When the Wheels Fall Off Our Democracy

I published a book in 2016 called Democracy in Decline. It was not about Donald Trump. Trump was only campaigning in the primaries at the time and no one took Trump seriously. He was too narcissistic, ignorant, and paranoid to worry about him winning the Presidency.

Democracy in Decline highlighted 14 developments that weaken our democracy

#1. Voter Literacy & Turnout

#2. Quality of Political Leadership

#3. Exceptionalism

#4. Public Trust

#5. Gridlock

#6. Money in Politics

#7. Gerrymandering

#8. Extremist Primaries

#9. The President vs. Congress

#10. Federal vs. State Governments

#11. Supreme Court vs. Congress

#12. New Amendments

#13. Foreign Policy

#14. Government Accountability

It looked like we were moving toward a pseudo-democracy or a plutocracy. For example:

  • “Gerrymandering” was reshaping Congressional Voting Districts in a way that favored every incumbent to be reelected; over 90 percent of incumbents were re-elected in the 2016 election.
  • Over 13,000 lobbyists operate in Washington, D.C. and they manage to influence our Senators and Representatives to vote in favor of the interests of the gun lobby, pharmaceutical industry, and other industrial groups. The gun lobby made sure that guns could be sold to anyone without a background check; and the pharmaceutical industry could charge substantially higher prices to American citizens than are paid by Canadian citizens across the border.

Now, the surprise election of Donald Trump raises additional threats to our democratic society. We are increasingly hearing that we are moving into a Post-Truth world, one in which “alternative facts” compete with the truth for attention.

Although Trump was not the preferred candidate in the 2016 Presidential election - Hillary Clinton won 3 million more votes than Trump – our undemocratic and archaic Electoral College threw the U.S. Presidency into Donald Trump’s lap. Even then Trump would not accept that he lost the popular vote. He will have us believe that Hillary’s 3 million extra votes were cast by illegal voters. He has called for an investigation that would show that he also won the popular vote. Trump cannot admit that he’s wrong.

When a Texas judge ruled that Trump’s executive order to prevent immigrants from seven countries – Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen - was unconstitutional, Trump challenged the “so-called judge” to have the judge’s ruling reversed. A panel of four judges – two Republicans and two Democrats – reviewed Trump’s executive order and all agreed that the executive order was poorly drafted, poorly executed, and discriminatory toward many groups. Instead of accepting this verdict of four judges, Trump may well press the Supreme Court to take up the issue.

The scariest thing about Trump’s authoritarian behavior is that he is ready on a daily basis to attack someone, whether a company, a business leader, a judge, a member of Congress, a Mexican, Muslims, or a critic. He spends precious time at night composing and sending tweets rather than thinking deeply about the nation’s priority issues and concerns. He still wants to build a $15 billion Wall between the U.S. and Mexico in spite of the fact that fewer Mexicans are trying to come in illegally and that even a wall wouldn’t be an effective barrier. Furthermore, $15 billion would be better spent on improving the infrastructure of our roads, bridges, ports and airports.

Earlier, Trump made it clear that no American firm should dare move its factory abroad, even if U.S. wages are too high. He told Carrier to desist and Carrier agreed to keep certain operations and personnel in the U.S. When his daughter Ivanka’s line of clothing was dropped by the department store Nordstrom, Trump lashed out at them.

My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!

The result is that our business leaders have to think twice about whether Trump will comment publicly on their actions. They may have to desist from a needed price increase or cut down their trade with certain countries. Many Republicans are worried that Trump is interfering with the free-trade core belief of the Party but none of them will say anything in public out of fear that he will tweet about them.

Even Congress members have to be cautious. Trump blasted Senator John McCain on twitter for questioning that a January U.S. raid in Yemen was a success. Trump said: "Sen. McCain should not be talking about the success or failure of a mission to the media. Only emboldens the enemy!" Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer added: "It's absolutely a success, and I think anyone who would suggest it's not a success does disservice to the life of Chief Ryan Owens.”

Trump is not running the country by the rule of law; he is ruining the country tweet by tweet. Trump has broken all the established political rules and norms so far. He never declared his income. He did not sell his business or turn it over to a blind trust. He is a President facing 75 law suits with his business clients. If the news reports something he disagrees with, it is “fake news.” For Trump murder rates are at a 47-year high, even though in fact they are close to a 57-year low.

Is it possible for Trump to change and start behaving more prudently? David Brooks thinks that the chance of Trump becoming prudent is less than 0.001 percent. He believes that Trump sees the world as dangerous and this mentality leads to a cycle of “threat perception, insult, enemy-making, aggrievement, self-pity, assault and counterassault.”

The Democrats will continue to point out Trump’s errors and weaknesses. They will resist the Republican mission to undo all that President Obama accomplished. But the Democrats cannot hope to impeach Trump unless Trump commits a patently illegal act.

It is the Republicans who hold the power to impeach Trump. They might become so embarrassed about what Trump is doing to free speech by the media and to free trade by American businesses that they might force Trump to resign or face an impeachment. The Republicans have nothing to lose and everything to gain. They would have a leader, Vice President Mike Pence, who can at least be expected to follow the rule of law in setting policies. President Pence would have plenty of battles on his hands but at least the times would regain a mood of normalcy. The madhouse will have calmed down. And I won’t have to write a sequel called The Death of Democracy.

Let’s hope this happens before too many of our Allies become alienated and too much of our business is lost because an ignorant and bitter man managed to manipulate voters into believing that he could bring them back their old high paying jobs. Instead the worry is that he will cut taxes further to benefit the rich and end up ballooning our debt burden to an unsustainable level. And the free-market? It’s far from free when it has to answer to every whim and tweet of an autocratic Tsar.

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