When Trump came to office many thought the U.S. was finished.  A demagogue and dictator was becoming President, they said, and it was proof that America’s political system had failed.

But the reports of American system’s demise weren’t just exaggerated, they were downright ill-informed.  For that system makes it structurally impossible for an autocrat to rule with diktat.  Its devolution of power to the state governments is hard for those living under the parliamentary system to understand.  So is its judiciary’s independence due to decentralization, and its legislature’s powers on account of it being literally a separate institution.

The Economist was one of the leading voices that allowed its reporters’ dislike of Trump to raise a hue and cry about the U.S. system.  But within months of his presidency, the Weekly now reports… America’s system of checks and balances seems to be working.

 

Here are some excerpts…

The failure of the Republicans in the House of Representatives on March 24th to pass a health-care bill on which Mr Trump had staked his image as America’s closer-in-chief shows that the president cannot carry all before him. A vigorous repulse to his excesses from journalists, NGOs, companies and millions of protesters, as well as the states, has proved additionally inconvenient. America’s constitutional checks and balances appear to be holding up better than many feared. …

The courts have provided a more straightforward check. Mr Trump’s immigration rules appeared to be an attempt to honour his campaign promise to keep out Muslims; they were disguised as counter-terrorism measures against high-risk nationalities in an effort to evade the constitutional bar on discriminating on the basis of religion. Both edicts were challenged by broad coalitions of states, NGOs and private firms and subsequently stayed by judges on procedural and constitutional grounds. …

The media, leaky bureaucrats and the millions who have flocked to rallies against his presidency (which, though dwindling, are still widespread) have provided such a barrage of extra-constitutional scrutiny that some think a new system of accountability is emerging. “We’re seeing a vastly expanded definition of checks and balances, and they seem to be working,” says Alan Dershowitz, a legal scholar. …

 

Perhaps Mr Trump will be adequately constrained nonetheless. The reassuringly trenchant responses to his excesses from the judiciary, states, bureaucracy and NGOs suggest a democracy more vital than some fear. It might even one day seem ridiculous that a figure as unserious as Mr Trump could have seemed so threatening. But even in that best case, it will take something more to restore America’s democratic system to a more foolproof state. It will require, more than million-man marches or steadfast judges, a degree of national consensus on the way forward—which is the very thing that America most conspicuously lacks.

This article was first published on The Economist on 01/01/2017

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