A Yale historian has a chilling warning about what happens next with the Trump presidency

Olivier Douliery/Pool/Getty Images

A historian specialising in political tyranny has said it’s inevitable that President Trump will do away with democracy.

When President Donald Trump was elected on the back of a populist wave, there were two conclusions one could draw. His unconventional style, and disregard for the constitution meant he was either going to be president for the next two years, or the next twenty.

Timothy Snyder, a professor at Yale University, and author of ‘On Tyranny’ believes it will be something like the latter.

In an interview on the Chauncy DeVega Show podcast, Snyder remarked that it was ‘pretty much inevitable’ that President Trump would stage a coup and overthrow democracy.

In ‘On Tyranny’, Snyder predicts the President will have his own ‘Reichstag fire’, a terrorist attack, pinned on his enemies, after which he is legally given unprecedented powers, and democracy is suspended. He also made the case for this, in an article for the New York Review of Books on February 26.

The Reichstag fire shows how quickly a modern republic can be transformed into an authoritarian regime. There is nothing new, to be sure, in the politics of exception. The American Founding Fathers knew that the democracy they were creating was vulnerable to an aspiring tyrant who might seize upon some dramatic event as grounds for the suspension of our rights.

He continued:

In rhetoric and action, the Trump administration has aggrandized 'radical Islamic terror' thus making what [James] Madison called a 'favourable emergency' more likely.

In his interview with Salon, Synder said that he believed it is ‘pretty much inevitable that they will try’.

Snyder explained:

The reason I think that is that the conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them. The conventional way to be popular or to be legitimate in this country is to have some policies, to grow your popularity ratings and to win some elections. I don’t think 2018 is looking very good for the Republicans along those conventional lines — not just because the president is historically unpopular. It’s also because neither the White House nor Congress have any policies which the majority of the public like.

This means they could be seduced by the notion of getting into a new rhythm of politics, one that does not depend upon popular policies and electoral cycles.

When pressed on whether or not the right term for the President is ‘fascist’, Snyder said:

I don’t want to dodge your question about whether Trump is a fascist or not. As I see it, there are certainly elements of his approach which are fascistic. The straight-on confrontation with the truth is at the centre of the fascist worldview. The attempt to undo the Enlightenment as a way to undo institutions, that is fascism.

HT Salon, NYRB

More: This list of 14 early warning signs of fascism is chilling

The Conversation (0)