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        Trump: Causes and Consequences
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        Trump: Causes and Consequences
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We are pleased to present the results of our first call for papers, “Trump: Causes and Consequences.”1 The response of the profession to this invitation was overwhelming. We received over 100 article submissions. Our original plan was to publish a special issue, but given the volume and quality of what was submitted, both this number and the next will be devoted to this theme. The first several articles accepted were published initially on First View as “The October Surprise” just before the midterm elections in November 2018.2 To these six, we now add three other articles and a book review essay.

President Trump has been an unprecedented figure in American politics. He was elected president when the educated consensus—including that of most members of our profession—was that he did not stand a chance. He has broken with past practices of presidential behavior and decorum, scandalizing some and delighting others. Not only has he shaken up American politics, but his “America First” brand of nationalism has challenged the postwar liberal world order, which has been based, rightly or wrongly, on the extension of American power abroad. He causes concern among long-term allies3 and has cozied up (or at least has tried) to a number of authoritarian leaders, including Vladimir Putin, Recip Tayyip Erdoğan, Mohammed Bin Salman, and Kim Jong-un, while openly praising Jair Bolsonaro and Rodrigo Duterte, both of whom have been called the Donald Trump of their respective regions. His lack of concern for how government works, his impatience to accomplish things, and what some regard as his clear disdain for the Constitution’s constraints on executive power, has led many to fear that he constitutes a threat to democracy. A number of well-regarded democracy indices concur with this opinion, and there is widespread concern that the United States is part of a larger trend of the weakening of democracy globally.4 In Part 2 of the special issue we will be publishing an article drawn from the work of Bright Line Watch, a group of political scientists who are actively monitoring the state of American democracy.5

In exploring the Trump phenomenon we have collected articles that address why Trump was able to defy the conventional wisdom and capture the highest office in the land. We are also publishing a substantial number of articles that try to understand Trump’s broader impact from a variety of perspectives. Foremost, scholars of American politics contributed a large number of submissions, which makes sense given that Trump has posed a number of new challenges for scholars in that field. Throughout the process, however, we explicitly decided not to encourage thinking about Trump only from the vantage point of American politics, but to encourage scholars of international relations, political theory, and comparative politics to think about the meaning of Trump, using the insights generated from their fields. We have also encouraged political scientists from different subfields to work together to see what such cross-pollination could bring. After all, Trump has not only affected politics in this country, but in the international system, in our understanding of many of the central concepts of the discipline (democracy, nationalism, liberalism), and through diffusion effects that shape the politics of other countries. We begin with our own consideration of what Trump has meant for democracy and its fate both in the United States and globally.

America from the Perspective of Theories of Democracy and Regime Change

Donald Trump’s inaugural address, the collaborative project of the fevered imaginations of Stephens Bannon and Miller, was dubbed “American Carnage.” It depicted the state of the country as a post-apocalyptic danger zone, more like a sequel from the Mad Max or the Night of the Living Dead franchises, than the country that had recovered from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Trump won the Electoral College vote while losing the popular vote to democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by over 2.8 million votes. Normally, under majority or plurality electoral rules, the candidate that collects the most votes wins. Due to a remnant of eighteenth-century anxiety about giving the people too much direct say in how they are governed, this is not the case in the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy. In many respects, therefore, Trump’s election did not represent a failure of the system “as intended” by the Founders, but rather its success. Hamilton, Madison, and the Federalists in particular consistently referred to “democracy” in pejorative terms, and saw themselves as creating instead a “republic,” an institutional framework of “mixed government” (shared among the one, few, and many—or demos) that had for roughly two millennia been seen as the institutional antidote to the putative excesses of pure democratic rule. Twice in the twenty-first century, we have seen the residual effects of this institutional design at work, when the candidate who came in second in the popular vote has won the presidency. This outcome has given many “small d” democrats deep concern, especially given the Constitution’s original provisions for the indirect and less than fully enfranchised election of the representatives of “the people” in this republican system.

