Donald Trump’s Populism and Illiberal Democracy in the United States, Essay Example
The 2016 US elections can be used as a perfect example of populism. Though some people do not agree with this view, the process used by Donald Trump to get into leadership employed a lot of populist characteristics. The theory of populism is not new as there are known leaders throughout the world that executed this theory, and the payback was getting good leadership positions in their countries. In this situation, Donald Trump finessed a good percentage of the country using this method, and the payback for this was his four years as the PresidentPresident of the most powerful nation in the world. The state of illiberal democracy in the country is a result of populism. There were many decisions that were made by him that resulted in the changing dynamics of law. His words gave power to many wrong people, and as a result, there was so much unrest in the country during the period of his leadership.
Characteristics of Populism as Evidenced by Trump
Illiberal democracy can be described as a system of rule used by leaders. In this system, the process of election is the same, just like any other as people participate in the campaign period, people have a voting day where they go and cast their ballot, and the winner of the election is announced and sworn in together with his team that was elected in the elections. The appointment of other officials is made, and when the parliament settles, the real problem starts. In illiberal democracies, the citizens who happen to be the voters are not involved in the making of the decisions of the country. According to Merkel et al. (29), the leaders elected to power are the people with real power, and they are the ones who are fully involved in decision-making for the country. The people (the voters) are usually in the dark about most policies that take place in the country, and this is because illiberal democracies do not exercise civil liberties, and this simply means that there is no openness in the society. In the leadership period of Donald Trump, the idea of illiberal democracy was clearly seen after the period of the election.
In an article by Pickering and David (76), populism can be described as a type of political movement. The idea of populism has led to the rise of some of the most controversial leaders in the world. This is because leaders who practiced populism practically use the art of deception and a hint of hypocrisy as part of their campaign strategy. Donald was a populist that used this strategy of populists in the history of leadership and the world. Donald Trump practically talks about issues that are particularly sensitive by giving their very controversial points of view. Some of these views and ideas he spoke had always seemed to appeal to the members of the public, and that is how this Trump got the attention of many people. Most times, the attention that is given to Donald came not only from the United States but also from different regions. Populism is used by Donald Trump every step of the way to leadership and even after the populist has gained the leadership position that they were striving to get (Crum, 202).
Populism and illiberal democracy go hand in hand. Populism has always been an important ingredient in the coming up of illiberal democracies. In most cases, if not all, the leaders who practiced illiberal democracy in their reign were populist. One of the common characteristics that are common with most populist leaders is the notable dislike and elimination of settlers. Other than this, the other characteristic is that these leaders are not afraid to make xenophobic statements. These two ideologies are clearly seen in the leadership position that he held in the country: the presidency. These two characteristics are most common with the leaders of the Western States as they have an inclination to support illiberal values. Populism has been one of the most successful ways that have been used by leaders through time to assist them in standing for leadership and winning the votes of the people. It is clear that most of the people who support these leaders do not understand the theory of populism (Merkel et al., 33).
Effects of Trump’s Populism on the US
According to an article by Viala-Gaudefroy published in The Conversation’ Trump’s populism promoted the aspect of demagoguery as he sought the support of the people by praising them based on prejudices. Trump, when addressing his supporters, commended them for being good and promoting the growth of their state rather than bluntly telling them that they had contributed to its destruction. Despite the chaos caused by his supporters, Trump appealed to them by telling them what they wanted to hear rather than what was true.
Another aspect of populism was victimization (Viala-Gaudefroy). Trump identified with these people through this aspect as he made them believe they are on by constantly referring to them as ‘we.’ Further, Trump’s reign encouraged corruption and spreading of fake news that put at stake the interest of other people.
Further, Trump’s reign led to the creation of a lot of enemies. Those people who were against Trump’s reign were viewed as enemies. Particularly, the news media was seen as the ‘inner enemy’ as they published every detail pertaining to his leadership (Viala-Gaudefroy). Further, those who advocated for a different kind of leadership and were against Trump’s suppression were seen as enemies.
Comparison of Populism in different States
The history of the world presents us with some of the most effective illiberal democracies of the world. Russia is one of the best examples when it comes to describing a country that practices the theory of illiberal democracy. Elections are usually held after the end of the presidency reign in such countries (Öniş, 117). Organizations like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that are used as foreign observers of the elections think that though the elections in Russia are held, they are not free and fair. It is clear that there is no freedom of speech in the country as there have been uncountable cases where news reporters and journalists have been murdered during the election period and even after.
A bigger percentage of media houses in Russia are either originally owned by the government or are directly influenced by the government. This means that the print media (newspapers) and the news on television are controlled by the government. This results in huge support of the government in times of election (Hadiz, 408). This factor makes it harder for change to happen as no news against the government and the rulers of that country can be communicated. This lack of communication and freedom makes it harder for a revolution to happen. There was a period back in time when Russia had tried to shift its status and work towards democracy for the country in the advanced years of the 1900s. This quest remained difficult as there were elections that were still taking place. It became clear that it would be impossible for change to happen, and opposition would be very hard when the control of the media was still controlled by the government (Pickering and David, 87).
As cited by Lacatus (54), the United States went through the state of becoming an illiberal democracy in the year’s 2016 presidential race. This happened when Donald Trump entered the presidential race that year as a Republican. He was competing against Hilary Clinton, who was a Democratic nominee in the election. Donald Trump won the elections of that year by great margins, and he became the official 45th PresidentPresident of the United States of America (As cited by Lacatus, 213). This was one of the most interesting turnouts of the election because most of the leaders that ran and were chosen for different seats in the government usually had some sort of experience with the government. This means that all presidential candidates either had responsibilities as government officials or were in military service. The 45th president of the United States of America had neither served in the government as an official nor had any experience in the military, either as a soldier or an official. This made it one of the most interesting turnouts of the election in the United States (Merkel et al., 37).
