The Trump Presidency and American Democracy: A Historical and Comparative Analysis
by Robert C. Lieberman, Johns Hopkins University, Suzanne Mettler, Cornell University, Thomas B. Pepinsky, Cornell University, Kenneth M. Roberts, Cornell University and Richard Valelly, Swarthmore College
To many observers across the political spectrum, American democracy appears under threat. What does the Trump presidency portend for American politics? How much confidence should we have in the capacity of American institutions to withstand this threat? We argue that understanding what is uniquely threatening to democracy requires looking beyond the particulars of Trump and his presidency. Instead, it demands a historical and comparative perspective on American politics. Drawing on insights from the fields of comparative politics and American political development, we argue that Trump’s election represents the intersection of three streams in American politics: polarized two-party presidentialism; a polity fundamentally divided over membership and status in the political community, in ways structured by race and economic inequality; and the erosion of democratic norms. The current political circumstance threatens the American democratic order because of the interactive effects of institutions, identity, and norm-breaking.
Perspectives on Politics, Volume 17, Issue 2, September 2018