Donald Trump According to a Political Scientist

According to N. Turkuler Isiksel, an Assistant Professor of the Core Curriculum at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University, Trump is going to instigate regime change in the USA.

Those of us who witnessed illiberal populist movements take hold in Turkey, Russia, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, and elsewhere are watching the election of Donald Trump with a particularly acute sense of foreboding.

But as we’ll find out in due course, your fears are largely based on assumptions that would only make sense in the corridors of Ivy League Political Science departments.

Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook.

Such as winning elections.

Don’t look for ways to soothe your sense of alarm, or assume that a Trump presidency might turn out less harmful than he has so far indicated. Autocrats almost always turn out worse than they seem before coming to power.

Donald Trump – who has never held political office and has yet to assume one – is already branded an autocrat.  Presumably those clever people in Ivy League Political Science departments just know this, in the same way they all knew Hillary would win the election.

A presidential candidate who has uncontrollable fits of rage over perceived slights from a former beauty queen is likely to use every resource available to him to hound his enemies.

Begging the question there, aren’t we?  Or are we to believe a Twitter spat is an “uncontrollable fit of rage”?

In the United States, those powers are formidable indeed, ranging from a nuclear arsenal to the boundless surveillance powers of the NSA.

And just like that we move from Twitter spats to nuclear weapons.  Political analysis at its finest.

Don’t expect the Republican establishment to rein him in, as few Republicans were courageous enough to disavow his candidacy even when he appeared to be losing the election.

Oh, how times have changed since October 9th when the NYT was generating timelines telling us why and when no less than 160 senior Republicans refused to endorse Trump.  Presumably our Assistant Professor at Columbia doesn’t have access to Google.

Don’t count on the elaborate system of checks and balances instituted by the founders. James Madison’s ingenious machine was designed to withstand the mundane incompetence, greed, and short-sightedness of politicians, but it cannot weather the onslaught of an aspiring tyrant hell-bent on destroying it.

I’ll not bother to provide evidence that Trump is an aspiring tyrant hell-bent on destroying the constitutional foundations of the United States, but let’s just assume he is, okay?  Otherwise my article would look a bit silly.

Consider that the separation of powers, the primary mechanism Madison envisaged for holding tyranny at bay,

Why yes, let’s consider this.  Now why wasn’t this a problem when Obama was issuing Executive Orders and saying “I have a pen and a phone”?  See, the problem with turning a blind eye when your guy runs roughshod over checks and balances is that one day somebody you don’t like might be in charge.

is all but irrelevant while Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the presidency—particularly once they get their hands on key federal judicial appointments.

How dare they get voted in by the citizenry!

All autocrats set about dismantling countervailing power structures, but with the inauspicious ideological alignment of all three branches of government, Trump won’t even have to try.

So Trump probably won’t behave like an autocrat, or carry out any of the things normally associated with autocrats, but he is still an autocrat, because I say so.  Got it.

If you trust in freedom of expression to expose the autocratic machinations of a Trump administration, think again.

And of course, the last eight years of Democrat rule have not witnessed an erosion of the right to freedom of expression, oh no!  Christian bakers may beg to differ.

It is no coincidence that Erdoğan and Trump are both litigious in the extreme, regularly using personal lawsuits to bludgeon their critics into quiescence.

Trump – a property developer – has sued people.  So has Erdogan, who is President of Turkey.  Therefore Trump is just like Erdogan.  I don’t know about you, but I’m convinced!

Autocrats understand that freedom of expression is fragile, and seek to stifle it by hook or by crook.

This at a time when Ben Shapiro is being banned from speaking at De Paul university – on the topic of Campus Intolerance no less.  Presumably Trump’s henchmen have already infiltrated universities and are clamping down on free speech.  That’s quick work.

The American free speech tradition is stronger than Russia’s or Turkey’s, but a hyper-sensitive, bullying White House press office could easily cow the media into favorable reporting.

That ship sailed a long time ago, I’m afraid.  But it didn’t leave the harbour under a Republican flag.

Conservative “news” outlets already enjoy overwhelming dominance in the United States, and Trump’s singular genius is for manipulating the media.

