After Hurricane Ian devastated the U.S. state of Florida in late September, its Republican governor Ron DeSantis used some unusual language to criticize American press coverage of the storm. The “national regime media,” he said, had wanted to see Ian hit the city of Tampa, because that would have been “worse for Florida”—and helped the media “pursue their political agenda.” DeSantis’ comments were certainly odd in that there’s no record of journalists ever hoping for any harm to Tampa—but they were even more striking in their association of the media with a “regime” that’s hostile to his party and subverting his country.

For some time now, far-right members of the U.S. House of Representatives—such as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Paul Gosar—have been railing against the “Biden regime.” Others on the American right have meanwhile argued that a more deep-seated and oppressive “regime” extends far beyond government—to the press, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and “woke” corporations. Ohio’s Republican Senate nominee J.D. Vance even claimed that the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was “censored by the regime.” And according to the former Trump national-security official Michael Anton, “the people who really run the United States of America” all belong to it. What are they talking about?

Laura K. Field is a scholar-in-residence at American University and a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center in Washington. To Field, the rising popularity of the term is a sign of how fluidly extremist ideas are now migrating from the fringes of American politics into the mainstream—from niche intellectuals to ideological entrepreneurs to politicians, media commentators, and other influencers. Field notes that many of those who’ve helped popularize the idea of “the regime” had tried from 2016 to articulate an intellectual framework that supported the politics of Donald Trump—and are trying now to develop the framework for a right-wing populism that can outlast him.

Graham Vyse: What’s “the regime”?

Laura K. Field: The idea of a regime is relatively familiar. Political scientists have commonly used the term to refer to a system of government. But until recently, it’s not something you’d hear much in mainstream U.S. political conversation.

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