US elections

[Edgewise] Authoritarian mass delusion puts US democracy at risk

Rene Ciria Cruz

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[Edgewise] Authoritarian mass delusion puts US democracy at risk
The Republican Party is now in the grip of Donald Trump and the Far Right, with most of the party’s elected officials bowing and scraping before the unelected master inciter of Americans’ baser angels

Fear of the historical Adolf shape-shifting into the contemporary Donald is haunting the United States as the November US presidential poll nears. Okay, that’s an overstatement. But undoubtedly the 50 states are seeing the most infectious spread of authoritarianism among Americans in 80 years.

The Republican Party is now in the grip of Donald Trump and the Far Right, with most of the party’s elected officials bowing and scraping before the unelected master inciter of Americans’ baser angels. 

Incredibly, an Ipsos poll finds that 39% of Americans believe in the existence of a “Deep State” run by secret Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking pedophiles who are conspiring to stop Trump. 

This cohort believes this “Deep State” is working against Trump and conspired to convict him; just 16% of Republicans say Trump’s felony conviction by a jury of 12 ordinary citizens for falsifying documents  was correct and that he should halt his presidential campaign. 

So, the seething inhabitants of the MAGAverse are now even more fired up to bring Trump back to the White House. Expect more MAGA bile as he faces a stormier legal horizon with pending trials for federal election interference, Georgia election interference, and illegal hoarding of classified documents. 

Threat to rule of law 

A Trump win in November would be a tremendous blow to America’s vaunted rule of law. While he was in office, he casually repeated lies, attacked the news media as “enemies of the people,” vilified immigrants, defied constitutional guardrails, and weaponized the bureaucracy, all in all shamelessly aggrandized himself. 

Now, he’s openly vowing revenge against political opponents once he’s back in the Oval Office, to his followers’ applause. It isn’t safe to assume that the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority would stand in his way. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that some of its regressive rulings have made her weep in private.

Right-wing extremism has gained so much ground that 58% of Americans in 2022 saw his “Make America Great Again” movement as a threat to the nation’s democratic foundations, according to an Ipsos/Reuters poll

What would Trump be capable of doing should he win? And what would his followers be capable of doing should he lose, they who insist that what doesn’t go their way is rigged? The insurrectionary January 6, 2020 attempt to overturn his election loss is an incendiary warning.

Fear of racial and ethnic ‘replacement’

Trump is riding on many mostly white Americans’ fear of being “replaced” by a diverse non-white population, including immigrants who, he says, is “poisoning the blood of the country,” echoing Hitler’s Mein Kampf

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Fast-rising consumer prices tend to boost his empty claim of being a masterful economic manager. He’s also tapping the wide appeal of America-first isolationism, saying he would let “Russia do whatever the hell they want.” The gains of the Far Right in Europe based on racism and hostility to immigrants add cache to the aspirations of the American Right.

President Joe Biden’s supporters are pushing back on the erosion of the reproductive right to abortion, in vitro fertilization, and even contraception. They also fear political extremism, assaults on racial and ethnic diversity, gender equality, LGBT rights, and the rule of law. However, Democratic voters are perilously divided over Biden’s support for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. He is the underdog in this contest. 

It’s small comfort to liberal Democrats that 50% of Americans approve of Trump’s guilty verdict, according to a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, and that 49% think he should end his presidential campaign as a result. Unfortunately, the national popular vote does not directly choose the president. What does is the plurality of electoral college votes awarded by the results of the national vote. 

As a consequence of this system, the 93 electoral college votes of just seven battleground states could swing the outcome in November: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Ominously. Trump is leading Biden in five of them, says a New York Times/Philadelphia Inquirer/Siena College poll

Persisting anti-democratic strain

The upsurge in racism, hostility to diversity, and contempt for the rule of law is the current manifestation of a long-surviving anti-democratic strain in American political culture. 

The scuttling of the reformative post-US Civil War Reconstruction at the expense of full and equal rights for Black Americans was a historic conciliation with white supremacy whose toxic legacy has morphed into today’s undeclared civil war in the cultural and political fields.  

Key shifts in U.S. mass media have also helped fan the flames of right-wing extremism. Since its groundbreaking rise in the mid-‘90s, Fox News has powerfully amplified and accorded an exceptional aura of legitimacy to reactionary biases, resentments, tropes, and disinformation.

Pile on the mass communication free-for-all of the Internet Age, and the result is the mainstreaming of an authoritarian mass delusion sustained by a constant diet of disinformation, conspiracy theories, and supremacist dog whistles, with a barefaced huckster-convicted felon at the pedestal.  

A Trump victory may not necessarily mean the final triumph of fascistic reaction in the United States, but command of state power would decisively shift the initiative to the rabidly anti-democratic forces in the world’s most powerful nation. 

This, in turn, would boost authoritarian rulers worldwide who, with Trump in the White House, would “be able to do whatever the hell they want.” –

Rene Ciria Cruz is an editor at He edited the book A Time to Rise: Collective Memoirs of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), (UP Press), and was’s US Bureau Chief 2013-2023. He has written for the San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco Chronicle, Pacific News Service, and California Lawyer Magazine.

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