El Efecto Trump

08 de Noviembre de 2016 a las 07:12

By Ángel E. Álvarez, PhD

Twitter: @polscilab

Angel Alvarez Where, how and why a character like Donald Trump comes in an established republic, such as the United States of America? This kind of politicians proliferates in underdeveloped countries, where politics regularly is a bad joke repeated ad nauseam at the expense of the best interests of the citizens. The United States, until recently, looked immune to such a kind of demagoguery, which makes use of the institutions to destroy them and impose its personalistic mandate under the protection of a passionate and oppressive majority.

Let's be clear, intolerance and irrationality have historically abounded in American politics. People like Senator Joseph McCarthy, the terrifying Inquisitor of many alleged pro-Soviet agents, Dixiecrats in the Southern States, and the peculiar Sarah Palin, to name just a very short list, are examples of blind fanaticism that liberal democratic institutions can not eliminate, but at least keep them at bay.

James Madison found the formula to prevent majority passion and the sacrifice of individual rights. In the Federalist number 51, he wrote: "It is of great importance in a republic not only to protect society against the oppression of its rulers, but to protect a part of the society against the injustice of the other party. If a majority is bound by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure.” The Madison's formula divides the power of the majority to prevent its members from taking over all institutions and use them to oppress minorities and violate individual rights. The President is elected by electoral colleges, senators and representatives are chosen by different constituencies, the public power is divided into three branches as recommended by Montesquieu, and it is territorially distributed as Madison himself and others Federalist authors instituted.

The history of the decline of the Roman Empire shows the pattern followed for two millennia by the republics when demagoguery rules. The Caesarian demagogue always stands as the unique savior of the republic in crisis, threatened by external forces and internal enemies. The Republic, he says, is governed by a decadent ruling class amid the widespread poverty of the people. Fear is always the most powerful weapon of the tyrant, who makes use of it to manipulate and ultimately oppress those he claims to represent and save.

Tuesday's election will put at stake the institutional capacities of American democracy to prevent the triumph of demagoguery, intolerance, and despotism. The challenge of the United States is not primarily to prevent a demagogue from winning the presidency. This outcome can eventually occur—according to trends in pre-election polls. The litmus test is that even if he

wins, he cannot exercise the great power of his office to govern outside the law and against the rights of those who are not part of his passionate coalition.