Political Thinkers Who are Concerned That Fascism is Coming to America

I believe that fascism is an existential threat to America’s democracy and it is no longer a forgone conclusion that America will remain a democracy for the duration of my lifetime. In an attempt to alert the American public of my concern, I have written many articles on this subject and list some at the bottom of this blog posting.

I am aware that some (many, most, or all) of my readers think that my concern about the end of democracy in America is a result of either politically naiveté or being overly histrionic. To address this concern, I have created a list of reputable thinkers and politicians who are similarly concerned that authoritarian and fascist ideologies have made inroads into America’s political system and are now a serious threat to the future of America’s democracy. It is my hope that the gravity of the intellectual talent enumerated below will convince the American electorate that authoritarianism and fascism will be the single most important issue facing the American electorate in the 2024 election. 

The Atlantic  magazine’s January/February 2024 issue is entitled “If Trump Wins” with essays on various topics including:

  • David Frum on autocracy
  • Anne Applebaum on NATO
  • McKay Coppins on the loyalists
  • Caitlin Dickerson on immigration
  • Barton Gellman on the Justice Department Sophie Gilbert on misogyny
  • Zoë Schlanger on climate
  • George Packer on journalism
  • Sarah Zhang on science
  • Franklin Foer on corruption
  • Michael Schuman on China
  • Adam Serwer on the courts
  • Juliette Kayyem on extremism
  • Elaine Godfrey on abortion
  • Megan Garber on disinformation
  • Clint Smith on history
  • Ronald Brownstein on partisanship
  • David A. Graham on normalization
  • Vann R. Newkirk II on civil rights Spencer Kornhaber on freedom
  • Tom Nichols on the military
  • Helen Lewis on the left
  • Jennifer Senior on anxiety
  • Mark Leibovich on America’s character

Added 12/28/2023


Damon Linker: a former columnist at The Week, writes the newsletter Notes From the Middleground. 

Get to Know the Influential Conservative Intellectuals Who Help Explain G.O.P. Extremism

“…many of the right’s most prominent writers are ceasing to behave like citizens … in favor of thinking and acting like commissars eager to serve a strongman.”

Added 11/4/2023


Bill Kristol, neoconservative writer, commentator, editor

The American Right seemed at first to be going fascist slowly, but now seems to be doing so all at once.


Anne Applebaum, Journalist, historian

democracies do die… I don’t think democracy in America is over. … But it’s proved to be weaker in some ways than we thought it was.”

almost every democracy in history ended in authoritarianism

The Bad Guys are Winning

Book: Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lose of Authoritarianism


Ruth Ben-Ghiat, Historian at New York University

 Trump “has created a one-man-led political movement that does not map onto traditional U.S. party structures or behave in traditional ways. This is how Fascism began as well.

Book: Strongmen


Michael Beschloss, Presidential Historian, author

Democracy Is On The Ballot and Fascism Lingers In The Shadows


President Joseph Biden

MAGA Republicans do not respect the Constitution. They do not believe in the rule of law. They do not recognize the will of the people. They refuse to accept the results of a free election, and they’re working right now … to undermine democracy itself.”


Secretary of State Hillary Rodam Clinton

If you look at the definition [of fascist] … I think we can agree on several things: One, he (Trump) has authoritarian tendencies and he admires authoritarian leaders, Putin being his favorite. He uses a form of really virulent nationalism. He identifies targets: immigrants, blacks, browns, gays, women, whoever the target of the day or week is … I think you see a lot of the characteristics of what we think of [as] nationalistic, fascistic kinds of tendencies and behaviors.


David Frum, Political commentator, author, speechwriter for President G.W. Bush

Trump is “shutting down the ethical standards of the US government, and thwarting the defense of the country against foreign espionage intervention in those elections.”

When highly committed parties (Republicans) strongly believe [in] things that they cannot achieve democratically, they don’t give up on their beliefs — they give up on democracy.

Book: Trumpocalypse


Jonathan Haidt, Social psychologist, author at New York University

We now have a Republican Party that describes a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol aslegitimate political discourse


Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, Political scientists at Harvard University

Donald Trump is very much – is a pretty authoritarian figure.”

