Quora: Trump Erodes Norms But is No Threat to Democracy

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Answer from Francis Fukuyama, author & professor of Political Science at Stanford:

I have been involved in the discussion about whether our current president is a threat to democracy because many people on the left believe he is an incipient dictator or tyrant, and I understand where that view comes from. If you look at his career, he really doesn't like being constrained by rules. When he was running his real estate business, he didn't pay his contractors like he was supposed to, forcing them to sue him. When he hit a law he didn't like, he tried to get it changed or would work around it. I think he's brought that mentality to the White House; he would like to do everything by executive order. He'd like to use his democratic mandate—I realize he didn't get the majority of the popular vote—but he sees it's important to use the mandate to enact his agenda.  

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The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, U.S., December 20, 2016. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

I think he sees a lot of the checks and balances in our political system as inconveniences which, if he had his way, he'd get rid of. It's my opinion that those checks and balances are pretty deeply rooted in this country and he's not going to be able to do this. The failure of the Republican party to get rid of Obamacare is a good example of how limited he is. Donald Trump said during the campaign that on the first day in office he was going to get rid of Obamacare, replace it with something wonderful and cheaper and nobody was going to lose coverage. Another few weeks go by, and he says “No one knew how complicated healthcare is,” and you can translate that to “I didn't understand how complicated it is.” And sure enough, he wasn't able to do what he had been promising since day one. I think this is going to continue to happen with things like tax reform; you've got even bigger interest groups involved there, and in legislation on infrastructure, and he's going to run up against the same Tea Party block that doesn't want to spend on government. He's going to be constantly testing the limits of the system, but he's not going to fundamentally alter it.  

The thing that really worries me is not that he's really going to do something that violates the Constitution, but that we'll see a gradual erosion of norms. You see this in all of the conflicts of interest that he faces. We've never had a president who continues to run a big business, or the situation we had with the Kushner family closing a deal with a Chinese company, ahead of an official visit. As far as I know, it's unprecedented for a president or his family to have all of these conflicts of interest. This wipes away civil society's precedents and you get more people who don't care about what happened before and don't see corruption as a potential problem in American government.

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What is the biggest threat to the American democracy? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:


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