09 September 2016

The Guardian: “Welcome to the age of Trump”

This is more than a rejection of the current Democrat-Republican gridlock. This is a contempt for the very notion of constitutional democracy. And if Trump is pushing it, it may be because he knows there is a ready audience for just such a message.

The World Values Survey of 2011 included a stunning figure. It found that 34% of Americans approved of “having a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections”, the figure rising to 42% among those with no education beyond high school. It’s worth reading that again, to let it sink in. It means that one in three US voters would prefer a dictator to democracy. Those Americans are not repudiating this or that government, but abandoning the very idea of democracy itself.

These figures reinforce a pattern revealed by recent academic research that shows a body of US opinion predisposed toward liberal democracy’s polar opposite: authoritarianism.

Jonathan Freedland

The best explanation of Trump’s popularity I’ve seen – backed up by more recent studies as well. Plays well into his good relations with the authoritarian Putin too. Unfortunately the recent economic crisis coupled with global instability and the threat of terrorism are fueling the authoritarian mindset all over the globe, as it has happened many times before with grave consequences.

Donald Trump greets an excited supporter
Donald Trump greets an excited supporter at a campaign rally in Lowell, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters

The temptation of voters to bring in a strongman who can “clean up the mess” and “get things done” during troubled times is well established. It is how military juntas have risen to power cyclically in Latin America and elsewhere, usually with popular support. It’s a terrible trap that inevitably leads to tyranny. Abandoning your principles in order to defend them is a fatal mistake. We made this blunder in Russia when we elected Putin—it became the last free election we ever had. With Trump’s finger on the nuclear button it might be the last election anyone has ever had.

Garry Kasparov

Post a Comment