Last week, Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan wrote that the United States is likely to become a fascist dictatorship, thanks to greedy and craven Republicans who privately despise and fear Trump, but value their own power. MAGA acolytes responded to the piece in a typical Trumpian fashion. Matt Gaetz accused the Post of inciting the assassination of Trump, and J.D. Vance demanded the DOJ to open a criminal investigation against Kagan. Normal Americans who value the Constitution and democracy complained that the article didn't offer any potential solutions to what appears to be an inevitable and looming disaster for the country and the world.
Yesterday, Kagan responded with an opinion piece titled, "The Trump dictatorship: How to stop it." He isn't optimistic that his solution will work, not because it untenable, but because GOP lawmakers are more concerned with their own wealth and power than the fate of the country. "The formula for defeating Trump in November is simple enough: Unite the Democrats, and split the Republicans," he says.
Trump voters, he says, come in three varieties:
Trump cultists: This is the largest group, described as followers of what former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman called the "cult" of Trump. These are the folks who would vote for Trump, even if they personally witnessed him punting a baby. These voters are completely loyal and are seen as out of reach for Nikki Haley or any other candidate opposing Trump.
Pragmatic Trumpers: This smaller group doesn't have an issue with Trump as long as he can beat President Biden and the Democrats in the next election. They are reassured by polls suggesting Trump's potential to win, and their support is based on his perceived electability rather than personal loyalty.
Conditional Trumpers: The smallest segment, these are Republicans who say they will support Trump unless he is convicted. Recent polls indicate that this group comprises about six percent of GOP voters in key swing states. They represent a potential target for Haley or others trying to challenge Trump, as their support is conditional and might shift depending on Trump's legal challenges.
Kagan says the first step is to unite all anti-Trump elements within the Republican Party behind Nikki Haley, the most capable candidate to challenge Trump, and shift all financial and political support to her, thereby diminishing the relevance of other contenders like Ron DeSantis. Haley should raise doubts about Trump's electability by convincing pragmatic and conditional Trumpers that a Trump presidency threatens freedom, democracy, and the Constitution. Even if Haley loses the primaries (which is likely), she could run as a third-party candidate to split the Republican vote in the general election to draw Republican voters away from Trump, providing them with a constitutionally focused alternative.
Kagan isn't hopeful it will work. "At the risk of sounding Capra-esque," he concludes, "if every American who fears a Trump dictatorship acted on those fears, voiced them, convinced others, influenced their elected officials, then yes, that could make a difference. Another ship is passing that can still save us. Will we swim toward it this time, or will we let it pass, as we have all the others? I am deeply pessimistic, but I could not more fervently wish to be proved wrong."