Sorry, what?  I mean seriously, this article is about what you’d expect from somebody who inhabits the echo chamber of Columbia’s Political Science department, but does she really believe this?  Did she not follow the media’s election coverage?  Pretty much every single major organ opposed Trump, catastrophically so.  Where was Trump’s manipulative genius there?  The author is either spectacularly ignorant or lying.  I have no idea which.

That, after all, is how he fueled the birther movement that in turn made him into a political force.

A political force that nobody saw coming and nobody took seriously until late last Tuesday evening, about eight years after his birther comments.

Finally, he can also be expected, like Berlusconi, to create his own private media empire to shape the “truth” to which a large part of the electorate is exposed.

More predictions, eh?  You’d have thought the American Left would have put these on hold for a while, wouldn’t you?  What’s Trump gonna do, buy a newspaper which has thrown its credibility down the toilet and is hemorrhaging money by the millions?  Uh-huh.

Progressives err in assuming that the worst danger of a Trump presidency is the reversal of Obama legacy, including the Affordable Care Act, the vindication of the constitutional rights of LGBTQ people, the Iran deal, and progress on climate change. There will surely be an all-out assault on these achievements.

Funny, because both the Iran deal and the Paris agreement were pushed through without Congressional approval as Obama didn’t think them necessary.  And the gay marriage decision was ram-rodded through the Judicial branch because there was no way it would pass through the Legislature.  What were you saying earlier about checks and balances on Executive power? Ah, but Obama did it so they are “achievements”.  Whereas Trump – who, we must remind ourselves, has not yet taken office – will be a tyrant because the wholly elected Legislative branch might agree with him.

And Obamacare?  Yes, that scraped through the House but nobody bothered to read it.  Which might be why it is now collapsing into an unworkable mess and people are facing enormous premium hikes which drove them into the voting booths by the million to vote for Trump.

It is a struggle between those who believe in preserving the imperfect but serviceable constitutional system of the republic, and those who will try to undermine it.

Oh yes, because nobody personifies the preservation of and respect for constitutional systems like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

For all his abhorrent policy positions, a President Cruz could have been counted on to observe the strictures of constitutional democracy, such as the peaceful alternation of power through free and fair elections. Trump gives us every reason to suspect that he will not.

Alas, readers who were expecting those reasons to be listed will be disappointed.

If the tactics of Putin, Orbán, Erdoğan, and other populists are any guide, we can expect Trump to do everything he has either threatened to do or baselessly accused the Democrats of doing: fomenting violence and voter intimidation, rigging elections, spying on, prosecuting, and imprisoning his opponents, silencing the press, and more.

It’s almost as if the author wants this to happen, out of pure spite for Hillary’s loss.  Tell me, oh wise one: where is the violence coming from now?

Like other illiberal populists, Trump is capable of inflicting irreparable damage to this country’s institutions within a relatively short space of time.

Like deploying the IRS against political opponents?  Appointing compliant lackeys to the DoJ?  Applying political pressure on the FBI?  Persecuting the head of the CIA for an extra-marital affair?  Calling police forces nationwide racist?  Thank goodness none of this happened under the careful stewardship of Barack Obama, eh?

What we therefore have to prepare to resist is not policy change; it is regime change.

There’s nothing Lefty academics like more than fighting imaginary wars from their comfortable offices on hefty salaries.

This is why it is essential to protest early and often. Citizens of consolidated democracies have absorbed a genteel lesson: if our side loses, we wait our turn until the next election. Under normal circumstances, the internalization of that lesson is essential to democracy’s stability. When those in power are poised to destroy constitutional safeguards, however, hanging on in quiet desperation until the next election can be fatal to democracy.

Instead, Americans must tap into their rich and proud tradition of civic resistance, whose highlights are the twentieth-century civil rights movement and protests against the Vietnam War. Civic action needs to begin now. We must claim public squares before Trump takes office, marching in droves and communicating a clear message that his brand of autocracy shall not pass.

Translation: my side lost the election fair and square and in my demented state I have invented a scenario where America is about to slide into unchecked tyranny.  Therefore we should protest the results of this election and refuse to let the new President do his job.

