Can it happen here? Can our democracy end if we elect Donald Trump?
Many Most people will say no, if they have even considered the issue. For many, that’s because we got through eight years of George W. Bush and, as a friend noted recently, “GOP voters survived Obama.” For more, perhaps, it’s about American Exceptionalism, the notion that we’re special, somehow. We may be failing on education, health care, income and wealth inequality, etc., but we are simply better because, well, just because! (Make no mistake about it, Donald Trump thinks America is the best country, past, present, and future, no what you here coming out of his mouth.)
The obvious answer is, of course, yes. Our democracy can end if we elect Donald Trump!
First, our democracy—the American experiment—will end. No governmental system lasts forever, and as exceptional as the United States of America might be, it won’t rise above “nothing lasts forever.”
Second, our “Know-Nothing” society has caught up with us. Too many among us don’t know shit about anything and, more troubling, the very people who know nothing, think they know more than enough. Phil Toledano tells the story well in How Ignorant Are Americans?, written for Newsweek in 2011. Best sentence? “For more than two centuries, Americans have gotten away with not knowing much about the world around them.”
Looking back, Max Fisher reports on the lack of historical knowledge in Americans vs. Basic Historical Knowledge, written for The Wire. How little people know is not surprising, but what did surprise Mr. Fisher was this statistic: 89% of those who took the basic history exam thought they would pass, and 83% failed.
This lack of knowledge matters greatly. An uninformed populace is susceptible to outrageous claims, lies, and a load of crap, if the claims, lies, and crap support their desired outcome.
Third, our governmental institutions are fraying badly. By way of example only, Congress is at a modern-times nadir. The House of Representatives went on vacation without getting Zika funding done, and that is but one small example of its abject failure to govern. The Senate is not much better. It simply refuses to engage in regular order when it comes to the confirmation process for a Supreme Court nominee, lower court nominees, and individuals we need to run our government.
Fourth, the press has failed us. Donald Trump is not the Republican Party nominee for President of the United States—think about those words, really—without the assistance and support of the mainstream media. Journalism has been routed by a reality show freak, and we won’t likely see journalism as the fourth branch of government anytime soon.
Finally, Mr. Trump is singularly unqualified to serve. His lack of knowledge, interest in learning, and disgraceful presence demean the office he seeks. Being President of the United States of America is a big deal. Not one thing about how Mr. Trump has campaigned suggests any appreciation for the way in which the leader of the free world conducts himself. (I’m sorry, too, but the claim that “he’ll figure it out” is simply absurd.)
So why might our democracy end if we elect this man? Because, simply, he is such a singular threat to democratic systems, and because we may not have a reservoir of the stuff—whatever that is—to survive him. George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan left many people concerned; both, however, had eight years of prior experience governing large states. They tested the limits of their power, but they did so within a set of Constitutional constructs, mostly. And, frankly, the institutions they matched up against were better then than they are today. More functional; less frail.
Barack Obama came into office with less experience, for sure. On the other hand, he taught Constitutional Law. His opponents think he ignores the Constitution, 24/7, but that is not how the Supreme Court has ruled, even when its majority was comprised of Reagan and Bush (I and II) appointees.
Mr. Trump, in his statements and actions, suggests a total lack of respect for any institution other than the House of Trump. He evokes authoritarianism at every turn, and his base seems to be looking for the simple, easy return to an America that suits them, by any necessary means. And the institutions Mr. Trump ignores? They are not likely up to the challenges he will present, and if he wins his “team” will almost surely control the Congress and, soon, the Supreme Court.
The brew is toxic if this man wins. The glib “we survived W, we can survive Trump” I hear too often from my Feel the Berner friends may be an accurate prediction, but there are more than enough facts to suggest that it’s not. And with stakes this high, taking that chance is dumb, dumb, dumb!