Historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Trump's Coup Is Not Over; His Enablers Aren't Done

Historians in the News
tags: fascism, authoritarianism, Donald Trump, 2020 Election



Editor's note: the complete video is not embeddable on HNN – it can be viewed along with the transcript on the page linked below.

Dismiss Donald Trump and the GOP's attacks on the 2020 election at your peril, warns Ruth Ben-Ghiat, historian and author of the new book, "Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present." In our recent interview for Salon Talks, Ben-Ghiat — a professor of history and Italian studies at NYU — observes that Trump probably hasn't actually studied other leaders in history who transformed functioning democracies into authoritarian regimes. Nonetheless, his actions line up almost perfectly with many who have done just that, from Benito Mussolini in fascist Italy to Vladimir Putin in contemporary Russia.

"For the strongman, politics is always personal," Ben-Ghiat explains which may sound ironic given that "strongmen" are all about displaying virility. As she explained in our conversation, they tend to take every slight personally, and that's certainly the case with President Trump, who constantly complains that he's a victim who has been treated unfairly, which for some reason has endeared him even further to his supporters. 

Even with Trump on his way out in January, Ben-Ghiat makes clear the threat of authoritarianism in America is not over. She explains that the Republican Party is increasingly embracing undemocratic methods to acquire and retain power, from voter ID laws to blocking Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2016. Some GOP elected officials — thankfully, not all — even enabled Trump's efforts to overturn or delegitimize the 2020 election results.

Ben-Ghiat's book it serves as a wake-up call for any who believe what we are seeing is nothing more than an extra dose of our "normal" hyper-partisan politics. If we as a nation don't attempt to rein in the use of undemocratic or anti-democratic tactics, the U.S. may end up featured in future history books as a former democracy that slid into authoritarianism. Watch my Salon Talks with Ruth Ben-Ghiat below or read the following transcript of our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length.


Read entire article at Salon

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