A Key Legacy of the Trump Administration

Empowering authoritarians.

Many critics of former President Trump, myself included, noted that Trump’s rhetoric in office was a boon to authoritarian regimes globally. His denigration of American democracy, both directly and indirectly, provided authoritarian states the ability to point to US democracy as a sham. Indeed, one of the ways in which a Trump administration was of use to Vladimir Putin was that it allowed him to further justify his own way of governing. If the President of the great and self-righteous United States of America didn’t trust elections and called the free press the “enemy of the people” then it helped justify the notion that Russia’s “democracy” was just as good as Uncle Sam’s.

It should be noted that those concerns started back during the 2016 campaign and hit full crescendo with Trump’s utter denigration of American democracy during the 2020 campaign. His instigation and support of the January 6th insurrectionists was a major lesson in anti-democracy. We should never forget that he was silent for two hours while the events took place and broke that silence by affirming that the election was stolen and telling the insurrectionists, “we love you.” This was all certainly seen and understood by autocrats the world over.

And in case anyone thinks this notion is just in the head of a pointy-headed academic who frets too much about the state of democracy in the United States, as well as globally, I give you Yang Jiechi, China’s Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office, making him the basic equivalent of the US Secretary of State:

“We believe that it’s important for the U.S. to change its own image and to stop advancing its own democracy in the rest of the world. Many people within the U.S. actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States.”

Source: NPR’s Morning Edition, Talks Turn Testy As Top U.S. And China Officials Meet In Alaska For 2nd Day

I recognize that authoritarians gonna authoritarian (and they are going to note the failings of US democracy to make their own regimes look better). But the ability of a high-ranking official of the Chinese Communist Party to credibly say “Many people within the U.S. actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States” is directly the fault of Donald J. Trump. And I should add, many willing accomplices in the Republican Party and their allies in their preferred corners of the media.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Campaign 2020, Democracy, Democratic Theory, Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    directly the fault of Donald J. Trump. And I should add, many willing accomplices in the Republican Party and their allies in their preferred corners of the media.

    Thank you for noting it ain’t just Trump. Trump is going away. The anti-democracy is here to stay.

    ReplyReply
    10
  2. CSK says:

    A popular t-shirt at Trump rallies read: “I’d Rather Be Russian Than A Democrat.”

    ReplyReply
    4
  3. Scott F. says:

    But the ability of a high-ranking official of the Chinese Communist Party to credibly say “Many people within the U.S. actually have little confidence in the democracy of the United States” is directly the fault of Donald J. Trump.

    Maybe Trump did us a favor. Problems are rarely solved if they are not seen and recognized as a problem.

    Trump is adored by a broad swath of the rightist electorate for saying brazenly what other Republican politicians would only give them as dog whistles. But the anti-democratic underpinnings of America were already there and our credibility as a self-proclaimed model democracy deserved to be challenged by other nations.

    I’ve read a LOT of posts and comments at OTB over the last several years which have been variations on the theme “I didn’t realize it (racism, white supremacy, xenophobia, militancy, etc.) was as bad as that here.” Now we do. Maybe we, as a people, will act on that new knowledge.

    ReplyReply
    9
  4. Kathy says:

    Now we know what “It’s a Republic, not a democracy” really means.

    ReplyReply
    4
  5. CSK says:

    @Kathy:
    A lot of Trumpkins seem to believe that a democracy is where they get to keep their guns and their Christian religion and nothing else matters except that there be a “strong” man at the helm to enforce those two rights.

    ReplyReply
    4
  6. Gustopher says:

    Everything Trump Touches Dies.

    Let’s hope our country is an exception.

    ReplyReply
    4
  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.:

    Maybe we, as a people, will act on that new knowledge.

    By doing what? We’re talking upwards of 40% of the voting public, potentially. And the GOP is not going to triangulate out the radicals in the same way that the Democrats were able to in the 80s and 90s–the cohort is to integral to their power structure.

    ReplyReply
  8. Scott F. says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    I’m not hopeful for fast or big change, but I would submit that public shaming is the best bet and action has already started.

    True, 40% of the voting public may be anti-democratic, but it takes around 45% of the voting public to hold power in this country (even with the anti-majoritarian constructs Steven writes so much about). So, start by prosecuting the Jan 6th insurrectionists to the fullest extent possible. Wrap the seditionist, white-supremacist label on the entire lot of anti-democracy folks (the label fits for a great number of them anyway) and make it shameful for that last 5% of voters to consider aligning with these voters. It won’t take all that long for the corporatists and country-club Republicans to decide that getting some power back is worth triangulating out their radicals as well.

    At least, that’s how I hope it would work.

    ReplyReply
    3
  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.: I’ll agree that you’re suggesting a good course of action if it will work. Here’s hoping. [fingers crossed emoji]

    ReplyReply
  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I give you Yang Jiechi, Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Office,

    Heh, I gotta say the first time I read this I thought he was the head of an obscure State dept office, and the following qualifier threw me.

    ReplyReply

Speak Your Mind

*