Why Trump is Not The Real Threat to American Democracy

This Trump is going, but what about Trumpism?

Sikander Hayat Khan
6 min readDec 5, 2020

Many of you will have seen the “most important speech” Donald Trump has ever made. Many of you will have gone through the comments underneath that speech.

At first, it just looks like more of the same — Trump’s incessant cries of fraud and a base ever-ready to back him up. But what they actually symbolise is an America that’s refusing to accept reality.

And there's a reason why that's the case. It’s what happens when we openly disregard what democracy and governance are. We choose to ignore the fact that politicians work for us — not the other way around.

What some Trump supporters are doing today is the epitome of politician-worship. To them, it doesn't matter what 80 million had to say. It doesn't matter that their country’s democracy will fall apart if they get what they want. They don't care about the consequences the average American will face decades down the line. They just want their King on his throne.

And I’ve seen this happen before — many times. Democratic dictators have this innate ability to make their bases overly-emotional, and thereby getting them to overlook — rather completely disregard — truth, decency and democracy.

And I mean it when I say it. Because this fast turns from a plea for sympathy to radicalisation. This is how rigged elections are legitimised. This is why dictators never really die.

Ever watched the news in utter amazement as to how a tyrant in the Third World just won re-election? Yeah, this is how that happens.

I’ve seen democratic dictators come back “from the dead” and sweep elections. Their loyalists never forget them. Beating them at one election is never the answer — if anything, it strengthens their resolve. But you know where things get tricky? The kind I’ve seen was just politician-worship. What you're seeing in America is drastically different. Because it’s politician-worship for a reason — Trumpism.

And no, they're not rallied behind this ideology for the sake of it. They’re behind it because they know it represents an America that they want to bring to life. An America that you've always known existed in certain corners. An America that you wished never reached centre-stage.

That’s why they’re willing to cut their own democracy at the knees to keep Trumpism alive. Because to them, that is America.

And this was always coming. This vision of an America built on racism, hate and violence always existed. Think of it this way — this is what a certain portion of Americans longed for, and Trump was the man who finally showed up and said, “You don't have to wait anymore.” This is how he won their hearts. This is why the slogan “Make America Great Again” resonated with them. They believed this America existed and that it must exist again. Trump’s America to them was greatness.

But here’s the part you need to focus on — it wasn't Trump’s America that was great simply because it was Trump’s. No no, it was their version of America — Trump was just a means to an end. The only reason they’re sticking to him like glue is because, right now, they don't have an alternative with the political capital that he does. Make no mistake — when they find another Trump, a “better” Trump, they will ditch the first one faster than he can say “fraud.”

That, however, is the story of only a fraction of Trump’s support base. So what about the rest? The ones who voted on policy lines or simply because they wanted to keep the Democrats out?

They chose to overlook those realities. Even by voting on policy grounds, they also declared that they didn’t really care about everything else that came along with it. By definition, you can’t vote for part of a politician. It’s either the entire package or nothing.

And this begs the question — what will you do when the next Trump comes along? Because this one might go to prison and you can rest assured that another one will be coming. Why? Politicians want power. And there’s a base of 73 million ready to give it to them. Add to that it takes record-breaking numbers to beat that, and you’ve got a recipe for an almost guaranteed victory every time.

Firstly, you can’t count on people suddenly seeing reason. Remember how I said I saw tyrants “come back from the dead” and win elections? They were in exile for ten years. They went from invincible to irrelevant. And yet…You see, you can’t explain these things using rationalism. They are, by their very nature, irrational. Take all that’s happened in America in the last four years and you’ll see what I mean — gun violence, racism, politically-motivated hooliganism, fascism, democracy being held at gunpoint and 286,000 people dying from Coronavirus. You’d think that this would be enough for people to realise what Trump is and what he’s doing to America.

Secondly, like I said, you can’t count on Trump going to prison being the solution. Personally, I have a hard time believing that he will. But that’s just because I’ve seen that it takes a completely fearless opposition and judiciary to put away people like him. In our world, the rich and powerful somehow always find a way. But putting that to one side, Trump being out of the running, in any case, isn't going to put a damper on Trumpism. Sure, the movement will die down for a while. But that’s only till they find their next champion. And given that Trump is leaving behind a crystal clear roadmap to power and a base that’s ready to hand it over, that won’t take long.

Your best bet is to vote the way you did this time. Why? Remember how I said Trump left his successors a roadmap? The only reason going down that path is going to to be enticing for politicians is because they know the vote-bank that comes with it is good enough to win. You need to show them that it isn't. Because the version of America Trumpists are fighting for will likely never die. What you can do is stop it from becoming a reality.

It’s about understanding politics and how it works. You see, if Trumpism keeps losing, there will come a point where politicians will have to sit back and wonder if it’s even worth it. Why should they alienate half the population (with the winning vote) by standing with the losing side? And this goes both ways. If the message for democracy keeps losing, then even the “good” guys will wonder if it’s worth it. I mean, if they’re running for president, that's what they want, isn't it? To be president?

Make no mistake — it will come down to that. Because if Trump’s failed coup has proved one thing, it’s that American democracy is not vulnerable to that sort of coup. It is, however, vulnerable to one from the inside — one led by the people. It is incredibly ironic that the only way American democracy can be undermined is at the polling booths. And America needs to take note. Because many are living under the illusion that it’s all over. It isn’t. The next two elections will be make or break. Why? The idea that Trumpism will not win again needs to be cemented in the minds of presidential candidates across America.

And to make that a reality, you know what you have to do. You have to vote — again. Because the Trump army certainly is going to. They’re fighting to bring their version of America to life, remember. To them, this is more than an election. It’s more than which candidate wins or loses. They’re trying to shape their nation’s destiny.

The question is, are you willing to do the same? Because that is what your mission now is too. Just like Trumpism will change what America is and will be if it runs riot, you have to make sure that doesn't happen. Because what’s the alternative?

Authoritarianism? More gun violence? More racism? More fear? More embarrassment on the world stage? More having to explain to your kids that this isn't what America really is?

Americans need to keep the America that could be fresh in their minds. They need to remember what is at stake. They need to understand that Trump was just the frontman — and that Trumpism is what has given authoritarianism democratic backing in America.

If they don't, they’ll be standing on the sidelines as Trumpists “Make America Great Again — Again.”



Sikander Hayat Khan

Law and politics grad. Masters in Law. Nuance over ideology. Published in The Friday Times. Twitter @SikanderH8.