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The presidential election removed any doubt that we are a very divided nation.

What it didn’t show is how we are divided, which makes it more challenging to figure out what the election tells us beyond Joe Biden being the next president. 

The least we can say is that both Biden and Trump voters are not monolithic, that both groups are diverse with people having different reasons why they voted as they did.

In regard to Trump voters, though, whether they are paying attention to it or not the election results point to a dramatic change in the Republican Party that portends a historic threat to our country we can ill afford to ignore. 

That change is what conservative journalist David Brooks describes as a movement away from being small government Reagan Republicans to anti-government Trump Republicans. 

This change is why Brooks himself quit the Republican Party, as have George Will, Nicole Wallace, Steve Schmidt, David Jolly, George Conway, Rick Wilson, and many others. 

Donald Trump didn’t bring about this shift, but he popularized it enough for it to take control of today’s Republican Party. 

We are seeing the Republican anti-government ideology on full display in Trump’s refusal to accept defeat and allow a smooth transition of power.

While he is no doubt being driven by his own egocentrism, anti-government sentiment accounts for Republican support of what he is doing.

It is astonishing that two weeks after the election only 7 of the 53 sitting Republican Senators have accepted Joe Biden’s victory, and virtually no Republican member of the House.

The reason is not that they fear Trump or his voters. The real reason is because they don’t want the government to work anyway and making things more difficult for the Biden Administration serves that purpose. 

They also believe it will help them win the two Senate seats in Georgia which would make Mitch McConnell Majority Leader, positioning him to practice his anti-government ideology by opposing everything President Biden proposes the same way he did with President Obama. 

But Republican anti-government ideology is even more dangerous than trying to keep the government from functioning. 

It is now coupled with authoritarianism that can destabilize our democracy if we are not careful, according to world leaders who have had more experience in confronting authoritarianism than we have.    

In a recent report by CNN’s Evana Kottasova, the V-Dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden conducted a study that examined shifts in the identity of political parties across 169 countries between 1970 and 2019 and drew on assessments of 665 experts who considered 30 detailed indicators in their research.

The Republican Party’s “recent retreat from democratic norms,” the study says, “has left it resembling authoritarian ruling parties like Hungary’s Fidesz and Turkey’s AKP.”

V-Dem deputy director, Anna Luehrmann, told Kottasova, “What we see with the US is that the disagreement is not anymore just about policy. We see that at least one political group [Republicans] seems to go by: ‘Take all means necessary to achieve our policy goals’.” 

She continued, “The disagreement about immigration policy, the disagreement about LGBT equality … yes, we have that — we have sort of issue polarization here as well — but what we can see is that there’s a dangerous lack of commitment to democratic norms.”

It is unsettling to think this can actually be happening to our country, but we are naïve, if not foolish, to think it isn’t or that it can’t. 

History is unambiguous in telling the story of citizens in other countries who did not see what was happening to their governments until it was too late.  

German citizens didn’t believe it when they elected Adolph Hitler as President. They didn’t even believe it when he consolidated power by combining the office of President and the office of Chancellor and essentially dissolved the Reichstag by giving full legislative control to the Nazi Party. 

The Italian population didn’t believe Benito Mussolini was a fascist when he led a coup and named himself Prime Minister of Italy.

Will history say the same thing about us someday? It is not far-fetched to fear it will. 

Donald Trump has pushed against all limits to his authority the entire time he has been president, with his challenging the legitimacy of the election and refusing to allow a smooth transition of power the latest example.

In the past four years he has defied congressional oversight, fired inspectors general whose job was to hold the executive branch accountable for doing what is right, filed endless lawsuits to avoid his own accountability, politicized the justice department to reward his friends and punish his enemies, labeled the press when it exposed his lies as “fake news” and told his supporters the press was their enemy, appointed temporary cabinet secretaries to avoid Senate confirmation, installed “loyalists” in every position of influence and power, and even politicized American intelligence and national security.

There is nothing he has done that has shown respect for our democracy and plenty he has done to undermine it, yet nearly half the country voted for four more years of it.

He also has all the Republican help he needs to support his assault on our democracy. As I write this South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has been accused by the Georgia Republican Secretary of state of trying to get him to disallow legitimate votes. Graham has denied the allegation, but has yet to explain why he is meddling in the vote of a state he doesn’t even represent. 

Michigan Republicans say they plan to try to impeach Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer because of her actions in fighting the spread of the coronavirus. 

Wisconsin Republicans have stripped Democratic Governor Evers of the powers Republican Governor Scott Walker used, including emergency powers to deal with the pandemic. The same thing has happened in North Carolina.

Anti-government ideology lies at the core of Republicans politicizing the pandemic. It allows them to use this terrible crisis to further erode respect for and trust in our government health experts.

Are we to believe Republicans are so childish as to believe wearing a mask is a genuine infringement of individual freedom? Perhaps they are, but they are also expressing a deep hatred of government whether they realize it or not that is literally killing people. The nation is on fire with the coronavirus and nearly 250,000 Americans have died, with projections that hundreds of thousands more will if we continue the path we are on. 

Republicans insist they care about these deaths as much as Democrats, but as Rachel Maddox wisely keeps saying, don’t listen to what they say, pay attention to what they do. 

What Republicans are doing is trying to break the back of our democratic government so it cannot work, even if they kill thousands of more Americans to make their point.

This is why the significance of Biden/Harris victory cannot be overstated. It gives us a chance to oppose the Republican ideology of anti-government and their movement toward authoritarianism with political power of our own.

This is not a fight we ever wanted.

We have always seen Republicans as the “loyal” opposition to our views and there was a time when they saw us the same way.

Donald Trump’s influence has pushed them way beyond that point now and so here we stand in this historic moment that will determine what kind of government our country will have in the future.

Joe Biden said many times during the campaign that the election was about the soul of America.

He was right, except he didn’t go far enough. The election was about the soul of America only if in this post-election time we can save the very democracy that makes us America in the first place.