This article provides a history lesson on how to end a democracy. James Madison understood how the developing American democracy might succumb to a wave of populist furor. He said that "tyranny arises on some favorable emergency". Donald Trump understood this as well. In 1989 Trump said that "civil liberties end when an attack on our safety arises". He has put that understanding to effective use during his election campaign and after assuming power. He constantly warns us about the dangers we face from a variety of sources. He also claims that he is the only one upon whom we can rely when disaster strikes.
This article describes how Hitler used the burning of the Reichstag to end civil liberties in Germany and assume total control over the country. It also describes more recent examples which have been used to attack liberal democracy in Russia, France, Germany and Turkey.
There are checks and balances in America which makes many of us less concerned about the rise of autocracy in our nation. The Donald has been attacking two of them with force. He tells his supporters that our media do not tell the truth. He is especially bothered by the media when they fact check the numerous lies that he broadcasts to his base. It is not possible for Trump to tell a lie in his own mind because his self confidence depends upon the strength of his beliefs. However, he can quickly change his mind in response to new circumstances. Trump has also attacked our judicial system when judges have disagreed with positions that he has taken. He usually tells his supporters that judges who disagree with him are biased like the media that he attacks. The truth is always on his side.
The other branch of government that is supposed to protect us from autocrats is Congress. Most of the Republicans in the House and in the Senate face a conflict with Trump. They would like to take advantage of their control over the legislature and the executive branch to promote their political agenda. The risk that we face is that they will overlook the threats to our system of governance while pursuing political advantage. At some point it will become Trump's legislature. They will be powerless in the face of Trump's populist base which is under his control.
I would like to think that we can ignore Donald Trump. Our system may be more resistant to the dangers that he presents than we might imagine. On the other hand, the risk of catastrophe is too great to ignore the clear and present danger that we face from the White House. Fear is powerful force and Trump will everything that he can to elevate it order to increase his power.