Quoting Paul Krugman’s prophetic New York Times opinion piece from 2016, How Republics End:
I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.
Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.
One thing all of this makes clear is that the sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.
But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.
When a body has harbored disease
and its symptoms don’t trigger unease,
just before its demise,
a clue may arise
that reveals how it’s failed by degrees.
Now emitting the ultimate wheeze
as it’s drifting aloft on the breeze,
pray the hint of a spark
will arise from the dark
and offer a moment to seize.
Susan Eckenrode, 5/30/18