Matthew Yglesias in Vox:
“Democracies erode slowly, in barely visible steps” these days, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt write in How Democracies Die, cautioning Americans not to be complacent merely because there aren’t tanks in the streets. They rot from the inside thanks to demagogic leaders who “subvert the very process that brought them to power.”
Trump, in many respects, fits this bill. Earlier this summer, Trump began tearing children from their parents’ arms to throw them in cages, insisting the step was necessary to avoid an “infestation” of asylum seekers from south of the border. He backed away from portions of that policy, only to tweet that in the future deportations should be carried out “without judges or court cases” — a chilling reminder of the consistent, multifront threat posed to the rule of law by a president who’s undertaking a partisan purge of the FBI.
But identifying the threat too closely with Trump is ahistorical and myopic in ways that lead to analytic failure. Norms have been eroding in the United States, but the erosion began long before the rise of Trump and simply can’t be explained by him alone.