As a consequence of his own self-destructive behavior, hopefully, Donald Trump has doomed his chances of winning this November’s election. That is the good news.
The bad news is that even if he loses this November’s election, Donald Trump and his supporters will not be going anywhere. Trump has given voice to a deeply angry and embittered population of Americans who not only believe that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are evil but also believe they are destroying our country. This population of Americans have shown a willingness to believe each and every ridiculous accusation made against Obama and Clinton and if Trump says it loud and often enough his followers will want to believe; it doesn’t matter whether or not it is true. Donald Trump is their champion because he is an authoritarian outsider who uses his platform to say everything his supporters have wanted to say but could find no one to listen. Well, people are listening now.
We need to be reminded of the fact that just a few short months ago, Bernie Sanders had an equally vehement population of supporters who were expressing their own anger and frustration about the status quo in Washington. Both movements illustrate how deeply divided we have become as a nation and as a free people. Fortunately, the Trump and Bernie Sanders supporters are at opposite ends of political spectrum because if they were able to find issues around which they could coalesce they could well have a clear majority of American voters.
Add the division that separates white Americans from blacks and other minorities, the division between the rich and poor, and between many Christians and people of other religions, particularly Muslims, and the chasm that divides us seems even more ominous.
What does it say about a democracy that so many of its people are bitterly unhappy with their government? How can democracy survive if American voters are so divided that common ground cannot be found?
What makes Donald Trump so scary is a combination of his ignorance of the Constitution of the U.S. and his willingness to dismiss that Constitution. Democracy is not a fact of nature rather it is a fragile state of equilibrium that exists between freedom and responsibility; an equilibrium for which the American people have always been willing to work hard to protect. It requires that we be able to compromise on issues about which we disagree and that all parties be willing to sacrifice a little of their personal freedom for the betterment of the whole.
Part of Trump’s appeal to the disaffected is that, as an authoritarian outsider, he professes a willingness to force his will on other people in order to make America great again. This is the way he has run his businesses and it seems this might also be the way he has pursued women. It should come as no surprise that he believes he can run the nation the same way he runs his businesses.
The greatest threat to democracy would be the election of a President in possession of a powerful ego and what he believes to be a clear mandate to make things happen; a President who is willing to disregard the actions of both the Congress and the judiciary. It would require a President who believes that he, alone, can decide what is best for the American people.
That sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump. As I have said in previous posts, this is the scariest thing that has happened in my lifetime and poses a far greater threat to our way of life than terrorism.
Nearly 20 years ago, I began to worry about what could happen if the issues that divide us were to become intractable and I tried to envision what that would mean to the American people and to our democratic form of government. I began writing a book about how things could go horribly wrong if this trend were to continue. I finished that book fifteen years later and published it in 2013. It is a novel entitled, Light and Transient Causes, about what could happen if the American people were to become so angry and frustrated as to elect an authoritarian outsider to the Office of the President on the basis of his promise to make America great again, at any cost.
Because it shows how quickly things could go bad, Light and Transient Causes is a book Americans should read if they are fearful of where we could be headed. As one reviewer wrote, “It’s chilling in the sense that it is all possible in the world we live in today.”
Ironically, the words “light and transient causes,” which were taken from the Declaration of Independence, were prominently displayed behind the candidates of recent presidential and vice presidential debates. I invite the reader to check the book out.