Saving Democracy

Saving Democracy

Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.

Sunday’s New York Times lays out the genuine threat to which the Trump Presidency could truly lead. Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt present a frightening picture of the future of democracy in the U.S. and indeed throughout the world in their op-ed piece entitled: Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy. They explain well how this trend has emerged and to some extent was predictable in light of the intense partisanship and confrontational behavior of the Republican Party over the past 15-20 years.  While they clearly are scared at the possibilities, they do not really present any thoughts as to what possible forces may emerge to prevent it.

Herewith a few possible hopeful potential breaks to this very dangerous drift:

There are a number of Republican Members of Congress who may well be highly partisan but will rise to place abuse of democracy ahead of personal gains. It will require leadership from the Republican Party whose committed Members who cannot be afraid to challenge Trump and reject some of his potential policy directions; although all of his initial Cabinet nominees are likely to pass the Senate’s ultimate muster.

Strange as it may appear, Chief Justice John Roberts may well emerge as the true protector of the Constitution and democracy. Roberts and the Supreme Court will undoubtedly be severely tested by many cases likely to emerge over the next months and years. The Chief Justice could well be a dramatic force to push the court to assume its truly intended role as a co-equal branch of Government.

There is a possibility that Americas’ leading clergy may well move forward to protect the churches and the faith communities by championing democracy. They could be the voice for liberty, freedom, and equality. This would need to emerge not only from the mainline churches/synagogues/mosques and traditional clergy, but from the evangelical clergy as well. There is extensive Trump following in this segment of the country which might react to a clergy that rose up to challenge what was happening in the society.   

The media which to a large extent has been ineffective and even co-opted by the Trump phenomenon could well sound the most obvious alarm. It will be very costly to the media’s bottom line but a well formulated effort by print, electronic (internet), and especially social media. They will be excoriated by the twittering Trump team and its supporters, but a courageous commitment could be a formidable counterweight to a Trump pushback. If it is joined by public celebrities from the arts, music, and sports it may well be extremely impactful.    

There initially will only be a response to Trump from disgruntled Democrats and their followers. In fact we do not know what Trump will do, but his appointments so far have reinforced a genuine fear of where his unconventional style may lead. To ultimately save the Republic will require a much broader and intensive reaction. If it fails to emerge and constrain much of the apparent direction to which Trump appears to believe he is entitled to now lead democracy, America may indeed be in for some very dangerous times. 

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