Who is consulted on the topic to shed some light (serving as the support for the point of the article)? This is where things get puzzling. Evidently unable to fathom that the arrest of political opponents is not likely or possible in a democracy or more specifically in American democracy, the authors of the article (Max Fisher and Amanda Taub) do something curious. Rather than consult scholars who have investigated when and how democracies engage in state repression (e.g., Robert J. Goldstein; Jules Bookoff; Neil Mitchell; myself; Sabine Carey; Will Moore and Courtney Conrad; myself, Will Moore and David Armstrong; Linda Camp Keith and, David Richards), the authors raise the question with scholars more known for authoritarianism and repression (e.g., Adrienne LeBas and Sheri Berman) as well as civil war (e.g., Paul Staniland). Now, I know all of these people and respect them, so that is not the issue. I suppose that Fisher and Taub had the spin that they wanted to pursue and that is part of the problem - how the media cover political conflict, violence and peace.
By making repression seem as if it is not possible or likely within a democracy, the readers of the article are left without the facts of the matter. For example, Berman maintains that "Our (United States) institutions are strong enough to prevent him (Trump) from doing anything truly horrific." Well, existing research shows us that political democracy reduces the magnitude of state repression UNLESS a political threat is being confronted (i.e., some behavioral challenge within the territorial jurisdiction under consideration, some challenging/disliked group or some external threat exists ala 911). The institutions of democracy are not only are weak(er) when threats exist but they can/have been/will be turned against citizens under specific circumstances. Under the threat of Native American resistance, the US government engaged in genocide at the founding of the nation; under the threat of the Anarchists, the US government engaged in large-scale persecution of various immigrants including beatings, mass arrests, deportation and selective assassination; under the threat of war, the US government engaged in large-scale persecution of individuals of Japanese and German descent through mass arrest and detention; under the threat of Communism, the US government engaged in large-scale persecution of individuals and institutions that purged a whole way of thinking through physical intimidation, political bans, mass arrests and illegal investigations; under the threat of black criminality, the US government engaged in large-scale persecution of individuals and institutions through physical intimidation, harassment, beatings, torture, mass arrests (albeit undertaken in a seemingly uncoordinated manner across time/space), selective assassination and political bans; and, under the threat of terrorism, the US government has engaged in torture, more aggressive protest policing, investigations of questionable legality, restrictions on speech and association, the militarization of law enforcement as well as selective assassination via drones and military invasion abroad. In addition to this, the American public has little understanding or interest in what takes place within prisons nor with their tax dollars as it relates to policing/intelligence/war. This is not a context within which democratic institutions are likely to work well.
What all this suggests is that we do not need to have a discussion about authoritarianism and repression but rather we need to have a discussion about democracy and repression. Fisher and Taub undermine that effort with their spin. Indeed, we need to be having more frequent and deeper discussions about perceived threats in the US and hate mongering; we need to have more frequent and deeper discussions about what threats are (e.g., many Americans are afraid of crime even when it is extremely low); and, we need to be having more frequent and deeper discussions about how not only fear is spread through a population but how perceptions of safety, openness and (dare I say) love are diffused.
Finally, in an effort to assist those in the media that are trying to find people who are relevant to their stories, I wish to again try to get researchers to enter information about what they do on the Conflict Consortium's webpage: http://www.conflictconsortium.com. go to the first link!