Thus, one of the reasons for Trump’s victory is that American democracy suffers from elements of what scholars of democratic consolidation label “perverse institutionalization.” Perverse institutionalization refers to situations in which elements of an antecedent non-democratic system are preserved or special protections are granted to particular privileged actors in the construction of institutions during democratization.6 We could certainly debate for a long time whether the founding of the American republic, when the Electoral College was put in place, was an episode of democratization. Depending on the minimum conditions that one uses to define democracy one could argue that it was (but only if suffrage is not central to one’s definition or if one ignored the existence of slavery!).7 Alternatively, if one focused on more stringent conditions the date of that event would come much later.8 And finally, if one looks at democratization as a more protracted historical process, we might agree that 1789 was the beginning—but certainly not the end—of the construction of democracy in the United States.9

The process of institutional foundation necessarily involves a series of trade-offs, compromises, and no-win outcomes between powerful actors who seek to protect their interests constitutionally. And it is common enough for the institutional guarantees, formulated to benefit such interests at an earlier juncture, to persist even though their initial purpose is no longer central. Some of the institutions created at the American founding, such as the Electoral College, have persisted and continued to impede the full democratization of our political system. This is what is meant by perverse institutionalization.

The Electoral College was created to protect the interests of the small states and to protect wealthy interests in the states from unchecked decisions by what Madison referred to in Federalist No.10 as “majority faction.” As is well known, the Electoral College allocates electoral votes largely on a winner-take-all basis determined by statewide presidential vote count (Maine and Nebraska being exceptions). Each state receives as many electoral votes as it has members of congress and senators. As all states have two senators, this gives unequal weight to the outcomes in small states. Thus Wyoming (the least populous state) receives one electoral vote for 187,875 citizens, whereas California receives one electoral vote for 677,345 citizens. As a result, the average Wyoming voter has 3.6 times more say in electing the president. The corresponding figure for the country as a whole is 572,812 inhabitants per electoral vote. A presidential candidate who captured the 40 smallest states would receive 284 electoral votes (14 more than the 270 necessary to win office). Those states, though, would represent just under 46% of the total U.S. population. Clearly there is a bias that privileges the outcomes favored by the inhabitants of smaller states, which on average turn out today to be more rural, whiter, and more conservative.10

The problems of representation are replicated in the Senate, which distorts the principle of one-person/one-vote even more than the Electoral College. The Senate was democratized substantially in 1913 when the Seventeenth Amendment replaced the indirect election of senators by state legislatures with their direct popular election in each state. Despite these democratic changes, however, Wyoming still gets a senator for every 281,000 inhabitants, whereas California gets one for every 18,600,000. These institutions, framed by a series of actors over 200 years ago, have had quite remarkable staying power even though many of the original interests that created them are long gone. These non-democratic features of our system have subsequently been redeployed to protect other interests not imagined by the Founders. Both the Electoral College and Senate would prove notoriously difficult to change, despite our supposed commitment to democracy as intrinsic to our national political culture, because substantial parts of the Senate itself, and the congressional delegations, and the state legislatures of the small states, all of whom benefit from the status quo, are needed to put together a super-majoritarian coalition to reform constitutional institutions.

Of course, American democracy has had persistent problems with realizing the democratic ideal of one person/one vote in other ways as well. This goes back to the notorious three-fifths constitutional compromise on slave populations in the ante-bellum South.11 Not only was slavery protected, but the voters of slave-owning states got more representatives and electoral votes as well. The emancipation of enslaved African Americans did not solve the problem because of the failure of Reconstruction and the creation and persistence of the racist Jim Crow system. In speaking about Reconstruction’s failure and replacement by Jim Crow rule in the American South, Richard Vallely discusses democratic disenfranchisement as an unrecognized form of American exceptionalism:

No major social group in Western history, other than African Americans, ever entered the electorate of an established democracy and then was extruded by nominally democratic means such as constitutional conventions and ballot referenda, forcing that group to start all over again. Disenfranchisements certainly took place in other nations, for example, in France, which experienced several during the nineteenth century. But such events occurred when the type of regime changed, not under formally democratic conditions. In Europe, Latin America, and elsewhere, liberal democracies never sponsored disenfranchisement. Once previously excluded social groups came into any established democratic system, they stayed in.12

