Opinion | When Conservatives Fall for Demagogues

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How did the conservative defenders of classical liberal ideals like free speech and the rule of law wind up abetting authoritarians across Europe and the U.S.? With Ross out for the week, Frank and Michelle are joined by Anne Applebaum, author of “Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism,” to debate the origins of the center right’s schism over nationalism. Then, if you’ve got consternation over cancel culture, Michelle has “The Joke” for you.

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I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist for The Times since 2011, but my career with the newspaper stretches back to 1995 and includes many twists and turns that reflect my embarrassingly scattered interests. I covered Congress, the White House and several political campaigns; I also spent five years in the role of chief restaurant critic. As the Rome bureau chief, I reported on the Vatican; as a staff writer for The Times’s Sunday magazine, I wrote many celebrity profiles. That jumble has informed my various books, which focus on the Roman Catholic Church, George W. Bush, my strange eating life, the college admissions process and meatloaf. Politically, I’m grief-stricken over the way President Trump has governed and I’m left of center, but I don’t think that the center is a bad place or “compromise” a dirty word. I’m Italian-American, I’m gay and I write a weekly Times newsletter in which you’ll occasionally encounter my dog, Regan, who has the run of our Manhattan apartment.

I’ve been an Op-Ed columnist at The New York Times since 2017, writing mainly about politics, ideology and gender. These days people on the right and the left both use “liberal” as an epithet, but that’s basically what I am, though the nightmare of Donald Trump’s presidency has radicalized me and pushed me leftward. I’ve written three books, including one, in 2006, about the danger of right-wing populism in its religious fundamentalist guise. (My other two were about the global battle over reproductive rights and, in a brief detour from politics, about an adventurous Russian émigré who helped bring yoga to the West.) I love to travel; a long time ago, after my husband and I eloped, we spent a year backpacking through Asia. Now we live in Brooklyn with our son and daughter.


“The Argument” is a production of The New York Times Opinion section. The team includes Phoebe Lett, Paula Szuchman and Pedro Rafael Rosado. Special thanks to Brad Fisher and Kristin Lin. Theme by Allison Leyton-Brown.


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