The Making of a Dictatorship: The Eastman Memo and GOP Silence

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We learned definitively last week that former President Donald J. Trump and his allies did indeed want to destroy our democratic republic and install autocracy. CNN obtained a memo written by John Eastman, a lawyer working with Trump’s legal team, describing how Trump could persuade former Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the election results on Jan. 6.

The memo claimed, falsely, that seven states had competing slates of electors (although they were really illegitimate Trump allies). Eastman suggested that Pence throw out the electoral votes of these seven states because there was no way to determine the true electors. Pence could then declare that neither candidate received 270 votes, throwing the election to the House of Representatives where each state would get one vote. Republicans controlled 26 state delegations and would vote for Trump, delivering the election to him. But Pence refused to intervene, leading Trump to tweet, “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our Country and our Constitution… USA demands the truth!”

This was a plan by Trump and his cronies to overturn the results of a legitimate election and install Trump into power illegitimately. The head of the Republican Party tried to destroy our democracy. But where was the outcry from law-and-order Republicans? With few exceptions, they have remained silent. Why? Perhaps they are afraid that they will lose to Trump supporters in primary races — they are more interested in continuing in their positions of power than protecting our country.

But I believe there is a more dangerous reason for the Republicans’ silence: they have embraced Trump’s authoritarian tendencies. They appear to be quite happy to force a minority viewpoint on the rest of us and are willing to support a future coup to get their way. They continue to call the 2020 election fraudulent and are still pushing for more audits. Trump loyalists have convinced their supporters to distrust elections, which could lead to attempts to overturn future elections, or worse.

Robert Pape, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, and colleagues conducted a national poll in June. Pape reported, “We have found that 47 million American adults — nearly 1 in 5 — agree with the statement that ‘the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.’ Of those, 21 million also agree that ‘use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.’” Pape also found that at least 7 million of these Americans own a gun and 6 million support right-wing militias and extremist groups, and 1 million belong to or know a member of such a group. 

More disturbing, there appears to be significant mainstream support in America for a violent insurrection. Chicago Project on Security & Threats reported that of the 532 people arrested for the Jan. 6 insurrection as of July 2, only 13% are members of white supremacist and militia groups and a majority (63%) are under the age of 45. Further, 86% are employed with almost half of them (48%) being business owners or working in white-collar jobs.” As Pogo said many years ago, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Ian Millhiser, a senior correspondent for Vox, analyzed the 2020 Senate election to see how representative it was. Currently, the Democratic half of the Senate represents 41,549,808 more people than the Republican half. The Senate, although its votes impact all of us, does not represent the majority of the country. We are very close to minority rule, if not already there. This is not the America in which I grew up, nor is it the America I want for my children and grandchildren.

The Republicans in office, and many who are not, are willing to let the minority rule. They are content to let our form of government be destroyed. If the will of the minority prevails, it can impose that on the rest of the nation even if most of the citizens are opposed. That is quite like what an autocratic, despotic government would do. Democracy will die. A dictatorship will prevail. We cannot let that happen. We must do all we can to fight the wishes of the GOP at all levels.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Dr. Hank Cetola is a Professor Emeritus at Adrian College, Adrian, MI, and the founder of Lenawee Indivisible. He can be reached at

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