As political and legal storms batter Washington, enough outrage has been expressed to swamp Donald Trump’s reputation forever. Worth noting for today, though, are polls that still suggest some four out of 10 Americans approve of their president.
The problem is not him. It’s you – if you are among the 41.3 percent of Americans standing behind him.
And it’s not just America’s problem. The world may try to ignore Donald Trump, his tweets, his scandals. No one, anywhere, can afford to dismiss his supporters, who are also likely to support Trump’s eventual successor. Americans who see nothing wrong and everything right with Trump’s presidency dominate the unusual First-Past-the-Post democracy of the United States. As the Ukraine scandal shows, how they wield their power threatens global democracy and decency for as long as America remains a superpower and believes Might is Right.
They hold power because America is profoundly polarized, and most Americans of voting age don’t vote. A bare majority of those who do vote did not vote for Trump – but they are disorganized, splintered, and squabbling, while Trump’s supporters remain unified.
Non-Americans, like me, have no agency in America. We can merely watch, jaws dropped, amazed that America’s entertainment culture of thrills, chills and political comedy could become real life. But non-Americans can heed the lesson of America’s decline: that complacency becomes complicity, and bolster our own democracies, tackle our own polarization, and encourage broader political engagement.
America is not a democracy, by Yascha Mounk, Atlantic, March, 2018
… public policy does not reflect the preferences of the majority of Americans. If it did, the country would look radically different
Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens, by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, Princeton, September, 2014
Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance, such as regular elections, freedom of speech and association, and a wide-spread (if still contested) franchise. But we believe that if policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans, then America’s claims to being a democratic society are seriously threatened.
Financial Times US politics and policy page (subscription needed) https://www.ft.com/world/us/politics
New York Times politics page (subscription needed) https://www.nytimes.com/section/politics
NPR Politics page (Donations requested but no subscription needed) https://www.npr.org/sections/politics/
Wikipedia page on voter turnout in the US https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voter_turnout_in_the_United_States_presidential_elections