James Ridgeway’s Reporting Warned Us That Trump Was Coming – Half a Century Ago

“When you strip down the revolutionary rhetoric coming from Congress, it isn’t hard to see what a dangerous game the GOP is playing.”


This article is part of a series—At 250, Who Will America Be?—reporting on threats to American democracy as we approach the nation’s Semiquincentennial, on July 4, 2026.

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For all those thinking that Donald Trump somehow hijacked a respectable Republican party and turned it into an authoritarian, Big Lie machine, we give you Exhibit A: James Ridgeway’s decades of Village Voice reporting. Starting way back in the 1970s, Ridgeway (who passed away on February 13, 2021) exposed a rogue’s gallery of racists, religious hypocrites, conspiracy mongers, and other stalwarts of the GOP.

Think Trump’s cozying up to despots like Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman is something new? Read Ridgeway and other Voice muckrakers on the charms of the Shah of Iran, a torturer with exquisite taste.

Oh, and wack-job conspiracy theories? How about this Ridgeway snippet from 1995: “Gingrich continues to indulge the anarchists, just last week weighing in on the favorite wacko topic of who killed Vince Foster. Meanwhile, Helen Chenoweth in the House and Larry Craig in the Senate continue to run wild, attacking the effrontery of federal agents and invoking the specter of the dreaded black helicopters.”

As usual, Ridgeway was reading the tea (soon to be tea-party) leaves to warn us about insurrection back then — reporting that remains on-target today.

Scandals involving independent counsels? The Mueller report implied Trump’s collusion with Russia but didn’t nail down the case. Here’s another trip to the GOP corruption rodeo.

Perverting religion for electoral gain? Yep. Just another chestnut from the GOP playbook that Ridgeway explicated back in the day.

Decades ago, Ridgeway surveyed the fault lines of American Democracy and sent in clear-eyed reports about the dangers ahead. It’s past time we paid heed to his warnings.

James Ridgeway, 1936 – 2021   ❖

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