Is democracy doomed? | The Tylt

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Is democracy doomed?

President Trump's assault on democratic norms and institutions once again became a point of focus after he praised China's consolidation of power.

In the closed-door remarks... Trump also praised China's President Xi Jinping for recently consolidating power and extending his potential tenure, musing he wouldn't mind making such a maneuver himself. "He's now president for life. President for life. No, he's great," Trump said. "And look, he was able to do that. I think it's great. Maybe we'll have to give that a shot some day."

It has been a rough few years for democracy worldwide, and even former President Obama is concerned.

"We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly," Obama said. "That's what happened in Germany in the 1930s which, despite the democracy of the Weimar Republic and centuries of high-level cultural and scientific achievements, Adolph Hitler rose to dominate."

Thomas B. Edsall argues President Trump "has single-handedly done more to undermine the basic tenets of American democracy than any foreign agent or foreign propaganda campaign could." Edsall believes we should focus less on Russia and more on the damage being done to our democratic institutions by our own president.

Trump has stoked partisan polarization to unprecedented levels, continues to attack the free press, pushes unfounded conspiracy theories and praises authoritarian dictators. Trump is testing the limits of American democracy, and not everyone thinks we'll survive his administration.

Trump’s assault—and that of his appointees—on democratic standards and principles is the central element of what might be called a brutalizing or “decivilizational” process. That’s part of what underlies the eternal return of the president’s mendacity.
The test facing our democracy now is whether the rules of engagement that make the system work can be restored. Trump trampled on those rules and won the presidency. That precedent may, in and of itself, have inflicted irreparable damage.
Beyond Trump, enemies of democracy like Vladimir Putin are only gaining power and influence on the world stage, and many believe we could see the end of democracy as we know it within our lifetime.

But others argue this is nothing more than hysteria, or tyrannophobia. Samuel Moyn and David Priestland believe Trump's presidency has brought with it irrational fear on a national scale.

The initial fearful reaction to Mr. Trump’s election was understandable... A little more than six months into the Trump presidency, though, it now seems clear that the most frightening threats to ordinary politics in the United States are empty or easily contained... there is no real evidence that Mr. Trump wants to seize power unconstitutionally, and there is no reason to think he could succeed.

While Trump is certainly far from the "ordinary politics" Americans are used to seeing, there isn't any evidence that he is fundamentally undermining the Constitution. Moyn and Priestland argue the other branches of government—especially the courts—are still exercising their powers, keeping Trump from causing any serious damage to our institutions. The continued hysteria is both unfounded and unhelpful.

The threat of tyranny can be real enough. But those who act as though democracy is constantly on the precipice are likely to miss the path that leads not simply to fuller justice but to true safety.
Is democracy doomed?
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