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The increasingly authoritarian-curious Republican Party

Donald Trump is eyeing a more authoritarian second term in the White House. And, increasingly, Republicans seem inclined to support that goal.

Polling on the GOP’s appetite for a more powerful chief executive has been slow in coming. But it has been coming. And the emerging picture is that Republicans are remarkably on-board with a president who isn’t answerable to Congress and the courts — significantly more so than Democrats.

And perhaps as significantly, very few Republicans seem to strongly object to the idea.

The most recent survey comes from AP-NORC. It shows a bit of a difference between the two parties on whether unilateral presidential power is a good thing; 17 percent of Democrats say it is, while 26 percent of Republicans agree. Not huge numbers on either side.

But then the survey got to the actual point, by asking about specific presidents exercising such power “without waiting for Congress and the courts.”

While 39 percent of Democrats said working around Congress and the courts was a good thing if the president were named Biden, 57 percent of Republicans said it would be a good thing if the president were named Trump.

While an isolated poll, the results are very much in line with other surveys on the subject, including, from recent weeks:

A Reuters-Ipsos poll last month, which showed that 52 percent of Republicans agreed that the country needs “a strong president who should be allowed to rule without too much interference from courts and Congress.” Just 29 percent of Democrats agreed with that statement.A February poll from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which found that 74 percent of Republicans would support Trump being a “dictator for a day,” an idea he once broached.An NPR-PBS-Marist College poll last week, which asked whether people agreed that things are so bad that “we need a leader who is willing to break some rules to set things right.” Republicans (56 percent) were twice as likely to agree with that statement as Democrats (28 percent). While Republicans agreed with the statement by a 13-point margin, Democrats disagreed by a 44-point margin.A December Fox News poll, which went a step further, asking whether we need a president who will break some “rules and laws” — basically taking illegal action. Trump 2020 voters (30 percent) were twice as likely to support that as Biden 2020 voters (15 percent).

It’s important not to oversell these data.

The percentage of Republicans who appear to be truly pining for a strongman is significantly shy of a majority. For instance, in the NPR-PBS Marist College poll, just 23 percent “strongly” agreed that we need someone willing to break the rules. Similarly, Republicans who want a president who is willing to break the law were still outnumbered about 2-to-1.

But those are also significant numbers of Republicans — often the noisiest ones. And what we also see in these data is a distinct lack of countervailing concern about an all-powerful executive.

Just 10 percent of Republicans strongly disagreed that a president should be willing to break some rules, and just 20 percent strongly disagreed with the idea of “a strong president who should be allowed to rule without too much interference from courts and Congress.”

Similarly, a February YouGov poll listed 10 characteristics desirable in a president and asked people to pick the three they found least desirable. Although 40 percent of Democrats picked “authoritarian” among their three least-desirable traits, just 13 percent of Republicans did. None of the 10 characteristics — including “bully,” “divisive” and “disrespectful” — finished lower among Republicans in terms of what people objected to.

In other words, to the extent that Trump is truly planning on a more authoritarian second term, there doesn’t seem to be much in his party holding him back. And there is plenty to propel him forward.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post
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