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At the Precipice of a Constitutional Crisis

Trump speaking
Donald Trump addresses Stop the Steal rally, Jan. 6, 2021

The penchant for many Americans to virtually worship a would-be strong-man leader, Donald J. Trump, and for much of the Republican Party to defer to him, has taken our nation to the precipice of a constitutional crisis that could mean an end to liberal democracy. And the upcoming mid-term elections could send us over the cliff.

"We are big two centimeters from the precipice," warns political scientist Daniel Drache on the Lean to the Left podcast.

Here's why:

  • Many Republican candidates are election deniers and "maybe half...believe that Biden is not the legitimate president.

  • Hate speech has increased enormously since 2016 when it played a major role in Trump's election, and studies show that five times more Republicans are using hate speech than Democrats.

  • Large numbers of Independents have moved into the Republican column.

  • The Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade abortion ruling will fail to turn the tide for Democrats.

"I think the Republicans have an edge and that we're going to see a fundamental change in both the House and the Senate," he says. "That's why I think it's on the precipice. And then, of course, what is the Republican agenda?

"Impeachment. Change fundamentally the civil service, loyalty oaths; there's a whole variety of things that the Republicans, vengeful seeking, could believe that it is their term to swing the wrecking ball on the Democratis. So I don't think this is a panic or an overstatement. We're just entering into a very different world Where the hard right really will be in charge of both houses and the conservatives own the judiciary."

Drache and fellow political scientist Marc D. Froese have written a riveting book, “Has Populism Won? The War on Liberal Democracy”. It’s a brilliant account of the global upsurge of right-wing populism, what’s behind it, how Donald Trump tapped into the latent anger of voters, and what might lie ahead.

Their book examines exactly how populist leaders like Trump reach into peoples’ fear of being left behind, using it as a lever to power by promising to look out for the little person and to return to national greatness. Has Populism Won? is written as a warning about the toxic impact of hate speech and the big lie on liberal democracy.

Drache has documented and mapped hyper-globalization and its consequential impacts on communities and peoples for more than two decades. He has published over 20 books on the global political economy, Canada-US relations, NAFTA, social movements, defiant publics, trade governance, and social media.

A professor emeritus and Department of Politics and Research fellow at the Robert Centre for Canadian Studies at Toronto’s York University, Drache has also taught in France, India, Argentina, South Korea, Australia, Brazil and China.

Here are questions we asked Drache:

  • First, let’s define what we mean by populism, and how that differs from authoritarianism, nationalism, and even nativism.

  • How is it that people like Trump are able to tap into the anger and fears of so many people?

  • Does Trump pattern himself after other authoritarian leaders, like Putin, for example?

  • In your book, you point out that Trump loves to use “dog whistles” to rally his troops. What were some examples? Does that continue to this day?

  • You also write that Trump was willing to endanger the national rule of law if the system did not deliver an electoral victory. Do you believe he will pay the price for these actions?

  • You also note the rise of conspiracy theories that continue to this day, even to the point of the Q-Anon craziness. How does this play into populism and its growth?

  • Donald Trump loves to call the media “the enemy of the people.” He attacks immigrants warning of rapes and murders, in fact, virtually anyone who is outside the mainstream of white, male America. What is the danger here…will this continue…what will it do to our country?

  • You write the following: “How can we maintain democracy when it caters to the basest impulses of society?” That is a great question. What’s the answer?

  • Do you believe that the authoritarian right could become more extremist and politically powerful in the United States? If so, why, and what would that mean for our country?

  • Do you see the possibility of a new civil war in America?

  • What must opponents of right-wing populism do to regain power and restore democracy?

  • How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact populism?

  • The other day someone asked on Twitter who else plans to move to Canada if Trump should be re-elected. Would that do any good?

Drache is the second Lean to the Left podcast guest in recent months to suggest that political extremism would propel the U.S. into an authoritarian form of government. "I think at this point we all need to be concerned about political fanaticism, at the moment on the right as opposed to the left," warned Tom Davis, a retired Operation Desert Storm commander and former adviser to the Secretary of the Army.

His comments followed those of Bill Kuhn, author of a new book, "Facts & Fury…An Unapologetic Primer on How the GOP has Destroyed American Democracy," and co-founder of Fight for a Better America, an organization that invests in key battleground districts and states throughout the US.

"If Republicans gain control of the House and the Senate, God help us," he said.

Listen to the interview:

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