As you know if you are one of my regular readers, I’m skeptical of hysterical claims that Donald Trump and his supporters represent a uniquely existential threat to democracy and the American way of life. Right-wing populist demagogues are a recurring feature of American history; there is nothing new here. Many “mainstream” politicians have promoted and promulgated policies that stepped over the line into fascism: the Red Scares of the Palmer raids and McCarthyism, concentration camps for Japanese Americans, the John Birch society, COINTELPRO, mass surveillance by the NSA, George W. Bush’s war of aggression against Iraq and assassination drones come to mind.
Trump had four full years in office, one of which was marked by a bona fide national emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic, that he might have exploited to impose martial law, yet the republic still stands.
Trump notwithstanding, it is true that democracy, even the watered-down worn-out version of our ancient republic, is fragile. Those wary of authoritarianism can never be too vigilant. So I’m always interested in what people perceive as a threat to the current system â€” and what they fail to see.
New York Times writer David Leonhardt is an intelligent mainstream subscriber to Trump Derangement Syndrome. The former president, he argues, represents a double-barreled attack on American democracy. First, Trump’s refusal to accept his loss to Joe Biden spreads the virus of delegitimization. If nothing else, elections are supposed to settle the question of which candidate is most popular.