Vallely goes on to argue that the restoration of African American suffrage required a second reconstruction, secured by the success of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Yet the Shelby County v. Holder Supreme Court decision of 2013 that dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 has opened a whole new era in which universal voting rights are yet again under threat. So far, that other long and hard-fought democratic battle—for women’s right to vote (itself only won less than a century ago)—has not been reopened by partisans who would seek to restrict or eliminate it.

As American democracy has come under threat, comparative politics has come to be increasingly relevant to understanding American politics, as there has been extensive work in that field on problems of democratic breakdown and backsliding. The recent Gabriel Almond Award-winning book by Daniel Ziblatt (the subject of a Critical Dialogue with Seva Gunitsky in this issue of the journal) frames historical democratization in Europe as highly contingent on the ability of conservative parties in particular to convert themselves from highly informal associations of notables into modern mass parties that are capable of competing with the labor and agrarian parties created by newly enfranchised members of the working class and the peasantry. Faced with the demographic and social changes associated with capitalist development, conservatives could either learn to win elections or work to undermine democracy. Ziblatt makes a strong case that this decision was key, by contrasting the tactics of the British Tories with the German conservatives and comparing what this meant for democracy in both countries.13

American politicians have confronted the same dilemmas in the face of popular and progressive challenges to traditional rule. On the one hand, in the South Jim Crow led to extensive disenfranchisement of African Americans and substantial numbers of poor whites in what Rob Mickey, building on Vallely, labels “subnational authoritarianism,” a concept that challenges the narrative of America as the world’s oldest democracy.14 On the other hand, in different parts of the country urban machines and other power holders relied on ballot fraud and assorted dirty tricks within a formally democratic framework to effectively do the work of disenfranchisement.15 Both tactics worked as substitutes to sustain status quo power in the face of democratic and lower class challenges.

Today’s Republican Party faces its own demographic dilemma. The increasing diversity of American society has meant that the base of the Republican Party has been shrinking in comparison to the population as a whole. Following Ziblatt’s logic there are two possible responses: (1) to find a way to use demographic change to your advantage (split the new population with wedge issues or use demographic change itself as a wedge issue to capture a part of your opponent’s traditional constituencies), or (2) change the voting rules to minimize the impact of the demographic changes. It is the second option that holds the bigger threat to democracy in as much as it can undermine free and fair elections. Nevertheless, the former, in the American context, has also involved the use of dog-whistles or even outright racist and chauvinistic appeals to the voter.16

The vision of the “big tent” Republican Party pursued by George W. Bush and Karl Rove represents an example of the first response to this problem. Bush and Rove knew that new immigrant communities had members with very strong entrepreneurial and socially conservative values that were congruent with ideological strains within the Republican Party. To capture this population required taking a more inclusive stance on issues of immigration, but this was thwarted by the failure to pass the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007, despite the backing of the president.

Under Donald Trump the Republican Party has combined both of these strategies. First, immigration itself has been used as a wedge issue to capture blue-collar urban and rural constituencies in the Democratic Party susceptible to xenophobic arguments. Second, there has been concerted effort to distort the voting system to the advantage of the Republican Party. Already prior to Trump, following the census of 2010, Republican majorities in several state legislatures gerrymandered Congressional districts, concentrating pockets of Democratic voters in a small number of districts of preponderant strength in order to carve a larger number of Republican-leaning districts.

