By Javad Heirannia

Trump is not champion of democracy: Charles Taliaferro

January 10, 2018

TEHRAN – Charles Taliaferro, a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College, says “Trump might be considered as heading up a democratic element in the USA, but his relentless attack on the free press, his attempts to have his rivals put in jail, his deportation of innocent young people who were brought to the USA illegally but as children, his sticking down of protections from pollution, his withdrawal from the Paris accord -which is widely supported by most, educated Americans, his defending neo-Nazi groups as no worse than left wing protestors, and more, make him out to not be a champion of democracy.”

In an interview with the Tehran Times, the professor also says “We are in a period that is dangerously close to the McCarthy era which poisoned much of the democratic culture in the first part of the Cold War.”

Following is the text of the interview:

Q: In 2014, you wrote “Political Order and Political Decay” to modify his earlier position. In regard with the US's presidential elections and the rise of Clinton and Bush families in the political scene of the country, you believe that the US is experiencing the decay of a political system which made people feel so disappointed in American democracy. Could you please explain more about this?

A: Yes. Many of us in the United States are still shocked about the election of Donald Trump. He lost the popular vote by a wide margin, but won in the Electoral College which distributes votes among a body of representatives from different states, in order to balance the popular vote which might otherwise give too much power to highly populated states like New York and California, overshadowing Wyoming and other less populated regions. Trump ran against what he considered the establishment. He might be considered as heading up a democratic element in the USA, but his relentless attack on the free press, his attempts to have his rivals put in jail, his deportation of innocent young people who were brought to the USA illegally but as children, his sticking down of protections from pollution, his withdrawal from the Paris accord -which is widely supported by most, educated Americans, his defending neo-Nazi groups as no worse than left wing protestors, and more, make him out to not be a champion of democracy. Interestingly, he seems to have more admiration of rulers like Putin than democratically elected heads of government, as with Great Britain and Germany. I do not think Trump would have succeeded unless there was a wide perception among his base supporters that the USA was in a state of decay that Trump would reverse, making America great again. But as a matter of record, he has made America less democratic, collaborative, and tolerant of differences. 

Q: The Competition between the Northeastern elites and the Sothern populists led into the rise of Trump indicating that establishment slogans from both democratic and republican parties don’t sell anymore. In regard with your argument, shall we think of such developments as a sign of the U.S. political decay?

A: I think so, but it is a peculiar kind of decay. The stock market is at an all time high, unemployment is down, military spending is escalating, and so this is not the decay of a nation that is falling apart.  But the democratic culture of collaboration, free and open dialogue, and reasonable exchanges of arguments is deeply threatened. We do not have much right now invested in trusting one another across party lines. The existence of intensely right wing news sources like Fox News and right wing radio has done much to entrench public discourse into mutual accusations of lying or conspiracy. We are in a period that is dangerously close to the McCarthy era which poisoned much of the democratic culture in the first part of the Cold War.

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