In a column this week for The New York Times, Paul Krugman claimed that the Republican Party is going “full authoritarian” by trying to transform America into a one-party state where elections are rigged and the media is controlled by the government. As a corollary to this column, Krugman tweeted that the United States is now part of a “new axis of evil” together with Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Krugman began the column by writing up his own short list of President Trump’s (known now as “Individual-1” to Russiagate obsessives) purported defects [emphasis in bold mine throughout]:
Individual-1 is clearly a wannabe dictator who has contempt for the rule of law, not to mention being corrupt and probably in the pocket of foreign powers. But he’s also lazy, undisciplined, self-absorbed and inept. And since the threat to democracy is much broader and deeper than one man, we’re actually fortunate that the forces menacing America have such a ludicrous person as their public face.
Yet those forces may prevail all the same.
Krugman continued by comparing the actions of the GOP in America to that of Hungarian President Viktor Orban’s national conservative Fidesz party, which the NYT columnist incorrectly labelled as a “white nationalist” group (click “expand”):
The classic example [of a subtle authoritarian coup] is Hungary, where Fidesz, the white nationalist governing party, has effectively taken over the bulk of the media; destroyed the independence of the judiciary; rigged voting to enfranchise supporters and disenfranchise opponents; gerrymandered electoral districts in its favor; and altered the rules so that a minority in the popular vote translates into a supermajority in the legislature.
Does a lot of this sound familiar? It should. You see, Republicans have been adopting similar tactics — not at the federal level (yet), but in states they control.
Thus, voter purges and deliberate restriction of minority access to the polls have become standard practice in much of America. Would Brian Kemp, the governor-elect of Georgia — who oversaw his own election as secretary of state — have won without these tactics? Almost certainly not.
In reality, there is no substantive evidence that Brian Kemp or anyone else in the Republican Party in Georgia suppressed votes or conspired to disenfranchise minority voters. To the contrary, Georgia saw a huge increase in midterm votes (and thus voters) of about 1.4 million between the 2014 and 2018 elections. Moreover, a record high 40 percent of the 2018 Georgia electorate was non-white (this is up four percentage points from 2014).
Undeterred by having to provide evidence for his bold assertions, Krugman jumped straight to his next point, this time claiming that Republicans have “engaged in extreme gerrymandering” to subvert democracy. As his only cited example of this, Krugman turned to Wisconsin:
There has been a fair amount of reporting on the power grab currently underway in Madison. Having lost every statewide office in Wisconsin last month, Republicans are using the lame-duck legislative session to drastically curtail these offices’ power, effectively keeping rule over the state in the hands of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature.
What has gotten less emphasis is the fact that G.O.P. legislative control is also undemocratic. Last month Democratic candidates received 54 percent of the votes in State Assembly elections — but they ended up with only 37 percent of the seats.
In other words, Wisconsin is turning into Hungary on the Great Lakes, a state that may hold elections, but where elections don’t matter, because the ruling party retains control no matter what voters do.
This “analysis” is absurd on multiple levels, the most obvious of which is that State Assembly or House seats are not doled out by statewide popular vote, but by district votes. Every state legislative candidate has to win in his own district; he or she can’t just transfer extra votes to help out candidates in other districts. That’s not how the American democratic process works (this is really Civics for Dummies level knowledge).
Keeping this in mind, Wisconsin’s specific situation is easily explained by the fact that Democratic-controlled districts there (as elsewhere in the United States) tend to be very politically homogenous. So, Democrats may very well rack up a lot of votes in those areas — thusly inflating some imaginary statewide popular vote for the Assembly — without ultimately helping out Democrats running in more politically competitive or Republican-supporting districts. No secret authoritarianism is needed as an explanation.
Because none of this very basic information made its way into Krugman’s mind, the NYT columnist inexorably proceeded onwards to his conclusion that the Republicans are just one election away from destroying American democracy forever:
[W]hatever may happen to Donald Trump, his party has turned its back on democracy. And that should terrify you.
The fact is that the G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America.
In light of such ridiculously hyperbolic statements, it should be no surprise that Krugman has also decided that the United States is part of a “new axis of evil” on par with the original Axis powers of Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Imperial Japan.
Krugman’s column can be read in full here.