Is America Still Safe for Democracy under Trump?

May 27, 2017

Is America Still Safe for Democracy under Trump?

Why the United States Is in Danger of Backsliding

by ROBERT MICKEY is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan and the author of Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep South, 1944–1972.

19 thoughts on “Is America Still Safe for Democracy under Trump?

  1. Quote:- “….a system in which meaningful democratic institutions exist yet the government abuses state power to disadvantage its opponents”

    Which US President, or indeed any politician anywhere in the World at any recorded period of human history, have not done that if he could?

    If he or she could, it was because those institutions were not strong enough to deter attempts. It seems so overt in Trump’s case is because the guy is a latter-day cowboy who thinks he could shoot up the whole saloon and just ride out of town.

  2. Democracy had been in existence in the olde USA for hundreds of years.Donald Trump’s term will not last long and democracy will survive .The fat lady will sing out loud in the next few months.Not that Donald Trump will be kick out of office,his Trump organization will be found guilty of money laundering and will be subject to Uncle Sam confiscating what ever is left after a quick sale.Good riddance to bad garbage.

  3. This is an article with obvious bias for Democratic Party, and it does not hide it. I once had a favorable view of Democratic Party – who do want democracy which sound good to me since my middle school? However, history tells a very different story about Democratic Party. I think it serves the readers here to see the story of another side by Denish D’Souza:

    Or if you want a shorter version from an African American:

  4. When I was younger, I thought of the checks and balances of the US constitutional system as something like a law of nature. It was impossible for me to imagine that these safeguards of democracy could fail; they were unchanging and automatic, and would always be there to protect Americans against an internal authoritarian threat. That is a dangerous illusion. The Constitution and the rule of law itself are human inventions that depend on Americans in order to function properly, regardless of who is president and which political party is in power. Checks and balances are not self-enforcing. A Constitution that looks great on paper is only effective if elected officials, voters, and the media make its promises a reality.

    The 2016 presidential election exposes the fragile nature of American democracy. A president with “authoritarian tendencies” was elected. Donald Trump poses a threat which has nothing to do with normal partisan disagreements in Washington, but instead challenges fundamental democratic norms. He has taken unusual and unprecedented actions since taking office. He has made clear that he does not believe ordinary rules apply to him, which raises serious concerns about the rule of law – the idea that everyone, even the president, is subject to legal accountability and limits on power. His transition entourage often looks more like a royal court than a creature of democratic government. Individuals seek an audience with him and depend on his personal whim to gain positions of power or other favors. Businesses must stay on his good side or else risk the consequence of a negative tweet that sends their stock price plummeting. Family members occupy the innermost circle of influence, and have the opportunity to use their position to financial advantage. This is a dangerous moment. The question is whether American constitutional democracy can survive a Trump presidency. An authoritarian presidency would be risky for all aspects of American life – political, religious, economic.

    But none of this means things are hopeless. Checks and balances may not be self-executing, but they still stand at the ready, needing only people who are willing to stand up for democracy. Members of Congress possess all the tools they need to ensure the president is subject to the rule of law. Unfortunately, right now most Republicans seem uninterested in setting limits on presidential power. Ultimately, what happens to America will be up to us, as Americans. In our constitutional system, we the people have the power to influence elected officials – not just on election day, but at any time we choose to make our voices heard. If we want to make sure checks and balances work, all we have to do is speak up and let our elected officials know that democracy is worth preserving.

    My opposition to Trump was never predicated upon the fear that he was likely to become an “authoritarian” who might preside over the end of American constitutional democracy. Rather, I was concerned that Trump lacks character and knowledge; that he is a habitual liar; that he has an embarrassing tendency to lash out verbally at anyone he dislikes; and that, on balance, he might end up ruining our party he was conscripted to lead. In describing him, I’ve used the word “authoritarian” on more than one occasion, but my intent in so doing was to warn against Trump’s approach, not to hype the likelihood of his rendering America a tyranny. I was, and remain, infinitely more worried about ignorance than about autocracy; about incompetence than about five-year-plans; and about corruption than about the midnight knock on the door. I fear, that is, that Trump is Roderick Spode, rather than any of the dictators Spode was drawn up to lampoon. I’ve never lost faith in our American system which, I still believe, is ingeniously designed and remarkably robust, and the culture is strong enough to withstand any bad and crazy man.

