Sarah Kendzior is a journalist, authoritarianism expert, and author of Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America. We look at the decades-long rise of the former president and the various reasons why we are not immune to the threat of authoritarianism.
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The Erosion of America
Since the 1980s America has experienced an erosion of government regulations, societal norms, and equality. Trickle-down economics created a massive wealth gap. The Iran-Contra scandal set a new, low accountability standard for the highest levels of government. 24-hour news appeared as the Fairness Doctrine fell. This background, coupled with reality TV and social media, provided the perfect conditions to mainstream someone like Donald Trump.
Myth of American Exceptionalism
Every country is susceptible to democracy decay. American exceptionalism has helped mainstream government corruption because it blinds us from warning signs like illegal government acts or the threat of authoritarianism. Pretending that institutional collapse cannot happen in the US, makes it difficult to admit that we have experienced decades of decline in our institutions.
Trump: Political Insider
The idea that Trump is a political neophyte is a PR fiction the media attached itself to in the run-up of the 2016 election. Trump was mentored by GOP operative Roy Cohn and flirted with a presidential run as early as 1984. He considered running again in 1988, and then ran in 2000, and again in 2012. Trump has a more than 40-year interest in politics and has remained close with political operatives like Roger Stone throughout.
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Sarah Kendzior is a writer who lives in St Louis, Missouri. She is best known for her book Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America, her reporting on political and economic problems in the US, her prescient coverage of the 2016 election and the Trump administration, and her academic research on authoritarian states in Central Asia.
She is also the co-host of Gaslit Nation, a weekly podcast which covers corruption in the Trump administration and the rise of authoritarianism around the world.
Since 2017, she has been covering the transformation of the US under the Trump administration, writing on authoritarian tactics, kleptocracy, racism and xenophobia, media, voting rights, technology, the environment, and the Russian interference case, among other topics. She is an op-ed columnist for the Globe and Mail, where she focuses primarily on US politics. She is also a frequent contributor to Fast Company, NBC News, and other national outlets. From 2012-2014 she was an op-ed columnist for Al Jazeera English.
In addition to working as a journalist, she is a researcher and scholar. She has a PhD in anthropology from Washington University in Saint Louis (2012) and an MA in Central Eurasian Studies from Indiana University (2006). Most of her work focuses on the authoritarian states of the former Soviet Union and how the internet affects political mobilization, self-expression, and trust.
You can follow Sarah on Twitter @sarahkendzior.