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Realism About Trumpism

BERLIN – Little more than a month after US President Donald Trump’s inauguration, it has become clear that nothing good will come of his presidency. Unfortunately, the pessimists turned out to be realists: things really are as bad as they said they would be. Worst-case scenarios are now baseline scenarios. Any hope that the demands of office, or political and economic realities, would persuade Trump to adhere to domestic and foreign-policy norms must now be cast aside as wishful thinking.

Realism demands acceptance of a sobering truth. When the 45th president of the United States must choose between upholding the US Constitution – which limits his authority through the separation of powers – or subverting it, he will likely choose the latter. The Trump administration intends to carry out nothing less than regime change in Washington, DC.

Sooner or later, friction between the president and the constitutional system will create a severe crisis that will rock the US to its core, and possibly leave it politically unrecognizable. Trump’s continued attacks on the judiciary and the press – indispensable institutions for ensuring executive accountability – leave no room for a different interpretation.

Even if America’s constitutional system prevails, the chaos that will ensue during Trump’s presidency could cause permanent damage. Consider what might happen were a severe terrorist attack to occur in the US during this time of turmoil. Would the US experience a slide into authoritarianism, similar to what we have been witnessing in Turkey? One certainly hopes not, but it is a real possibility.