A profitable prison prosecution of former President Donald Trump for unlawful actions is the one certain solution to deflate the power of his “personality cult,” declared a historian who’s an knowledgeable on authoritarian leaders.
Election defeats alone don’t cease wanna-be autocrats — but the law can, historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat instructed Politico in a prolonged interview printed Saturday. “It takes prosecution and conviction to deflate their character cults,” Ben-Ghiat mentioned. “That’s what it takes.”
Trump checks all of the containers for historical past’s authoritarians, famous Ben-Ghiat, who final 12 months printed the e book “Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present.” For one factor, they by no means depart the stage gracefully.
“I simply predicted that he [Trump] wouldn’t depart in a quiet method” after he misplaced the election, mentioned Ben-Ghiat, a professor of historical past and Italian research at New York College. “He’s an authoritarian, they usually can’t depart workplace. They don’t have good endings they usually don’t depart correctly.”
Trump’s “Massive Lie” lie that the election he undoubtedly misplaced was rigged protected his brainwashed followers from “having to reckon with the truth that he misplaced,” mentioned Ben-Ghiat. The story “maintains him as their hero, as their winner, because the invincible Trump — but in addition because the wronged Trump, the sufferer. Victimhood is extraordinarily vital for all autocrats,” she famous. “They at all times need to be the largest sufferer.”
Now Trump has modified your entire nature of the Republican Party into an “authoritarian far-right social gathering” that’s as laborious by itself members as on foes, mentioned Ben-Ghiat. “Not solely do you go after exterior enemies, however you go after inside enemies. You’re not allowed to have any dissent,” she defined.
When someone like Trump “comes on the scene and holds workplace, it’s actually like an earthquake or a volcano, and it shakes up the entire system by gathering on this large tent all of the extremists, all of the far-right individuals, and giving them legitimation,” mentioned Ben-Ghiat. “The GOP was already going away from a democratic political tradition, however he accelerated it and normalized extremism and normalized lawlessness.”
It’s additionally par for the course for an autocrat like Trump out to destroy democracy to demonize democracy and its freedoms, she mentioned.
One of many “large speaking factors and technique of right-wing authoritarianism is to label democratic techniques as tyrannical,” Ben-Ghiat defined. “Mussolini was the primary to say that democracies are tyrannical, democracies are the issue.”
Nonetheless, Ben-Ghiat is just not an entire pessimist.
“We will always remember that in the course of a pandemic, 80 plus million individuals turned out to get rid of him,” she instructed Politico. “That’s very uncommon in historical past the place you interrupt an autocratic character who’s in the course of his mission.”
Take a look at the entire interview here.