Thirteen Theses on Trump and Liberal Democracy

No one wants to go down in the history books like those fools who said in the 1930s, „well, Hitler isn’t such a bad chap really…“ Protecting our egos from the imagined judgment of prosperity, the cautious course is to predict the worst for the Trump Presidency, the very destruction of the American constitutional regime, the collapse of liberal democratic values. I however am willing to risk being proven a fool, so here goes…

1. Increasingly in mature liberal democracies party affiliation and especially voting is not predetermined by social class, family background or other sub-political associations (e.g. churches, trade unions). Politicians must thus face the task of putting together a coalition from diverse individuals and social groups, which works to get them chosen as a party candidate and then elected to office. Depending on typical levels of grassroots party engagement and voter turnout, such coalitions may actually constitute a minority of the entire voting-eligible population.

2. In representative democracies, as are essentially all our liberal democracies despite the odd referendum (save Switzerland), coalitions of voters may well form in response not to specific policies but to the personalities of political figures. This of course was already noticed by Max Weber („charisma“). A leader can succeed by gaining the trust of a winning coalition or by instilling enthusiasm, or both. Trump was able to instill enthusiasm but not trust not so much. Clinton was able to instill neither trust nor enthusiasm. The inherent reasonableness of her policies, and the broad acceptability of her values, were unlikely to succeed without the ability to elicit either trust or passion.

3. It appears that many Democratic electors who voted for Obama did not cast a ballot this time ...

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