Americans are in a state of “complacency” about what will happen if Donald Trump pulls out a victory in the 2020 presidential election, according to a Johns Hopkins University political scientist who studies the rise of populist leaders around the world. If Trump wins reelection, the country is poorly prepared for “the horrors that await us,” according to Yascha Mounk, in a new article published by The Atlantic magazine online Friday.
Current populist leaders in countries such as India, Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, have all proven to become more repressive in their second terms, Mounk writes, as “constraints begin to fall away.”
In their first terms, “independent-minded professionals” generally still dominate and run most government and law enforcement institutions, Mounk explains. But by the leader’s second term, most of those independent professionals leave government, either forced out or simply through exhaustion.
At that point, “populist leaders feel emboldened” to take measures consolidating their own power and stamping out the opposition — often by force. After winning reelection, such leaders inevitably become “more radical and more dangerous,” according to Mounk’s analysis, as quoted by the news site Raw Story.
Mounk cites the example of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was elected on a populist platform of Hindu nationalism. But while Modi focused largely on economic issues his first term, his second term has now seen Modi introduce a law that would allow the government to more easily expel Muslim residents.
The “citizenship law” has set off widespread protests against Modi’s government in India, with about a dozen people killed and more than 1,000 arrested, according to an Associated Press report.
But in the United States, while Trump’s inauguration set off large-scale street protests, the fact that many of “the most extreme predictions about Trump’s tenure in office have, so far, proved unfounded,” has caused public opposition to Trump to die down, according to Mounk. The political scientist says that many Americans who oppose Trump now assume that his second term will bring nothing out of line with his first.
That assumption, based on the examples of other countries under populist leaders, is flawed, Mounk writes.
“Trump’s first term is at best an imperfect guide to the horrors that would await us if he manages to win a second one,” he wrote in the Atlantic essay.
Not everyone has fallen into the “complacency” warned of in Mounk’s article. Conservative scholar Norman Ornstein has warned that, even before Trump takes office a second time, he may take repressive measures to make sure that he wins the coveted second term — including declaring martial law or even suspending the 2020 elections themselves.