There have been many Democrats and liberals arguing that Trump is not just wrong and foolish, but a danger to democracy. Tom Ginsburg and Aziz Huq put forward a more sophisticated version, arguing that while Trump poses no danger of a coup, American democracy may face incremental erosion. But their arguments are unpersuasive as a matter of sociology and law. Moreover, they ignore, as is all too typical, the burgeoning administrative state’s danger to democracy. And I say this as one who has substantial reservations about the President.
First, they analogize American democracy to that in Poland and Hungry, where they contend that populist authoritarian parties have degraded democracy. But United States citizens are far wealthier and that wealth provides greater stability. We are not just “fairly wealthy” but very wealthy. And these nations are still scarred by a recent totalitarian past, making their institutions less secure.
The authors also worry that the rule of law may be at risk here because of the deference that the judiciary shows the political branches. This is an odd claim, because there is an extensive literature, going under the rubric of “We the Court” that suggests that the modern courts show little deference.
In the shiver-looking-for-a-spine department, the Boston Globe reports (paywall) that “two dozen of the nation’s top political scientists” held an October confab in California, fancying themselves “modern-day writers of the Constitution” anointed to rescue the republic from “an explosion in campaign money, the rise of political factions, and politically motivated redistricting,” all of which has induced a “democratic deficit.” Based on the admittedly limited scope of the Globe’s reporting on the meeting, the idea of a democratic surplus, a likelier suspect, seems not to have occurred to them.