Book: How Democracies Die


Jon Meachum, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian, at Vanderbilt University

What’s at stake [in the 2024 Presidential election] is whether America …(is).. more likely than not to vote for an overtly autocratic figure for President of the United States. Trump has explicitly said that the rule of law should not apply to him, that the results of free and fair elections should not be obeyed if he loses them. … Trump has said that the Constitution should be suspended, that he should be reinstated, that every other actor, pretty much, within the constitutional order, is illegitimate, if that actor is not one-hundred-per-cent supportive of his own appetites and ambitions… I believe that Trumpism is a fundamental threat to the things that we have long held dear

As “the constitutional order [after the 2016 election of Trump] has not been in as perilous a state since Lincoln himself became president, I actually started thinking about it after the 2016 election, wondering if the fears that many of us in the country had about threats to the constitutional order would in fact come to pass. And they did.

Book: The Soul of America


Yascha Mounk, Political scientist at Johns Hopkins University

Anyone who cares about the survival of the American republic should therefore start thinking about some plan to avert disaster… the room is on fire, the worst possible course of action is to keep sitting in your chair and proclaim that “this is fine.”’

Athenian democracy lasted for about two centuries. Romans ruled themselves for nearly five hundred years. The Republic of Venice remained serene for over a millennium. Anybody who predicted the demise of these polities in their later years could easily have been mocked.”

PBS interview

Book: The Great Experiment: Why Diverse Democracies Fall Apart and How They Can Endure

Book: The People vs. Democracy


President Barack Obama

With his (Trump’s) attempts to undo the outcome of the 2020 presidential election …  Trump’s confirmed … he’s a threat to this country’s democracy.”

Obama to Tim Kaine in October 2016 “You’ve got to keep a fascist (Trump)out of the White House.’”

President Obama Asks Red & Blue America To Unite For Democracy


George Packer, Journalist, National Book Award winner

I think we dodged more than a bullet [January 6 attack on the Capital] – a mortar round… I’ve seen the foreshadowing of something I never expected to see, never imagined, which is the end of our democracy .. I lived through a lot of bad political periods, but that never seemed to be on the horizon.

Book: Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal


Jonathan Rauch, Author, Journalist 

a second Trump term could bring about the extinction of American democracy…Trump has demonstrated in the United States … [t]he public will accept authoritarianism, provided it is of the creeping variety… Trump and his followers openly plan to emulate Orbán” who ended democracy in Hungary,

Book: The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth

Book: The People vs, Democracy


Senator Mitt Romney, Utah and former Governor of Massachusetts

“… preserving liberal democracy is an extraordinary challengeauthoritarianism is in ascendency


Timothy Snyder, Historian at Yale University, award winning author

Texas ” is marking out a policy line and inviting citizens to enforce it. This is how one party-states operate. It is characteristic of both fascist and communist regimes. The law exists, but power is not defined by the law. Instead, the party courts a certain kind of chaos. The leader sends a signal, and then sees how people respond. The result is that people take part in their own oppression.”

Book: On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century


Laurence Tribe, University Professor Emeritus of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School

If Garland doesn’t prosecute Trump, the rule of law is “out the window”

Trump “essentially confessed publicly, and openly, without any coercion, without any pressure, to having committed the crime of conspiracy to engage in sedition. Seditious conspiracy, because the United States government, punishable by 20 years in prison, because he quite specifically said that he thought he had a right to overturn the election, and that Vice President Pence had better straighten up and overturn the election for him. He also confessed publicly to inciting and fomenting, and more importantly giving aid and comfort to an insurrection, which is punishable by ten years in prison, and importantly by permanent disqualification from ever again holding office under the United States…. under 18 U.S. Code Section 2384, and 2383, this nullifies him from ever holding office again,… I don`t think that this attorney general can afford simply to lay down [and not prosecute Trump] and play dead in front of the domestic terrorist. That is what this is, domestic terrorism. No former president has ever done it. And we simply cannot let this go on any longer.”


I intend to add, subtract, and correct entries on this list as additional information becomes available.

Below are a some of my writing  in which I address issues relevant to America’s downward spiral from democracy and evolving into an illiberal democracy, authoritarian or fascist government.

For additional writing on this subject, see the New York Times Reading list,  It (fascism) Can Happen Here: 8 Great Books to Read About the Decline of Democracy.

Hayward Zwerling

3 April 2023


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