One thing you have to say about Donald Trump is that he has galvanized grass roots organizations that had been dormant during the Obama administration. People are attending local town hall meetings and loudly voicing their concerns about the measures that the Republicans are proposing, and many of those meetings have been so raucous with overflow crowds that Republican congress people are either avoiding holding them altogether or cutting them short and escaping through back doors. The movement has acquired the name ‘The Resistance’.
People who had driven two hours across Iowa to attend greeted her with chants of “We want our voices heard!” and “Your last term!”
Ernst slipped in a side door, ignored the protests and called almost exclusively on veterans. She fielded just one question on health care and abruptly ended the event after 45 minutes, with a long line of people still waiting to ask questions.
Rather than something entirely new, Trump may just be the apotheosis of the long-standing degradation of American democracy as the executive branch increasingly arrogated to itself powers that were formerly seen as the prerogatives of the legislature, while the members of the legislature itself ceased to listen to its ordinary constituents in favor of private meetings with wealthy donors. The mask of democracy is slipping away and the ugly face of oligarchic control is becoming increasingly visible
Jonathan Chait looks at the arguments for and against Trump entirely destroying the American democratic system and argues that at present, he is looking more like a pseudo-authoritarian and that the amorphous but widespread opposition that has sprung
[T]he first month of his presidency has seen Trump metamorphose from a reality-television-populist-outsider candidate into an actual president who sounds — but, so far, at least, only sounds — like the strongman leaders he has always admired.
The prospect that President Trump will degrade or destroy American democracy is the most important question of the new political era. It has received important scholarly attention from two basic sources, which have approached it in importantly different fashions. Scholars of authoritarian regimes (principally Russia) have used their knowledge of authoritarian history to paint a road map by which Trump could Putinize this country. Timothy Snyder, Masha Gessen, and other students of Putin’s methods have essentially treated Putinization as the likely future, and worked backward to the present. A second category of knowledge has come from scholars of democracy and authoritarianism, who have compared the strengths and weaknesses of the American system of government both to countries elsewhere that have succumbed to authoritarianism and those that have not. Their approach has, more appropriately, treated Trump’s authoritarian designs as an open question. Trump might launch an assault on the foundations of the republic. On the other hand, he might not.
Since his election, Trump has obsessively fabricated a narrative in which he is the incarnate of the will of the people. According to his own concocted history, he won a historically large Electoral College victory, and would have also won the popular vote if not for millions of illegal votes. He has dismissed protesters against him as paid agents, denied the legitimacy of courts to overrule his actions, and, most recently, called mainstream media “enemies of the people.” This is an especially chilling phrase to hear from an American president. Totalitarian dictators like Stalin and Mao used designation of a political figure or a social class as an “enemy of the people” as a prelude to mass murder.
If Trump has a plan to crush his adversaries, he has not yet revealed it. His authoritarian rage thus far is mostly impotent, the president as angry Fox-News-watching grandfather screaming threats at his television that he never carries out. The danger to the republic may come later, or never. In the first month of Trump’s presidency, the resistance has the upper hand.
Sustained popular uprisings that grow in response to strong-arm tactics to crush them are the only way to counter authoritarians. The government should be afraid of the people and not the other way around. The question is whether the American people have the stomach to keep up a sustained level of protest or whether they have become too soft and divided and easily distracted, which is what autocrats always hope for.