Trumpocracy by David Frum
Harper Collins, 300 pp.
“Democracy is a work in progress. So is democracy’s undoing.” With those words, David Frum is off to the races, setting out the many ways the Trump presidency has already degraded American democracy and warning of far worse to come.
Frum, a senior editor at the Atlantic and a former George W. Bush speechwriter, notes that Trump's authoritarian impulses were clear in the 2016 campaign -- including the infamous moment when he roared to his supporters at a rally, about a protester, “You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.” It turned out that Trump was only getting started – as every new day’s headlines show.
If Trumpism were a one-man problem, Frum notes in this incisive and readable study, the solution would be easier. He points out, however, that our 45th president is surrounded by enablers – most importantly, large portions of the American public, who are receptive to his autocratic style. Frum cites a 2016 study by Roberto Foa and Yascha Mounk showing that North Americans and Western Europeans are becoming less attached to democracy -- particularly young people. Young Americans are part of this turning away from democratic values. Among Americans born before World War II, 72 percent give a 10 -- the highest value -- to the importance of living in a democracy. Among millennial Americans -- those born after 1980 -- just 30 percent do.
Trumpocracy ends with a plea: “And now over to you, reader.” Frum urges not only that Americans mobilize to ensure Democratic victories in 2018, but that they look inward and endeavor to become everything their president is not. “As President Trump is cruel, vengeful, egotistic, ignorant, lazy, avaricious, and treacherous,” he writes, “so we must be kind, forgiving, responsible, informed, hardworking, generous, and patriotic.” Democracy, he rightly indicates, begins and ends with the people.