Professors address authoritarianism


Jackie Jahfetson

When you hear the word authoritarianism, you picture strong, ruthless leaders. Perhaps you think of fascism and 1930s propaganda. Swastikas and reflections of Nazi Germany creep up into your mind, along with today’s more moderate authoritarian leaders like Vladimir Putin. But have you ever thought of the United States as taking over an authoritarianism role? Some citizens believe this new administration is adopting authoritarian tactics in order to persuade Americans into believing they are strong and the rightful leaders to rule. But this chain of reactions is not the answer the American public needs and it’s something all U.S. citizens should be concerned about, according to some NMU political science professors.

Glasses of different wines and brews were not the only disparities during last night’s talk on “The Rise of Authoritarianism and Other Dangerous Political Currents in the Trump Era” held at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. Greeted by a full house of both NMU students and community members, a panel of four NMU political science professors addressed the issues of the Trump administration and the positive effects of Trump’s time in office.

Among the presenters, former department head of political science and professor emeritus Robert Kulisheck noted that what’s happening with President Trump is happening all over the world from Russia to Turkey and it’s important that everyone is aware of what’s going on, Kulisheck said.

“When the word fascism is used, conversations usually degenerate into a debate about whether a particular leader is just like Hitler and we’re going to wind up with concentration camps, genocide and war,” Kulisheck said. “That’s not what I’m saying.”

Rather than comparing current leaders to fascists, people should be more concerned about how these “authoritarian populists” gain support, Kulisheck said. When leaders are fighting for power, they proclaim themselves as true leaders of democracy by saying they will reverse the “constitutional constraints” that are “blocking” the true will of the people, Kulisheck said, adding, this kind of behavior will only anieliate a nation like it did with Italy and Germany.

“I am sick of hearing the constant bragging, the bullying tactics, the demonizing escape goat and the use of repeated lies,” Kulisheck said. “Democracy is precious. Don’t let it slip away.”

Department Head of Political Science Carter Wilson stressed that Americans need to get passed the “black and white” and look at this as an American problem, Wilson said. And in order to reverse this authoritarian state, we need to fix the “money-driven elections” that leads to inequalities among the working class and minorities, Wilson said.

Other professors such as Jonathan Allen focused on the works of political theorists and philosophers such as Russian philosopher Aleksandr Dugin whereas William Ball centered his attention on the successful aspects the Trump administration has accomplished such as an increase in employment.

Though not all of the presenters shared the same views, they brought up “interesting” viewpoints, said junior and political science major Denali Drake. Wilson’s argument, in particular, was interesting to learn about the disparity of wealth and how “crazy” it actually is when the economy increases, inequality and social welfare increases as well, Drake said.

“I think in the Trump era [authoritarianism] is something we have to constantly be discussing in order to prevent different things from forming. The more we understand about our own government, the better we’re off,” Drake said.