Take North Carolina in 2018 as an example. The generic ballot had the Republicans winning more votes than the democrats (50.39% to 48.35%), but winning ten of thirteen seats. However, if we omit district 3 where the Democrats did not run a candidate and the Republican took 100% of the vote, the Democrats won 51.6 percent of the vote in the generic ballot of competitive districts. In the three seats that the Democrats won, their average vote share was 71.8%. In the nine competitive seats that the Republicans won, their average vote share was 55% (omitting district 3).17

The Pennsylvania election of 2018 presents evidence that this remains a strongly entrenched problem, despite the fact that the state Supreme Court struck down the previous district map for being gerrymandered. The redrawn districts diminished the Republican advantage but did not eliminate it altogether. In 2016 the Republicans won the generic congressional ballot with 53.91% of the vote and took 13 of 18 seats. In 2018 the Democrats turned this around and won the generic ballot with 54.97% of the vote and took only nine of the 18 seats. If we omit district 18, which was not contested by the Republicans, the Democrats took 52.90% of the vote. Comparing Democratic and Republican margins of victory in 2018 (omitting district 18), Democrats won their nine districts by an average margin of 65.29% while Republicans won theirs by 59.46%.

This Republican advantage is mirrored on the national level. Again looking at the twenty-first century, the Republican Party won less than 50% of the popular vote nationally in the Congressional elections of 2000, 2004, 2012, and 2016 yet took a majority of the seats in Congress. The three Congressional majorities won by Democrats (2006, 2008, and 2018) required securing a majority of the votes. In 2012, though the Democrats outpolled the Republicans, the Republicans still won a majority of seats in the Congress.18

Republican majorities have also gerrymandered state legislative districts in this way, trying to preserve their ability to skew voting to their advantage. In three states that held legislative elections in 2018 Democrats won majorities of the vote yet received less than 50% of the seats—Pennsylvania (54:45), Michigan (53:47) and North Carolina (51:45).

In addition to aggressive gerrymandering, the Republicans have also seriously pursued a strategy of vote suppression. This has been justified by the claim, pressed most notably by President Trump himself, that there is massive vote fraud that favors the Democrats in U.S. elections and that measures are needed to control it. Trump actually insisted that, once all of the fraudulent votes were eliminated from the count, he had actually won the popular vote in 2016—a stunning claim that would indeed make for a remarkable crisis if there were any evidence that it was remotely true. However, actual evidence for vote fraud is scant and the overwhelming preponderance of work on the subject refutes any such large-scale claims outright.19 President Trump’s Advisory Commission on Election Integrity—disbanded without result—also attests to the difficulty of turning up credible evidence of vote fraud. Still such unsubstantiated claims nevertheless function as justification for measures that make it more difficult or even impossible for some citizens to vote. The midterms of 2018 were rife with examples of this sort of vote suppression of Democratic voting constituencies. Perhaps the worst case was that of Brian Kemp, the present governor of Georgia, who used his office as secretary of state to limit African American voting while he stood for election. Kemp removed a large numbers of Georgia voters from the rolls, shut down polling places in poor and African American neighborhoods, and stonewalled new voter registrations on technicalities. Similarly, in North Dakota, the Republican secretary of state suppressed Native American turnout by requiring that IDs have residential addresses, which discriminated against Native Americans because many of their communities do not have them. Given that Native American support was key in the election of Senator Heidi Heitkamp the intention was clear. While these were some of the most egregious examples in 2018, the total number of incidents was much more extensive.20

So, is the United States during the Trump era part of the global backlash against democracy? In the thirty years that have passed since the watershed of 1989, authoritarianism has persisted despite the democratic triumphalism of that moment. Despite popular pressures to democratize and a global environment in which the dominant Western powers have used their influence to expand the family of democratic states, authoritarian incumbents have adapted and held onto power by emulating democratic forms while limiting their substance. A huge literature on electoral forms of authoritarianism has emerged and explores the ways in which authoritarians use elections that are competitive but less than fully free and fair to enhance their rule by shoring up the ruling coalition, appeasing the population, and collecting useful information.21

The great irony is that authoritarian incumbents, by improvising strategies to survive in a democratic age, have created a set of tools, “a menu of manipulation,” which politicians in democracies can adopt to protect their power.22 When these measures are introduced incrementally, in piecemeal fashion, there seems to be system continuity even though the quality of democracy suffers. This has been described as “democratic backsliding,” to distinguish its slow incremental undermining of democracy from classical democratic breakdowns by coups, putsches, civil wars, and emergency rule.23 By using tactics from this new authoritarian menu of manipulation a number of leaders, including Viktor Orban of Hungary and Recip Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey, have undermined democracy and remained in office while claiming to be democratic by winning reelection.

