Donald Trump and the Institutions of Democracy      Aug 10th 2016

Many comments have already been made about the similarities between Trump and dictators like Hitler. And while there is still a difference between the two, there are remarkable similarities between the rise of the Nazis in Germany and contemporary US politics and specifically Mr. Trump’s campaign.

The underlying reasons of these similarities actually supersede Donald Trump – the production of an environment of fear that led over the last decades to questionable judicial choices (read: our treatment of potential terrorist suspects).

However, here I want to focus on Donald Trump a bit, and specifically two recent remarks that illustrate why his bid for president of the USA is highly problematic and dangerous.


On August 2nd Trump commented during a campaign rally in Columbus Ohio that the general elections will probably be rigged against him. ("I'm afraid the election is going to be rigged, I have to be honest," AP August 2nd).

A week later on August 9th he suggested that “If she (Clinton) gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks.” He quickly added: “Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.” (NYT 10th August). Seemingly suggesting the possibility of a violent act against Clinton.


These are just two of many remarks that speak to the personality of Trump, his hyperbole and egocentrism that in themselves should be enough to discredit him as a president.

However, and here are the similarities with the rise of the Nazis, these comments speak toward a much bigger problem: His utmost disrespect for democratic institutions.

The bedrock of any democracy are free and fair elections. Without those democracy is impossible. It is through elections that people express their will and it is through such elections that the office of the president becomes just that – bigger than the individual holding it.

No matter whether you like President Obama, he is the president and deserves respect for that, independent of his person.

Democracy makes politics less dependent on individuals and more about the office and the institutions that are filled by individuals.

Individuals change, the office and institutions remain. It is these institutions that keep a check on the individuals, the opposite of which can be painfully seen these days in Russia or Turkey.

Suggesting “rigged elections” and hence warning against any other outcome than his victory, Trump puts in danger these very institutions, by questioning the office of the president.

Of course, rigged elections need to be called out and condemned. However, a priori – without any evidence – questioning the elections is an undemocratic move usually only seen by dictators who use it as an excuse to take power.

If they don’t like the outcome, they simply don’t accept it. We have seen that a lot by dictators around the world taking over countries. (By the way, we can observe the same behavior in little children).

Suggesting the elections would be rigged, Trump not only showed himself as the narcissist he is, but he undermines the bedrock of our democracy.

His latest comment goes, of course, in the same direction, by suggesting that electoral outcomes could be remedied through violent acts.

Again, this is a move we have all too often seen play out by dictators.

The president has not only the right but they duty to pick supreme court judges. That's why we elect her or him. 

Challenging that right by violent means undermines the democratic processes in two way.

First, it doesn't respect the majority's vote ad second, it does so by taking away the monopoly of violence from the state and its organs.

That it is also immoral and illegal are again two categories that usually do not bother dictators or wannabes.

Democracy allows people to run for office who have the utmost disrespect for the democratic process. Like freedom of speech (protecting potential hate speech), this is a blessing and a curse. It was for Germany in the 1930s and it is right now for us.

As we cannot outlaw Trump’s candidacy, I hope we can at least come to our senses as an electorate.

No matter what you think about the alternatives, voting for Trump is voting against democracy and the democratic institutions we have fought so hard for.

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