Why the fear of Trump may be overblown

Evidence of Trumpian weakness abounds. Neither Trump nor his supporters exhibit much interest in debating the facts behind the issues, be it Covid-19, the climate, vote returns, or the time he stated erroneously that he has “total” authority over how states run their pandemic responses. The scores of bogus legal claims he and his team made in contesting election results have collapsed without much effort to defend them. Trump loves to argue by assertion, like every three-year-old, because in many cases his bold assertion is the only asset his argument contains.

Nor does the slavish obedience to Trump that so many of his supporters pay to him indicate a leader’s power. A strong political leader and movement reserve room for debate and consensus-building, grooming and developing new talent to expand the party. Trump prefers a monarchical arrangement in which he dictates from the top down—and which produces instability when no mechanism exists for the king to ultimately hand off power to his princes or princesses.

Revising voting laws, having elected state officials commandeer the election process, dispatching activists to harass vote tenders, and the other Trump strategies Kagan predicts in his piece are all very frightful. But they, too, convey the Republican conviction that Republicans can’t win elections unless a fat thumb is placed on the scale. It’s the strategy you’d see from people who know they’re losers and will never be able to summon a majority vote again, so they need to change the rules to institutionalize minority power.

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