Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut critiques CNN’s “Town Hall” program Wednesday night, which commentators have described as an “infomercial” for Donald Trump to air his unsupported claims. Mr. Aftergut points out the role that media plays in legitimizing authoritarianism and calls upon CNN viewers to “vote with your remote” and send CNN a message that it should stop enabling a former President who tried to overturn the Constitution.
Dean Falvy, a lecturer at the University of Washington School of Law in Seattle, describes how to tell whether a government is plotting to overthrow itself—a phenomenon he calles a “Selfie Coup.” Falvy explains the difference between a Selfie Coup and creeping authoritarianism by providing examples of both and argues that the more aware civil society is of the possibility of a Selfie Coup, the more likely it can prepare its defenses in time to prevent it.
Austin Sarat—Associate Provost, Associate Dean of the Faculty and William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science at Amherst College—comments on Harvard Law Professor Adrian Vermeule’s essay “Beyond Originalism,” which Sarat argues brings conservative authoritarianism out of the shadows. Sarat describes Vermeule as a modern-day Machiavelli, offering advice to the governing class and laying out a theory of governance Vermeule calls “common-good constitutionalism” but which in reality elevates the “common good” above individual goods in a manner antithetical to freedom, pluralism, and democracy.
John W. Dean, former White House counsel under President Nixon, and Bob Altemeyer, a retired professor of psychology at the University of Manitoba, explain the social science that explains not only Donald Trump and his brand of leadership but also his loyal followers who would continue to support him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue. Dean and Altemeyer argue that the dangers they pose are far graver than those presented by the Nixon presidency.
John W. Dean, former White House counsel to President Nixon, engages in a question-and-answer session with Jonathan Weiler, who, along with Marc Hetherington, authored Prius or Pickup? How the Answers to Four Simple Questions Explain America’s Great Divide. Responding to Dean’s insightful questions, Weiler explains some of the book’s themes, particularly the authors’ choice to use the terms “fixed,” “fluid,” and “mixed” to describe political views that have traditionally been described in terms of “authoritarianism.” Dean praises the work as a fascinating read and a well-written book.
John W. Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, relates the research and words of psychology professor Bob Altemeyer as the latter explains how difficult it would be to change the minds of supporters of Donald Trump. Based on Altemeyer’s observations, Dean proposes the only way for Democrats to succeed in 2018 and 2020 is to focus on getting sympathetic non-voters—who outnumber right-wing authoritarians in the general population—to the polls.