Is American Democracy Strong Enough for Trump? Fukuyama Asks


“As a political scientist,” Fukuyama says, “I am looking ahead to [Trump’s] presidency with great interest, since it will be a fascinating test of how strong American institutions are.” Elaborating on the thought, he observes that we have not previously seen a leader who sets out to undermine the systems norms and rules. It’s a giant stress test.

Isn’t that nice? For political scientists, at least, the glass is half full, because we are about to witness a great natural experiment in political science.

Fukuyama knows a damn sight more about this subject than Aardvark, but I find his analysis a little fuzzy. He

  • Observes that, despite the dangers Trump poses, he, Fukuyama, is not willing to withdraw his argument that American government has too many checks and balances, and is, in consequence, paralyzed too often
  • Predicts that Trump will have a lot of trouble controlling his own administration, and
  • Observes that federalism will prove another big obstacle of the Trump agenda.

“California, where I live, is virtually a different country from Trumpland,” Fukuyama writes.

This is true. Aardvark has visited California many times. Each time he sets foot in the Golden State, he is reminded of the Chinese proverb, 皇帝, Heaven is high and the emperor is far away.

But to return to the question posed by the headline, for what it is worth—and that is not bloody much—Aardvark’s cloudy crystal ball shows what Fukuyama’s more scholarly crystal ball also shows:

In the end, Trump’s ability to break through institutional constraints will ultimately come down to politics, and in particular to the support he gets from other Republicans. His strategy right now is clear: He wants to use his “movement” to intimidate anyone who gets in the way of his policy agenda. And he hopes to intimidate the mainstream media by discrediting them and undermining their ability to hold him accountable. He is trying to do this, however, using a core base that is no more than a quarter to a third of the American electorate.