Depressed About the Future of Democracy? Study History

In Voting On
- Updated

But I am hopeful. I believe that democracy will beat back the illiberal wave, and that President Trump will be one of the first to go. My faith is based on the lessons of history. The liberal project has faced down much worse: the First World War, the Depression, World War II, the Cold War. And democracy overcame them all.

Today, Mr. Trump, like Mr. Putin, Viktor Orban of Hungary and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, has presided over a head-on attack on the five pillars of the liberal project — its personal, political, media, market and rule-of-law freedoms. His racial invectives assault personal equality. His criminalization of his opponents transgresses political norms. His threats against the news media (including even search engines) offend First Amendment values. His tariffs, crony capitalism and self-dealing make a mockery of free enterprise. And his constant assaults on his own Department of Justice and its personnel flout the rule of law.

But if you’ve studied the power of democracy to topple those far more formidable than Mr. Trump, it will come as no surprise that the pushback has been ferocious.

Supermajorities of Americans are repelled by Mr. Trump’s personal attacks on a few of us, leaving him with approval ratings deep underwater. Politically, those numbers augur ill for his party in the midterms. This could mean that at least one house of Congress will have the will to use its subpoena power. The media has fought back with devastating effect, and Mr. Trump’s tariffs and other distortions of free markets are being met with an outcry from the likes of even the Koch brothers.

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