The formal maintenance of a basic democratic framework, while practicing a de facto politics that violates the requisites necessary to keep those institutions operating in a democratic fashion, manifests itself in a number of recognizable ways. Such anti-democratic practices include (1) rigging electoral systems with built-in advantages for incumbents, (2) control of state and private mass media in ways that deny the public expression of a full spectrum of opinion, (3) patrimonialism (the funneling of state resources to one’s supporters) to hold electoral support, (4) the undermining of institutions/mechanisms of horizontal accountability, and (5) undermining the basis of an independent civil society. If we think about the problem of democratic backsliding in the United States, there are some important tripwires that have been activated. The most troubling development has already been documented here; the combination of the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and vote suppression makes the electoral playing field less than equal. The current system favors the Republican Party, and its ability to rule on the basis of minority support has begun to threaten the very notion that America is a democracy. It is not so far gone that the Democrats cannot win, but they have to consistently poll larger majorities to carry the House of Representatives and have twice lost the presidency in the last twenty years despite having a more popular candidate. This does not bode well.

The other area where there is reason to be concerned is horizontal accountability. From January 2016 to January 2018, we had unified government. The Republicans controlled the presidency and both Houses of Congress, and the Supreme Court had a conservative majority. Congressional Republicans were reticent to act in ways to constrain President Trump even when his behavior went well beyond the established norms of American politics. Of particular concern was the president’s lack of respect for the independence of law enforcement and respect for the rule of law. Despite widespread disquiet over the president’s behavior, Congressional Republicans seem to have calculated that it is better to rhetorically minimize or ignore this behavior than give up the political advantages that Trump’s occupancy of the White House conveys. During the first two years of the Trump presidency there were other forms of horizontal accountability that had some impact on the administration, in particular the independence of the federal judiciary and prosecutors, and control of state governments by Democrats. The prospects for horizontal accountability have markedly improved since Democrats assumed control of the House of Representatives in January 2019.

One area in which there has also been a notable anti-democratic trend with regard to horizontal accountability has been at the level of the states. In particular, in several states Republican Legislatures have effectively carried out legal coups d’état by stripping powers from incoming Democratic governors. Given that gubernatorial elections are decided by popular vote, their results are harder to control than legislatures. Such power stripping violates the idea that the winners of elections get to assume the offices for which they contended fully vested with the powers associated with those offices. Such legislative maneuvers usurp the expressed preferences of the voters. In 2018 this was done in Michigan and Wisconsin, following the pattern set by North Carolina in 2016. A further power grab by the North Carolina legislature using referenda was defeated by voters in 2018.

Where the current president has been unable to curtail countervailing power in the United States has been in the public space. In particular, despite his thin-skinned chafing at criticism and the unceasing bashing of the mass media, which he has labelled an “enemy of the American people,” the president has been unable to shape the media environment to his preferences. Further, there seems to be little aspiration on the part of the administration to curtail civil society and its activities, despite the president’s disdain for protesters. In 2017 there were over 8,000 recorded protests in the United States that drew between an estimated 5.9 to 9 million people. Of these 89% were in protest of the president or his policies.24 The anti-Trump “Resistance” has now become a force within American politics, and in this issue of the journal we have invited Theda Skocpol to write an extended review of a new edited volume on this social movement, and to reflect on its origin, composition, and goals. So far, the defense of democracy in the United States has been more effective than elsewhere due to the independence of its mass media and the strength of its civil society, as well as the strength of its institutions. It is still, however, being tested by this president. The question is whether our society and politicians have the wherewithal to make sure that our constitution, with all its flaws, is worth more than the paper on which it is written. The two Trump special issues of Perspectives on Politics help us to grapple with this question from a variety of viewpoints, by focusing attention on how we might think about both the causes and consequences of Trump’s presidency.

