US President Donald Trump pauses during an address in the White House in Washington, the US on November 13 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA
US President Donald Trump pauses during an address in the White House in Washington, the US on November 13 2020. Picture: REUTERS/CARLOS BARRIA

Is President Trump a fascist, plotting a coup in his White House bunker? Disconcertingly, the answer to the question rests with us. Fascism lies on the right of the political spectrum, though precisely where right differs from centre-right and right-right, becomes far-right is for many to say and no-one to know.

Scanning a person’s attitudes and beliefs goes so far, but sentiments and issues always overlap, boundaries blur and collide with one another — until we are at some wild outer extreme where there are no limits. Plainly Trump is not there.

Ask instead whether Trump is a democrat (the lower case “d” taken as read in this context). And again our answer depends on what we understand by democracy, a typical dictionary definition reading: “Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives”. 

But this falls far short in omitting any reference to typical democratic institutions, bicameral parliaments and the separation of powers; to the customary coupling of the terms democracy and liberal in “liberal democracy”; to the foundations of such democracy in individualism, pluralism and human rights; and to the working of these and other norms and practices to enable peaceful change.

How far has Trump conformed to these values, worked to bolster them, stayed not just within the letter of the law and constitution but honoured its spirit? Though he is not a Democrat and entitled not to be, is he a democrat?

Trump challenges us powerfully on this: it is remarkable that he has 70-million voters behind him to say he won re-election. But he too is challenged at last. Slowly but surely, it is not just the verdict of history that democracy has won and he has lost.

Paul Whelan
Umhlanga

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