Junk Science Alert: Washington Post Says Data Prove the GOP Has Grown More Authoritarian But Democrats Have Not
President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election is an embarrassing low for a Republican Party that has grown increasingly detached from reality. But I can’t agree with a Washington Post article arguing that it’s evidence the party has embraced “rising authoritarianism.”
Don’t misunderstand me: There’s a strong argument to be made that Trump has presided over a decrease in human freedom, moving the government in a more authoritarian direction. In his case against the president, Reason‘s Matt Welch called him an “erratic authoritarian,” citing the president’s bad impulses on immigration, trade, and countless other areas.
But the Post article attempts to quantify the GOP’s slide toward authoritarianism, citing a research paper by the V-Dem Institute. According to this organization, the GOP has moved in a markedly illiberal direction since 2006, while the Democratic Party…has not budged at all.
“The Republican Party score started to edge downward during the Obama administration but fell off a cliff in 2016 with the ascent of Trump,” says The Post, summarizing V-Dem’s data. “The Democratic Party, by contrast, hasn’t changed much.”
There’s a problem with this analysis: It relies on “data” that aren’t really data at all.
V-Dem’s study draws from subjective scores provided by 600 political scientists who were asked to rate the parties on various issues. Several of these do not have a direct correlation with illiberalism: The scientists considered parties’ “anti-elitism,” “invocati
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