At a Florida rally in mid-October, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump announced that “this election will determine whether we are a free nation or whether we have only an illusion of democracy … our system is rigged. This is reality.”
But the true, unnerving reality is the danger that Trump poses to the legitimacy of American democracy.
Over the past month, Trump has continuously eschewed our democratic institutions. Onslaught after onslaught, tirade after tirade, Trump has offered a menacing view of the institutions that Americans have valued for 240 years. He declares that the media is biased, that he may not accept the terms of the election granted his defeat, and that that the election will be rigged.
These grievances would be fair, respectable, and even admirable if Trump were a true patriot fighting against a system-gone-bad. But he is not. He is merely pandering to the heated passions that he has elicited in his most passionate supporters.
At a time when the trust for democratic institutions is already at all-time lows, this is a dangerous road for a major-party presidential candidate to take.
A 2015 study conducted by Pew Research Center found that only 19 percent of Americans trust the government all or most of the time, an historical low in the modern era. Similarly, another Pew study found that 70 percent of Americans have a negative view of the media. American distrust for hallowed institutions of democracies is on the rise.
At such a moment, it is the duty of our country’s leaders to come together to realize the allowances that American democracy has afforded Americans. With the enormity of the stakes, it is pertinent that Trump reaffirm democracy, not tear it apart. Yet Trump has done the latter. It is horrifying that a presidential candidate would cater to such distrust to take advantage of the faltering institutions themselves.
With that said, it is also a presidential candidate’s duty to educate his/her supporters about the issues that plague our country. An informed democracy is a strong democracy. Trump has decried corruption and bias but doesn’t offer educated reasoning for his cynical denouncements of democracy. Instead he resorts to fear-mongering rhetoric that solicits passion from his most earnest supporters.
Trump’s effectual use of fear-mongering coupled with the rising distrust for democracy has fostered an alarming environment as we approach Election Day. Recently, The New York Times chronicled unsettling remarks from various Trump supporters misled by his groundless absurdities. Trump supporters anticipate “another Revolutionary War,” and a few supporters chillingly foresee harm inflicted on Clinton if she is elected on Nov. 8. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done,” one supporter said. While these horrifying comments do not represent the entire Trump populace, it is concerning that a presidential candidate is so willing to provoke such disdain for the same government that he hopes to head.
Trump is right; he is an existential threat to Washington, not because of the reform he claims he would spur, but rather because of the threat that he poses to American and global democracy.
Before entering the voting booth this coming Tuesday, ask yourself if you are willing to vote for a candidate that is unwilling to accept 240 years of democratic precedent; for a candidate that denounces the very institutions that have allowed for American prosperity; for a candidate that would rather spread fear than unite a divided country. American is too great. Donald Trump has no business in the White House.