Authoritarian or a bold leader? The question is up for debate. Today’s needull raises some interesting dissenting views. I don’t necessarily agree with all of them but the needull does provoke some thoughts.
One way to anticipate what Trump’s no-holds-barred style may bring to the United States is to look abroad. A number of constitutional democracies from Turkey to the Philippines have recently turned towards leaders with a taste for authoritarianism. In fact, perhaps the clearest parallels of the types of tactics Trump might use come from the world’s largest democracy, India, where in the face of violence in Muslim-dominated Kashmir and sharp criticism of his government, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently imposed something akin to Emergency rule in the country without ever actually declaring an Emergency.
Taken together, the set of strategies used by leaders abroad like Modi in India, Erdoğan in Turkey, or Duterte in the Philippines constitute a type of authoritarian playbook. Worryingly, Trump has already threatened to use many of these tactics. What makes these strategies so insidious is that they are generally not unconstitutional or illegal. Instead, these tactics rely on the large amounts of discretion modern constitutions give to the executive. This discretion is frequently restricted not by laws, but by a set of norms and traditions about what constitutes acceptable executive action. If a leader is willing to undercut these norms, they can effectively shrink the space of dissent. Even though these actions may do immense damage to the social fabric of democracy, since they are legal, there is little courts can do to oppose them.