Alexis de Tocqueville was impressed with the new United States of America. One wonders what conclusions he would reach today. Gerry Caplan writes that American democracy has always been fragile:
Way back during the Great Depression, an American writer named Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel about the fragility of democracy in the United States and how easily the country could end up being run by a fascist dictator like Italy and Germany. Most Americans scoffed at the possibility, which is why Mr. Lewis ironically titled his book It Can’t Happen Here. In his plausible and chilling fable, it did happen. In real-life 1930s America, it came perilously close.
And, today, that democracy is threatened in the person of Donald Trump:
The crazier Mr. Trump’s statements, the more outrageous, provocative, sexist and bigoted, the more he is embraced by tens of millions of Americans. And not just loyal Republicans. It’s true, according to a recent poll, that 76 per cent of Republicans feel that the values of Islam are “incompatible with the American way of life.” More appallingly, a majority of the general public, 56 per cent, agree. A dangerous sickness has taken hold across the United States and Mr. Trump is its main beneficiary and its embodiment.
The woman who will probably be his Democratic opponent is very vulnerable:
Ms. Clinton has always been on the very edge of landing in deadly quicksand, almost deliberately tempting fate to see how much she could get away with. We can take for granted that in the election campaign she will have great quantities of mud thrown at her every single day, deserved or fabricated. While much of the media seems mesmerized by Mr. Trump’s shamelessness, many loathe Ms. Clinton with a bottomless passion. That is why she has a very good chance of being defeated. Indeed, what many of us have refused to understand is that the very shamelessness of Mr. Trump is what attracts so much support.
Lest we get too smug, Caplan reminds Canadians that they have met Mr. Trump in another guise. His name was Rob Ford:
Canadians, at least, should grasp this phenomenon. We’ve been through the identical syndrome with former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Everything that most readers of this column hated about Mr. Ford made him a winner to countless Torontonians. So it is with Mr. Trump. It’s precisely his recklessness, his outrageousness, his bigotry, his ignorance, his indifference to reason and evidence that have made him a hero to tens of millions of Americans, enough to make his election as president perfectly plausible.
Democracy is hard to establish and easy to destroy. All it takes is one person -- and ignorant citizens.