The United States Presidential elections are set to take place later this year. Many consider this will be one of the most polarising elections in the nation’s history. Meanwhile, the country is going through a public emergency with one of the biggest health crisis along with an economic crisis. At the same time, there have been huge Black Lives Matter demonstrations over the murder of George Floyd.
An emergency of this magnitude is bound to test the limit of presidential authority and President Trump has slipped a few times now. After the Black Lives Matter protests broke out, the President tried to supersede the authority of governors and call in the military to stop the protests if the Governors did not deploy enough national troops. At the same time, the police had to clear the path in front of White House using rubber pellets and tear gas so that the President could go to a church for a photo op.
Earlier in April, Donald Trump said “when somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total” in an attempt to control the reopening of the states. He later walked back on the statement but it was well noted that the President tried to compromise the federal structure of the country.
Watch: Trump claims he has total authority to reopen the economy and states
It might be worrisome for a democracy when an elected President views himself as a total authority and isn’t hesitant enough to put the thought out. It is bound to raise a question about the health of democracy of a nation, which at the end of the day depends on its people’s commitment to it. A study conducted by the VOTER group reveals that 87% of Americans prefer a democratic political system over others. However, almost 50 percent are dissatisfied with the state of democracy in the country.
It might be worrisome for a democracy when an elected President views himself as a total authority and isn’t hesitant enough to put the thought out.
America’s Democratic Health
This might sound like good news but other findings of the survey tell a slightly different story about democratic health. The VOTER survey says that “fewer than 10 percent of Americans consistently express support for authoritarian alternatives to democracy …However, one-third (33 percent) of Americans have at some point in the last three years said that they think having “a strong leader who doesn’t have to bother with Congress or elections” would be a good system of government. And about a quarter (24 percent) have said at some point that “army rule” would be a good system. Put another way, while fewer than one in 10 percent of Americans consistently supports an authoritarian option, a third of Americans “dabble” in authoritarianism.” The study goes further to reveal that majority of the sample don’t oppose if the President goes over his power to make decisions.
And about a quarter of Americans have said at some point that “army rule” would be a good system.VOTER Survey
These statistics might not seem alarming on the surface but present a significant cause of concern in the current political scenario. Does this mean Americans might shift to an authoritarian form of government anytime soon? No, but it reveals a certain amount of softness to the norms and institutions of democracy. Hence, people might compromise on democratic values if presented with a situation that benefits them or doesn’t affect them, for eg., if the President shuts down Black Lives Matter protests with the help of the military, it doesn’t really affect the white population and actually might benefit them. Therefore, they might not object to the President misusing his power. These types of situations are potentially dangerous to the black and other minorities in the states.
The rise of Populism
It is to be noted that the world has seen a rise of far-right populist governments in the last few years in major democracies across Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The 2020 Presidential elections results play a pivotal role in global politics and the worldwide commitment to democracy.