Yascha Mounk wrote for The New York Times Opinion Pages about why the we should be worried about US democracy and why the time to act is now.
In some ways, the United States seems far from such a situation today. The Trump administration, after all, appears weak: It is relatively unpopular, mired in scandal and divided by infighting — Anthony Scaramucci’s 10-day tenure is just the latest example. And it faces determined opposition from courts, the news media, state and local governments and ordinary citizens. If Mr. Trump’s presidency ends in humiliation, future generations may well conclude that it was bound to fail all along.
But in other respects the United States is already well on the way to what I have, in my academic work, called “democratic deconsolidation.” Mr. Trump is increasingly emulating the playbook of popularly elected strongmen who have done deep, lasting damage to their countries’ democratic institutions.
In recent weeks, he has treated a gathering of Boy Scouts like a campaign rally. He has asked soldiers for political support at a ceremonial event. He has implied that policemen should rough up suspects they arrest. He has continued to feud with the country’s intelligence community. And he has suggested he still wants Hillary Clinton prosecuted.
Mr. Trump nonetheless has many supporters. While a majority of Americans believes that the president is doing a bad job, around 40 percent of voters — and some 80 percent of Republicans — approve of his performance. A number of Republican senators and congressmen have reportedly objected to Mr. Trump’s attacks on Mr. Sessions and voted against parts of his legislative agenda, but most have yet to oppose him publicly.
This is worrying. The Constitution cannot defend itself.