Implications of Populism
One of the major boosts to becoming a president in the United States was that he was a populist. This simply means that he used to dish out theories that appealed to the people during his campaign process and also during his time and reign as the President, as cited by Pickering and David (76). Donald Trump has to be one of the most controversial presidents that the United States has had in all its years of rising and falling presidents. One could describe the time of Trump’s leadership as a “populist earthquake.” The research was done to differentiate the difference between being popular and being a populist; there are key facts that come to light in the differentiation of the two terms. The political reset of the United States that wasn’t done simply shows the whole world that Americans love the idea of populism even though it does not bring any sort of benefits for them. It is clear as day that populism and illiberal democracy is still a strong political style of governance even with the false hopes and promises it gives (Crum, 202).
It has been described that the two terms have been separated: the “pure people” and the “corrupt elite.” Donald Trump, Jeremy Corbyn, and Rodrigo Duterte are leaders that have been said to be populists, and they all have characteristics that are common among them. Jeremy Corbyn was a politician in Britain from very early in the 1980s. He was the leader of the opposition in Britain and was also serving as the leader of the Labor Party in the years. Rodrigo Duterte is the current PresidentPresident of the Philippines. The above leaders have unique but common mannerisms between them (McKee, Martin, Scott, Greer, and David 155). They used populism to appeal to the people, and this made them get elected in the seats that they held or currently holding. In the United States, it is clear that even though President Trump was impeached more than once, making him the first president in the United States to be impeached twice, the ideology of populism is still intact. The political reset that was supposed to be done when the 2020 election came to pass and Trump was defeated was not done, and this, in turn, could lead to later consequences (Pickering and David, 87).
There was a sudden spread of movements of populists in America and Europe as there were a huge number of leaders that were elected under the populist label. One of the ways populists appealed to the public is by the fact that they openly say controversial statements about the “elite” in the society. In an article, Pickering and David (87) stated that populist leaders have always had a negative opinion that they said about the elites. Most of the statements said were along the lines that the elite of the society should not be trusted because of their insincere and corrupt ways as they do not have any good interests for the development of the country. Populist leaders (Donald Trump) also paint the elite as deceivers of the community, and they always state the fact that they will always betray the people all for their common interests. These populist leaders always carry themselves as the most honest people as they use the term “support the ordinary people,” and this seems to work for the people of the country supporting these leaders. Populist leaders have perfected the art of manipulation as they use this to change the ideologies of people as they model the political field to their advantage.
Other than the strict immigrants’ laws that were put, the difference between the gap between the Democrats and the Republicans during his leadership period and the other presidents of the United States was felt. There was a larger gap than was portrayed during his time than any other time during the presidency of any other person. During his time, there was the elimination of the rules and regulations that support the wellness of the environment that caused an uproar of emotions and feelings among the people who were pro-environment in the country. He also made one of the biggest cuts if taxes that were being paid by the corporations (McKee, 156)
The results of the leadership of populist leaders are always visible and clear once they step into the office. The real intentions and character of Trump were clear once he was sworn in and given the title of the 45th president of the United States of America. There were so many major changes that were made to both the home ground and to the relations that he had with other countries. One of the major changes made by the governance of Trump was the tough immigration restrictions that he implemented during his tenure (as cited by McKee, 156). There was a major debate during that time about the treatment of immigrants in the country. There were a huge number of immigrants at that time that chose to move out of the country than be at the crossroads of the policies that were being made at the time. Immigrants everywhere in the United States did not feel safe as any day could mean the difference between having a home or not. Other than that, there are strict laws about the migration of new immigrants into the country. Tough restrictions were put in place, and this made most of the immigrants looking for a new home come up short of some of the restrictions (McKee, 156).
Crum, Ben, and Alvaro Oleart. “Democratic Systems and Populist Challenges in Europe.”https://reconnect-europe.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/D5.4web.pdf
Hadiz, Vedi R., and Angelos Chryssogelos. “Populism in world politics: A comparative cross-regional perspective.” International Political Science Review 38.4 (2017): 399-411. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512117693908
Lacatus, Corina. “Populism and President Trump’s approach to foreign policy: An analysis of tweets and rally speeches.” Politics (2020): 0263395720935380. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0263395720935380
McKee, Martin, Scott L. Greer, and David Stuckler. “What will Donald Trump’s presidency mean for health? A scorecard.” The Lancet 389.10070 (2017): 748-754. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)30122-8
Merkel, Wolfgang, and Felix Scholl. “Illiberalism, populism, and democracy in East and West.” Politologický časopis-Czech Journal of Political Science 25.1 (2018): 28-44. http://dx.doi.org/10.5817/PC2018-1-28
Öniş, Ziya, and Mustafa Kutlay. “The global political economy of right-wing populism: Deconstructing the paradox.” The International Spectator 55.2 (2020): 108-126. https://doi.org/10.1080/03932729.2020.1731168
Pickering, David. “Three Historical Perspectives on Trump, the Presidency, and American Populism.” The Political Quarterly (2021). https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-923X.12964
Viala-Gaudefroy Jérôme. How Donald Trump’s populist narrative led directly to the assault on the US Capitol
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