In a Washington Post op-ed over the weekend, scholar Brian Klaas lists and summarizes six ways that President Trump and Trumpism represent a threat to democracy in America.
Based at the London School of Economics, Klaas studies comparative democracy, including the deep underpinnings of a healthy democracy, and how they can be undermined. His book, “The Despot’s Accomplice: How the West is Aiding and Abetting the Decline of Democracy,” suggests that the overall trends toward more democracy in the world has now been reversed and democracy is in retreat.
In his Post piece, he argues that Trumpism includes these democracy-eroding qualities:
- Trump encourages his minions to believe that elections are rigged, epitomized by his claim – without evidence – that millions voted illegally for Hillary Clinton. It’s healthier for democracy if voters believe that elections are free and fair. Of course, if our elections were really rigged, we need whistleblowers. But Trump has produced no credible evidence for his claims.
- Trump makes an average of four provably false statements a day, according to Klaas, who relied on the Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” feature on Trumpian falsehoods during his presidency so far. When citizens learn to distrust what their elected leaders tell them, it undermines democracy.
- Trump “has repeatedly flouted ethics guidelines without consequence,” says Klaas, which undermines the important belief that elected officials are bound by rules of ethical conduct or, if they violate such rules, they will be disciplined.
- Trump attacks the independence and integrity of judges who rules against him (calling the judge who struck down his first immigration order as “so-called judge” is just one example). The belief that an independent judiciary will restrain illegal or unconstitutional actions by powerful elected officials is a key underpinning of confidence in a government of laws, not men.
- The Trumpers seek to undermine the neutrality of any agency that they worry might cause the public to doubt what they are selling. The very recent example, via Trump’s poor spokester Sean Spicer, was to tell the world in advance that the effort by the Congressional Budget Office, an outfit that has had a long-standing solid reputation for non-partisan analysis of the impact of proposed legislation, should be disregarded when they project how many currently insured Americans might lose their coverage under the new Republican health care bill. And lastly…
- Trump undermines the public’s confidence in the ability of independent news organizations to tell the public the best available version of the truth about their government, by labeling as “fake news” any stories that contradict the Trump version of reality and even labeling the news media the “enemy of the American people,” a statement that Klaas writes “echoes Mao and Stalin rather than Ronald Reagan or John F. Kennedy.”