Will America – for the first time in its history – vote for a European-style demagogue next November?
I don’t think it’s possible – the American „two-party system“ was designed specifically to stop demagogues like Trump.
Let me explain:
Our so-called „two-party system“ is in reality an „absolute majority“-system: To become president, a candidate needs 51% of the (delegate) votes.
America has more than two parties (the Greens, the Libertarians), and on top of that you can run as an independent, but everyone knows: The more parties in the running, the fewer chances anyone has to achieve 51% of the votes.
The founding fathers assumed that a democracy would immediately attract all kinds of demagogues and potential tyrants. They also assumed that even if a demagogue can convince a certain part of the population, he cannot pull the wool over the eyes of the 51% of the people. The founding fathers didn’t have much confidence in the intelligence of the people, but they had enough confidence to believe that 51% of them wouldn’t vote for a Trump.
And so far it has worked: Demagogues like David Duke or Joseph McCarthy were able to come to power – especially among certain parts of the population – but in the end they could never achieve an absolute majority and departed from the national stage long before the White House came into sight. The closer extremists get to the White House, the faster it becomes clear that they can only appeal to specific groups, never to most Americans.
It’s different in Europe, where extremists don’t need the absolute majority: Here, a demagogue only needs to have the biggest party – let’s say 30% or 40% of the vote –and he can become a nation’s leader by coalescing with another party that has only 10% or 20% of the vote – together they reach the 51% mark (in Germany, even Merkel only had around 35% of the vote).
That’s how Hitler did it: In the general election and in two(?) re-elections in 1932/33, he consistently got the most votes, but never the absolute majority (he got up to around 45%, I think). No other party wanted to enter into a coalition with him, so after two failed re-elections, he was given a minority government.
Imagine a coalition system in America: Trump would be in a third party or independent, where he would gain maybe 30% of the vote, then join a coalition with the Republican candidate, who would also have 30%, and bingo, we would have a Trump-Cruz coalition in the White House.
Of course, this also means that “good” extremists have just as little chance at the White House as “bad”: extremists: Bernie Sanders, too, cannot get 51% of Americans to vote for him.
An American president is always a compromise – he is always somewhere near the middle never extremely bad, but also never extremely good. But I will always take a compromise like Hillary in the White House over a demagogue like Trump – or like Italy’s Berlusconi, or Germany’s Frauke Petry, or France’s LePen, or Poland’s Kachinsky Brothers, or Hungary’s Orban.
I admire the genius of the founding fathers – they recognized not only the advantages of a democracy, but also the dangers, and designed the constitution accordingly.
Thank you, Thomas Jefferson & Co.