The Causes

There has been a great deal of attention paid to President Trump’s savvy use of the media as a political campaigner. Kevin Reuning and Nick Dietrich explore this in “Media Coverage, Public Interest, and Support in the 2016 Republican Invisible Primary.” Looking at the period after candidates have announced but before they actually compete in primary elections, they find that there is a Trump effect. Specifically, whereas enhanced media coverage did not increase the support for his opponents, the future president experienced modest gains in support as his coverage increased. They attribute this to cues about the viability of Trump’s candidacy in the coverage.

Taking a much more historical perspective, Bryon Shafer and Regina Wagner argue that the fortunes of presidents and political parties are driven by deeper trends in American politics. In “The Trump Presidency and the Structure of Modern American Politics” they consider the electoral and policy record of three preceding presidential administrations (Clinton, Bush II, and Obama) and argue that the Trump victory should not have been unexpected after a two-term presidency. If their model is predictive, the Republican loss of the House in the 2018 was expected, and we might well see Trump reelected in 2020, unless of course his presidency represents a period of structural change.

In post-mortem discussions of the presidential election of 2016, there was a debate over whether Trump voters were motivated by economic dissatisfaction or racial resentment. Jonathan Green and Sean McElwee enter into this debate in “The Differential Effects of Economic Conditions and Racial Attitudes in the Election of Donald Trump.” Using county-level economic and behavioral data to predict vote choices, they find that attitudes towards race strongly influence partisanship among white Americans, whereas economic distress is critical in determining whether citizens of color turn out to vote.

The final article in our exploration of the causes of the Trump presidency in this issue is David Lebow’s “Trumpism and the Dialectic of Neoliberal Reason.” Lebow reworks the classic claim by Frankfurt School thinkers Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer that fascism was ultimately the outcome of a dialectic of “instrumental reason” set loose upon the world. For Lebow, the Trump presidency itself is actually the consequence of a different dialectic, that of neoliberal reason. He contends that the particular constellation of beliefs and policies known as Trumpism should be understood as a brand of neoliberal authoritarianism that can best be described as “inverted” fascism. As such Lebow argues that Trumpism represents the total victory of a particular way of understanding the world, one whose namesake therefore ultimately functions more as a consequence, rather than a cause, of our present discontents.


Our first article on the consequences of the Trump presidency looks at his impact on our European allies. In “A Trump Effect on the EU’s Popularity? The U.S. Presidential Election as a Natural Experiment,” Lara Minkus, Emanauel Deutschman, and Jan Delhey consider the president’s impact on attitudes in elections in the European Union. Treating Trump’s election as a shock, they look at the popularity of the EU in a Eurobarometer survey that was conducted in part just prior to the U.S. election and in part just after it. Setting up these two samples as a control group and as a treatment group, they test whether Trump’s election led Europeans to rally around the flag in the face of an external threat, or whether it enhanced the strength of standing anti-EU nationalists. For this sample they find a substantial positive appreciation in EU popularity when confronted with Trump’s election.

Robert Kaufman and Stephan Haggard, who have had a long and influential intellectual partnership devoted to studying democracy and development globally, bring their expertise on regime change to bear on the United States in “Democratic Decline in the United States: What Can We Learn from Middle-Income Backsliding?” They argue that the strength of political institutions in the United States will probably protect us against the kind of precipitous backsliding that we have witnessed in Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, but that polarization and deadlock could lead us down the path of a competitive electoral system in which horizontal accountability and the rule of law are weakened.

Given Donald’s Trump record of breaking all norms of campaign and office decorum, Miles M. Evers, Aleksandr Fisher, and Steven D. Schaaf ponder whether a candidate who claimed to be able to “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody” without his popularity suffering would be subject to radically different audience costs when pursuing an unsuccessful or unpopular foreign policy. In “Is There a Trump Effect? An Experiment on Political Polarization and Audience Costs,” they ask whether the polarization and extreme partisanship of the era has affected the way in which citizens judge executives who make idle threats they cannot enforce. In a field experiment run during the Trump transition, they found that the public continued to react to foreign policy outcomes in a non-partisan fashion.

