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Trump and his acolytes are trying to do in Trump's post-presidency what he was unable to do while in office: upend the government. There are a number of books out with horrifying excerpts describing what the White House was up to following the 2020 election. We were lucky to have General Milley in place at the time because from the evidence of insider observations, the man knew exactly what was afoot and was determined to stop it. Many insiders knew as well but continued to lie and obfuscate. That's equally horrifying.

Certainly holding Trump, his family and business organization accountable is imperative. The Trumpist mindset will be much harder to dissemble because the propaganda is ongoing and ever more damaging. Vaccination resistance, for instance. The Trumpers are determined to drag this out despite the health costs, lives risked or long-term medical complications because they hope (I believe) that a damaged or slow-to-recover economy will be their road to electoral success in 2022 & 2024. There is no low for the True Believers. Meanwhile the biggest purveyors of vaccination resistance, the crews at Fox News, OAN, Newsmax, etc? I guarantee you, they're all vaccinated.

This really has become a death cult on many fronts. The challenge is enormous but it's one we must take on and successfully push back.

Losing is not an option.

Thanks for the essay, Professor. Always enlightening. The Berlusconi example is spot on.

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I just read an article where DJT sent out a poll to his followers (of course undermining any efforts by Biden towards diplomacy in Cuba). But, however his followers answer the poll it takes them to a fundraising site. The article pointed out that previous emails linked to fundraising have infuriated his followers. Nothing makes sense. His followers are dying, poor, increasingly isolated. Someone compared it to the cult of the Grateful Dead that endures today. Like Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and so on. On another note I look forward to seeing you moderate Bandy Lee’s forum on Authoritarianism this Saturday. I hope those who follow you will attend! The expert lineup seems to cover a broad spectrum of related expertise!

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In defence of the Grateful Dead, Elvis and Marilyn, not one of them tried to undermine democracy or steal an election. I hope Trump’s followers can break out from the cult - but at this point, they behave more like North Koreans than Americans.

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We were in Rome when the population came out en masse against Berlusconi. It was peaceful and powerful. He resigned within days. They had signs saying “Basta!” When will we have had “enough”?

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I think you meant "formally condemn misconduct" in the last paragraph, not "formally confirm misconduct"...?

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Another really great essay Ruth. THANK YOU! I sit here in Toronto watching democracy unravel in the USA like a well-worn, but much loved sweater. The very people who need to read your work and attend your zoom seminars are transfixed on Facebook posts and Fox News. Of course, they will hate someone like me for saying this - they have drunk the Kool Aid and nothing will stop them. Adding to this is the speed of which this unravelling is happening. It’s been 6 months from the catastrophic event of January 6th (aka the attempted coup) and Trump is spinning even more egregious lies than he did as president. Sadly, the fascism train has left the station and the authoritarian racehorse has left the stable. I just hope that the Justice Department or the NY State District Attorneys office is able to put Trump and his gang behind bars…so that he can’t run for office again. Time will tell.

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Trump has created a truth schism in America, where there is a battle for the truth. On one side we have Trump's version of the truth, based on his sociopathic mind, and on the other side we have fact based truth. Both sides are sure that their version of the truth is the correct one. This schism has caused a major clash in society with both side battling for domination. With 40 million people believing that Trump won the election, we see an example of how believers in authoritarianism have become unmoored from reality and truth. When a person can be convinced that the most ridiculous things are true, then it is just as easy to convince that person that the truth is ridiculous. Trump has done just that. The gullibility of his followers allows this charlatan to continue his reign.

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"The leader cults and patronage networks personalist rulers build can prove enduring even if they are forced to leave office. If they maintain control over their parties and retain their bond with followers, they can return to office, as Berlusconi did in 2008 and Trump may do in 2024." Ruth Ben Ghiat. Exactly 100%!

Unless Trump is convicted and jailed for his years of corruption or beset by health issues he will almost certainly be the GOP nominee for President in 24. We see that his power and influence over the GOP is growing by the day. His corruption extends to the grass roots and he is installing operatives loyal to him or he is backing primary challenges to so called RHIOs. In several states around the country, increasingly, we see that local parties and state officials are lining up behind Trump and embracing his Big Lie. His leader cult is thriving. I believe Berlusconi is the example that best predicts Trump's future in American politics, which suggests a return to power.

That nightmare scenario is made possible by the new recently passed voter suppression laws that not only make it harder to vote in all sorts of ways for minority populations, but more insidiously strip power away from local and county election boards and secretaries of state so election results can go uncertified if a democrat wins. Partisan officials loyal to Trump might say with all the irregularities and fraud being talked about (never mind there is no actual evidence) we just can't vote to certify these election results. If that playbook is repeated in three or four other states where the new suppression were passed, Biden could be denied his electors and Trump could win! The country would be in throes of autocracy and led by a dangerous authoritarian cult of personality.

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The EU won't punish Orban because there's too much money involved, e.g., Germany's lucrative auto industry in Hungary. How can even the most well-meaning democratic leaders do anything in such situations?

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