New York Times columnist Paul Krugman provided his usual sane and balanced take on current events: “Why It Can Happen Here.” The text box: “We’re very close to becoming another Poland or Hungary.” Fascism is constantly dawning in Krugland under Republican presidencies, first Bush and now Trump.
Soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a friend of mine -- an expert on international relations -- made a joke: “Now that Eastern Europe is free from the alien ideology of Communism, it can return to its true historical path -- fascism.” Even at the time, his quip had a real edge.
And as of 2018 it hardly seems like a joke at all. What Freedom House calls illiberalism is on the rise across Eastern Europe. This includes Poland and Hungary, both still members of the European Union, in which democracy as we normally understand it is already dead.
In both countries the ruling parties -- Law and Justice in Poland, Fidesz in Hungary -- have established regimes that maintain the forms of popular elections, but have destroyed the independence of the judiciary, suppressed freedom of the press, institutionalized large-scale corruption and effectively delegitimized dissent. The result seems likely to be one-party rule for the foreseeable future.
And it could all too easily happen here....The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule.
He listed some recent partisan scraps in North Carolina, Georgia, and West Virginia that he thinks went the GOP way as thin evidence, then amped up the paranoia.
What about developments at the national level? That’s where things get really scary. We’re currently sitting on a knife edge. If we fall off it in the wrong direction -- specifically, if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November -- we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine.
A year ago it seemed possible that there might be limits to the party’s complicity, that there would come a point where at least a few representatives or senators would say, no more. Now it’s clear that there are no limits: They’ll do whatever it takes to defend Trump and consolidate power.
The point is that we’re suffering from the same disease -- white nationalism run wild -- that has already effectively killed democracy in some other Western nations. And we’re very, very close to the point of no return.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty found Krugman’s accusations mockable:
Paul Krugman play-acts joining the Rebel Alliance against the Evil Empire....Does it seem like Trump has “destroyed the independence of the judiciary”? Do authoritarian dictators often find their proposals halted by the judicial branch, on issues such as a excluding transgender individuals from military service, limiting the power of federal worker unions, ending DACA, stopping grants to sanctuary cities, or even blocking Twitter users? ....Does it seem as if Trump has “suppressed freedom of the press”? Have you noticed any lack of criticism of Trump in the media?....Do authoritarian dictators have their personal lawyers raided by the FBI, get indicted on multiple charges, and plead guilty to serious crimes?
Catching up with Krugman’s “The Slippery Slope of Complicity” (that word again) from August 18, here's a forerunner of his current piece of paranoia.
Make no mistake: if Republicans hold both houses of Congress this November, Trump will go full authoritarian, abusing institutions like the I.R.S., trying to jail opponents and journalists on, er, trumped-up charges, and more -- and he’ll do it with full support from his party....Even now, I don’t think most political commentators have grasped how deep the rot goes. I don’t think they understand, or at any rate admit to themselves, that democracy really could die just a few months from now.