By Mohammad Mazhari

U.S. is stuck with an 18th-century government in the 21st century: political scientist

February 5, 2022 - 9:58
“Trump is a brilliant demagogue” 

TEHRAN - A professor at Princeton School of Public and International Affairs says that the U.S. political system is stuck in the 18th century.

“The U.S. is stuck with an 18th-century government in the 21st century,” Charles M. Cameron tells the Tehran Times.

“Perhaps the U.S. would be better off as a parliamentary democracy, as in Europe. Lots of political scientists believe this,” Cameron adds. “But,” he notes, “it doesn’t make any difference in the end, because there is no way to get from here to there.” 
Many independent observers in America warn about the future of democracy in light of struggles over the 2020 elections. The damage done by Donald Trump and the Republicans would undermine faith in the election and integrity of the country.

Following is the text of the interview: 

Q: How do you see the future of American democracy under the Biden-Trump struggle over 2020 elections?

A: What lies ahead for American democracy? Like any other democracy, the U.S. works on formal law but also informal norms, for example, norms restricting the involvement of the military in domestic politics, norms limiting ballot fraud and electoral cheating, and norms requiring the losing side to accept its defeat at the polls. Almost all mainstream politicians in the U.S. accept those norms. Donald Trump does not.

 In this sense, he resembles fringe candidates from the far right and far left in Europe and the U.S. in the 1930s – except he has no political ideology or program except personal aggrandizement. Four more years of a Trump presidency risks permanent damage to the norms that have sustained American democracy for 200 years. That is quite a disturbing prospect.

Q: Do you expect Trump to come back in 2024 and win the election this time?

A: Donald Trump is definitely running for the presidency again. Quietly, many top Republicans are unhappy about this. They find him a repulsive figure and a weak candidate. But his hold over Republican voters is so strong that he will probably win the nomination, absent unforeseen circumstances. What happens then is anyone’s guess, but something like a re-play of the 2020 election is likely.

Q: To what extent the American public is aware of politics? Many say that American people do not care about politics, especially foreign policy.

A: Most Americans are oriented more toward family, work, their community, and church, synagogue, or mosque rather than politics. But, a relatively small number are highly interested and involved, and they have a disproportionate impact on the political parties and candidate selection. The situation is particularly extreme on foreign policy.

Q: Do you expect the collapse of American democracy due to Republicans’ behaviors and decisions to restrict freedom and voting opportunities?

A: The collapse of American democracy is a low probability event – not zero, but close to it. But the U.S. could become a much more authoritarian place than it has been.  With respect to Trump, the sole mitigating factor has been his sheer political incompetence.  He is a brilliant demagogue, but otherwise just as bad at running a government as he is in running a business – this is a guy who went bankrupt eight times.  If he were as clever and skillful as, say, Richard Nixon, he would still be president. 

Q: Don't you think a two-party system is old-fashioned and the U.S. needs to update its election system, especially the electoral colleges that are controversial?

A: Perhaps the U.S. would be better off as a parliamentary democracy, as in Europe. Lots of political scientists believe this. But it doesn’t make any difference in the end, because there is no way to get from here to there. The U.S. is stuck with an 18th-century government in the 21st century!
 

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