Trump Is Testing The Limits Of American Democracy
The 2016 presidential election has once again become a less than picturesque display of American democracy. Every four years the world witnesses a needlessly long primary cycle that concludes with both major parties nominating flawed candidates for the most powerful position in the world. This election is proving to be worse than usual. Both candidates maintain record unfavorability among voters. One is the uninspiring personification of a professional politician. The other, a clear and present danger to both the country and international community.
Early in the primaries, Donald Trump built a cult-like base of supporters by exploiting the fears and frustrations of many Republican voters. Issues such as illegal immigration, Islam, terrorism, and trade policy dominated his talking points. No one viewed his candidacy as a threat until it was too late. With no experience in any level of government and lacking any serious domestic or foreign policy knowledge, Trump railroaded his way through his fellow primary contenders. According to his supporters, his tough-guy attitude and self-proclaimed brilliant business acumen were needed to “make America great again.” “Build that wall” became the unofficial rallying cry of his base.
Trump has proven himself to be an unusually ignorant individual. He appears not to possess any worldly or cultural interests that transcend himself or the Trump brand. The fact he is incapable of discussing anything without invoking his greatness, self-perceived intelligence, property holdings, or personal wealth is evidence of this. His vocabulary is akin to a fourth grader, and his ability to construct a coherent sentence is rare. He clings to simple words such as “disaster,” “tremendous,” and “amazing,” often repeating them a dozen times within a minute. His speech resembles a car wreck with non sequiturs flying everywhere. Transcripts of his speeches are incomprehensible more often than not. And despite always having something to say, he rarely (if ever) offers anything of substance or value, much less factual.
Concerning almost every issue of importance for a presidential candidate, his statements expose a dangerous level of stupidity. Be it his belief that global warming is a Chinese hoax, his endorsement of torture, or claim that he knows more about ISIS than American generals. His suggestion that America can default on its debt and renegotiate a better deal as if it were one of his personal bankruptcies proves his obtuse nature. His insistence that he will successfully force Mexico to pay for construction of a border wall is laughable. Most shockingly, his glib attitude regarding the use of nuclear weapons as well as foreign nations attempting to procure such weapons is a terrifying glimpse into the future should Trump become president. Such examples of his intellectual deficiencies are endless.
Trump’s emotional maturity is equally worrisome. He name calls like a child on the playground, exhibits a total lack of control when responding to his critics, and partakes in gossip and rumors regarding his adversaries. His online Twitter persona is so outrageous that it would be hilarious if it belonged to anyone other than a presidential candidate. He has publicly mocked a disabled reporter, engaged in a public feud with the parents of a fallen soldier, lacks respect for women, and throws tantrums when he believes he is receiving unfair treatment. Trump’s behavior is infantile. He is the epitome of a man-child and a total embarrassment to common decency. Furthermore, he is an abhorrent human being. Trump is the embodiment of everything no self-respecting person would ever wish to be. He lacks even the slightest modicum of self-awareness and his narcissism rages unchecked. The fact that such an emotionally stunted, petulant ignoramus was able to secure a major party’s nomination for the presidency is a national humiliation.
What is most disturbing about Trump is his surety of his greatness. He continually asserts that the only way he will lose the election is if it is rigged against him and hasn’t decided whether or not to accept the outcome if he in fact loses. Speaking this way sets a dangerous precedent for future elections and directly undermines the democratic process. His proclamation that he alone can fix America’s problems is telling. His behavior is eerily reminiscent of past and present authoritarian leaders. His dictatorial persona has been on full display for over a year and has become more extreme with time. He encourages violence against protesters at his rallies and repeatedly calls for the jailing of his opponent. His blatant contempt for the First Amendment is chilling. He has already claimed he will “open up” libel laws to more easily sue journalists. Blacklisting entire media organizations who refuse to fall in line with his campaign’s narrative is commonplace. Behavior such as this is how it always begins. Trump is the prototypical tyrant in waiting.
Trump has openly praised some of the world’s worst autocrats throughout the campaign including Saddam Hussein and Bashar al-Assad. He has even gone so far as to say that Vladimir Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama. Putin’s opponents often end up dead or in self-imposed exile, journalists that dig too deep go missing, and those lucky enough to avoid death are jailed on manufactured charges. There is no doubt that Trump has an odd fascination with the idea of wielding absolute power. Couple this with his rash threats of military force, an obsession with unpredictability regarding the use of nuclear weapons, and complete disregard for international norms have the potential to result in a breakdown of international order. There is no telling what a man like Trump may attempt given the opportunity.
An unusual number of newspapers, public intellectuals, as well as past and present policy figures have not only refused to endorse Trump, but instead put forth blunt warnings regarding his ignorance, temperament, and disdain for American democratic values. It is not a conspiracy, it cannot be written off as media bias, and it is not an organized plot by Washington insiders or the global elite attempting to undermine his candidacy. Rather, it is simply an accurate reflection of who Trump truly is.
Hillary Clinton is an imperfect candidate, to say the least. No rational individual would argue otherwise. She has numerous faults and is unlikely to bring any substantive change to the normal workings of Washington. Unfortunately, she is the only sensible choice this election. While it is impossible to know for sure who will ultimately be named President-elect come November, it appears increasingly unlikely that it will be Trump. His supporters will cry, claim electoral fraud, and some are bound to speak of revolution and the Second Amendment. It is likely that Trump may take the stage the night of the election refusing to concede defeat and encourage his supporters not to accept the result. Americans should be ready for such despicable and despotic behavior. All that can be hoped for at this point is that reason prevails and Clinton will be peacefully sworn into office this January. If history is kind, this national nightmare will be remembered simply as a grave embarrassment rather than an indictment of an electorate that chose to flirt with fascism.