This in an article bemoaming the lack of respect afforded to the democratic process by Erdogan and Putin respectively.

This civic resistance must bring together not just progressives of all stripes—including Black Lives Matter activists, unions, and the climate justice movement—but also immigrants, LGBTQ people, conservatives, libertarians, religious groups, veterans, teachers, students, people of all faiths, races, and ethnicities;

The usual hotch-potch of the professionally aggrieved, in other words.  What’s the common cause here, again?

in short, all those who believe that political disagreements should only be resolved within the framework of constitutional democracy.

By holding a free and fair election, for example?  Now there’s an idea.

You couldn’t make it up.  But an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University plainly could.

Pitiful stuff.

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17 thoughts on “Donald Trump According to a Political Scientist

  1. Cheer up! If he feels that uncontrollable fits of rage disqualify one from being Prez, we can be confident that he didn’t vote for Hillary Criminal.

  2. “about eight years after his birther comments”: but as we all know, birtherism started as a Clintonista ruse, back at the time of the Ebony vs Ovary Dem primaries.

  3. She’s obviously well educated but must have been traumatized by Erdogan’s rise in her native Turkey into seeing his doubles everywhere. In the process, she’s generalizing beyond the realm of the reasonable. Putin may look like Erdogan, but where’s the “illiberal populist movement” that took hold in Russia? Erdogan has his party, which brought him to power and remains an active political force. He has his millions of fanatical, fearless lemmings, who flocked into the streets on the night of the attempted coup. Putin has United Russia, a bureaucratic machine more than a party, and where are his ardent supporters marching in the streets? The “illiberal populist movement” may yet materialize but it’s simply not there now. Putin’s approval ratings do not constitute a movement.

  4. Alex,

    She’s obviously well educated but must have been traumatized by Erdogan’s rise in her native Turkey into seeing his doubles everywhere.

    That appears to be the case, yes. According to a Turkish friend of mine she is spot on about Erdogan. I have to confess I didn’t pay much attention to what she said about Putin, but as usual with people trying to draw parallels with Russia, I suspected she might be wrong.

  5. As noted elsewhere, the people here that are getting the vapors and seeing this election as a modern day Reichstag fire are the same people who spent the last 8 years weaponizing government. They have seen what happens to Christian bakers and pizza places who show badthink. They don’t want the tables turned and their angry and afraid.

  6. Perry,

    Yeah, I’ve always liked a good Fisking: both reading and writing them. Some articles, such as this one, practically Fisk themselves.

  7. I can’t help but think that this article could have been written by a “conservative” Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University some eight years ago with minor alterations( s/Trump/Obama/ and s/Republican/Democrat/ and maybe a couple others ).

    Assuming of course you could find a conservative Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science at Columbia University

  8. FrancisT,

    Firstly, welcome and thanks for commenting.

    I think you’re right: liberals don’t have a monopoly on idiotic political commentary. But your second paragraph nails it: liberals have a near-monopoly on academia, particularly in the social sciences.

  9. @Tim Newnan “But your second paragraph nails it: liberals have a near-monopoly on academia, particularly in the social sciences.”

    Some of us are trying, little by little, to change that. The Heterodox Academy
    in the US is a small but good start. I hope that we will see something similar in the UK.

  10. “Autocrats understand that freedom of expression is fragile, and seek to stifle it by hook or by crook.” Now I’m really confused. Is ‘autocrats’ the new jargon label for SJWs?

  11. For those not familiar with US academic titles, ‘Assistant Professor’ translates roughly as ‘someone who cleans the whiteboard before the real lecturer arrives’.

  12. I liked this:

    “James Madison’s ingenious machine was designed to withstand the mundane incompetence, greed, and short-sightedness of politicians,”

    Whew. What a relief. I guess we would have survived a Hillary presidency, then.

    On the other hand:

    “For all his abhorrent policy positions, a President Cruz could have been counted on to observe the strictures of constitutional democracy, such as the peaceful alternation of power through free and fair elections.”

    Does anyone seriously believe that, had Ted Cruz been the Republican nominee, the author of this piece would NOT have called him Hitler?

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