  5. Americans are very individualistic and suspicious of
    “Big Government” – hence I would be a little bit more optimistic that
    Trumpism would eventually be defeated.

    The major forces propping up Trumpist neo-fascism would include things such as the racism of some whites and their hostility toward non-whites, Christian Right opportunism (they are salivating at the possibility of a President Mike Pence), the greed of the oligarchy for more and more tax breaks.

    Mother Jones magazine published a very interesting booklet on the history of American progressivism many years ago called “America – Love it or Leave it”, discussing progressive movements such as the anti-slavery movement, labour and the trade unions, feminism, civil rights, environmentalism etc.
    (MJ’s response to this slogan was “America – Change it or Lose it”).

  6. When a country is ruled by two political groups who take turns is this actually a democracy where there is no choice as the cost of election is so high that only the rich or those willing to ‘sell’ their ‘independence’/’integrity’ to highest bidders can stand for election and have some chance of winning?
    Democracy was defined as ‘By the people and for the people’ but to-day the definitions my more appropriately be ‘By the Rich and for the Rich’ and this has resulted in elected positions in many countries becoming personal properties to be passed on to children/spouses.
    Independence of the three branches may have become a fallacy as there may be collusion or objection depending on their benefits and what is in for me and my group. May be that is the reason why in USA the symbols of the two main parties are DONKEY and ELEPHANT where one is identified as stubborn and the other never forgets.
    In many other countries ‘democracy’ may have been modified to suit those in power while in others it may be defined as DEMONSTRATION CRAZY as is also the case in some countries having unrest/protests on permanent basis.

  7. Remember the late Sixties and Early 70s’? LBJ and Nixon fought a covert and overt civil war against they ‘Leftists’ like SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) and it’s more radical offshoots. Well they are back.

    Here is a song for them:

  8. // In both Malaysia and Zimbabwe, the government has invoked the goal of decentralization to justify reforms that increased the electoral weight of sparsely populated rural areas at the expense of urban centers, where the opposition was strongest.

    Malaysia, Zimbabwe are what Americans are teaching in their political schools today hoping that their tomorrow’s America would not become a nation like the two mentioned.
    Duh.. land of Welayu. I wonder if there is any self-respecting Melayu reading this blog from Malaysia. No one commented on the above note.

    • The increase in electoral weightage given to the rural undeveloped constituencies is the main reason UMNO-BN won’t the last GE in Malaysia but not the popular votes (~46%). By the same token, Trump’s Republican won the presidency, but Hillary Clinton’s Democrats won the popular votes by ~3 million. What has changed in US electoral college system?

    • @johari, a few blue collar Democrat constituent gave up on a phony center right Hillary campaign. As per one radio show, issue of immigration becomes a real issue. For Malaysia’s case, rural Melayu may want pendatang China to pack their bags. But, in reality, many Jho Low with the backings of MO1 will continue to appear, especially in light of the rise of Beijing. Welayu, it will be, unless, Melayu does lead fairly, and stop all rent seeking activities.

  9. American that voted for Trump are just like Malay voted for UMNO. Even though Trump demonized immigrants and Muslim, they choose to ignore it. They call themselves Christian yet they are no better that German that ignore the atrocity happening to the Jews.

  10. Donald Trump has returned home to opposition in the US Senate and sliding approval ratings, following his first official foreign trip during which he visited Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, the Vatican City, Brussels and Sicily. It was a trip told in pictures with the volume on mute. By the time he departed Sicily, Trump had delivered four major addresses but clarified none of the questions that surround his foreign policy. He offered no view nor could he articulate his foreign policy while answering questions about them. He simply remained in his cocoon and pleased with himself.

    Several of his actions of his nine-day international trip have received negative press back home. A record arms deal with Saudi Arabia worth upwards of $110 billion is already facing opposition in the US Senate, where Republican Rand Paul and Democrats Chris Murphy and Al Franken introduced a resolution of disapproval to force a vote on whether to block part of the sale. Trump had been due to make a speech to the Israeli Knesset, but the speech was cancelled over concerns that the US President would face heckling from rowdy MP’s. In Brussels, Trump gained attention for his manners, after pushing past Montenegrin Prime Minister to get to the front of a NATO delegation. His lengthy handshake with Emmanuel Macron during a meeting on the sidelines of the summit also gained attention.

