicans feel they must change election rules to win, might they not be said to be operating from a place of weakness rather than strength? “The only person or party that attempts a coup d’état is the one that cannot win by other means,” Jack Shafer writes in Politico. “It would only inspire a counter-coup by the majority, and maybe a counter-counter coup, and a counter-counter-counter coup.”
But some analysts worry that U.S. elections are already so undemocratic that an anti-democratic movement doesn’t need to subvert them. Consider, for example, that the Senate now heavily favors, more than it has before, a minority of voters controlling a majority of the seats, while the Electoral College has become more likely to deny victory to the winner of the popular vote. Conceivably, an Orban-like candidate without a popular mandate could win legitimately in 2024, without violence or fraud, and feel little need to transform these institutions much further.
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