In “Building a Conservative State: Partisan Polarization and the Redeployment of Administrative Power,” Nicholas Frederick Jacobs, Desmond King, and Sidney M. Milkis explode the myth that Republicans such as Donald Trump are interested in the retrenchment of state power, as suggested by their rhetoric. Instead they show that partisan differences do not lead to contractions in the size of the state, but rather the redeployment of state power to pursue radically different policies. Indeed, the Trump administration has used the state to pursue extensive deregulation, expansion of law enforcement and border policing, and a growth in the military. The rhetoric of retrenchment has become a justification to cut social and other programs less favored by Republicans as a way to claw back deficits, as overall spending simultaneously increases in line with Republican ideological principles.

Our final contribution to the “Consequences” section is a Reflection produced by the collaboration of a group of Americanists and Comparativists—Robert C. Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, Thomas B. Pepinsky, Kenneth M. Roberts, and Richard Valelly. In “The Trump Presidency and American Democracy: A Historical and Comparative Analysis” they use the methods of American political development and the insights of the comparative politics literature on regimes and regime change to assess whether and, if so, to what extent Trumpism is a threat to American democracy. The picture they present is not rosy—they argue that the Trump presidency is the product of the intersection of an institutional crisis, fundamental disputes over identity, and the breakdown of fundamental norms. As such they argue that we should consider it an existential crisis that threatens the long term viability of democracy in the country.

Final Thoughts

We have tried to approach the Trump question in a distinctly Perspectives on Politics fashion—bringing together interesting work on a vital issue of our time from a variety of different research paradigms and from different subfield perspectives in a way that can be readily appreciated by the median political scientist. We are quite pleased that our first experiment with a call for papers allowed us to bring together scholars from all four major subfields in the discipline to discuss the Trump phenomenon from a variety of methodological perspectives—behavioral, experimental, comparative historical, cross-case comparative, and critical theoretic. We have endeavored to produce the kind of issue that all our colleagues in the discipline would gladly read and that policy professionals and the reading public would also find interesting. Given the prevalence of polarization, we also expect some readers to take offense. This is unfortunately unavoidable in our day and time. If you found this issue worthwhile, remember that this is only Part 1 of our consideration of the causes and consequences of the Trump presidency. Stayed tuned for Part 2 in issue 17(3).


3 Wike et al. 2018.

4 Lührmann et al. 2018; Freedom House 2018; Bright Line Watch 2018.

5 See for more detail on their work; retrieved January 3, 2019.

6 Mainwaring 1992; O’Donnell 1992; Valenzuela 1992.

7 Cheibub, Gandhi, and Vreeland 2010.

8 Paxton 2000.

9 Capoccia and Ziblatt 2010.

10 Population data from U.S. Census Bureau 2010.

11 Both New York (1799) and New Jersey (1804) did not abolish slavery until after joining the Union, though the slave populations in both were small compared to the south. The number of slaves increased after U.S. independence up until the Civil War.

12 Vallely 2004, 1-2.

13 Ziblatt 2017.

14 Mickey 2015.

15 Kuo and Teorell 2017.

16 Phillips 2014, Lassiter 2007, and Lopez 2015.

17 Data for North Carolina and Pennsylvania electoral races from: “Live midterm results: House races.” Retrieved February 26, 2019 (

18 Pogkas et al. 2018.

19 Cottrella, Herron, and Westwood 2018, Goel et al. 2016; Minnite 2010.

20 Root and Barclay 2018.

21 Schedler 2013; Bunce and Wolchik 2010; Svolik 2012, Levitsky and Way 2010; Slater 2008.

22 Schedler 2002.

23 Waldner and Lust 2018.

24 See the website of the Crowd Counting Consortium. Retrieved January 1, 2019 (


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