    It seems that Trump’s tribulations aren’t coming to an end now that he has returned home. Even extreme conservative commentator Ann Coulter, a vocal Trump supporter during his election campaign, told the Daily Caller that she and many other Americans are disappointed with his performance so far. Coulter described herself as a single-issue voter, who backed Trump because of his promise to build a wall with Mexico. “I’m not very happy with what has happened so far,” Coulter said. “I guess we have to try to push him to keep his promises. But this isn’t North Korea, and if he doesn’t keep his promises I’m out. This is why we voted for him. I think everyone who voted for him knew his personality was grotesque, it was the issues.”

    According to the most recent Gallup poll, Trump’s approval rating has slumped to just 35 percent, with many of his voters disillusioned by proposed budget cuts that plan to slash $3.6 trillion from government spending over the next decade, including Medicaid and social security. Republicans in the US Congress also expressed their opposition to Trump’s budget. Kentucky representative Harold Rogers, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, called the Medicaid cuts “draconian,” and Arizona senator John McCain said the budget proposal was “dead on arrival.” Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a member of the Senate Budget Committee, called the budget proposal revealing. “Sadly this budget exposes all of that verbiage for what it really was: just cheap and dishonest campaign rhetoric that was meant to get votes – nothing more than that,” Sanders said.

    Returning to Washington, pressures are crowding in on Trump at home: the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special counsel to look into allegations of collusion with Russia and now investigating his son-in-law; approval ratings that are the worst of any president so early in his tenure; an uncertain outlook for his major legislative priorities; and his relations with party colleagues have been strained, even as most GOP members have resisted the temptation to definitively break with him in public. Privately is a different story. The orangutan goes ranting on his twitter, again.

  11. Unlike under Obama, Americans under President Trump have some clarity to governing ideas that are time-tested to provide a stable and limited government for individuals to achieve what their talent and hard work bring them. The time-tested governing ideas have three aspects:

    1) Individual liberty. Translating individual liberty into policies means reduce taxes government can siphon from individuals so that individuals have more say on what they want to do with their earned money. Another aspect of policies kept in alignment of individual liberty is reducing amount of regulations so that government have less say what are right or wrong about businesses’ behaviors.

    2) In God/Truth We Trust. Translating trusting the God/Truth, whatever it is, means government will honor inalienable rights such as the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Trusting the God/Truth also means being conservative with respect to changing government structure not directly supported by the US Constitution – after all this is a nation with 240 years of continuous government with only one interruption during the Civil War 150 year ago. Rejecting Islamism, not intended directly to bash Muslims, is the most natural consequence of being conservative to American idea of limited government — after all Sharia is all encompassing idea of regulating a society. Rejecting socialism rooted in collectivism is also a natural result of being faithful to the US Constitution, which severely limits what a government can do for individuals.

    3) E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One. “Out of Many, One” means government policies are to support integrating different races and culture into one main culture. That means a diversity is not for the diversity sake, but for persuading people of different cultures and languages to eventually identify with one language and one mainstream American culture, whatever it evolves into with an anchor on US Constitution. Multiculturalism basing on tolerance is good for “E Pluribus Unum”, but multiculturalism basing on cultural equality is bad for “E Pluribus Unum” and is antithetical to “Trusting the God/Truth” because the effect resulting from cultures will be ignored in pursuit of cultural equality. Religion freedom with respect to the Establishment Clause (government honors not a particular religion) and Free Exercise Clause (religion adherents can exercise their religion freely to the extent no law and Constitution are violated) is good for “E Pluribus Unum”. But imposing equality of all religions’ outcome through government policies such as Obama’s censorship to not using “Islamist” in national security documents and in its administration is bad for “In God/Truth We Trust” because we cannot ignore the effect of Islamist activities in the United States and in other nations.

    Therefore, what Americans vote for Trump has very little similarity with what Malays vote for UMNO.

  12. Jaw vs jaw brings out the best ideas for the way forward. In the US this has always been an ongoing process and those of us who are concerned about the future of US democracy can rest easy because that process never sleeps. Just step back and you will observe that every president after the 100 days honeymoon has to get down to governing where the resistance is waiting. Only difference here is that President Trump had no honeymoon. That is ok because he can handle that.

    The Lady of Justice holding the Colden Scales is blindfolded and may not know who is loading it. May be she has the 7th sense that is holding the US together.

    PS They too are watching Zimbabwe and countries in the line.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s