The election of Donald Trump has set off alarm bells among top political scientists, who see the president as a sign that America’s democratic guard rails are coming apart at the seams.
Vox’s Sean Illing reports that a group of political scientists gathered last week at Yale University to discuss the health of American democracy, and they mostly agreed that the United States is on a serious downward trajectory that could turn into dictatorship if not checked.
“If current trends continue for another 20 or 30 years, democracy will be toast,” said Yascha Mounk, a lecturer in government at Harvard University.
Adam Przeworski, a political scientist at New York University, said that the root causes of our current democratic decline stem from rising wealth inequality, and the stagnation of real wages that has spanned decades.
Przweorski argues that the ability to improve your station in life through hard work has been “an essential ingredient of Western civilization during the past 200 years” — and he says that long-term wage stagnation coupled with rising health care costs have eroded people’s belief that the system is still working for them.
Most distressing, writes Illing, is that none of the political scientists at the event offered any practical solutions for how to fix our broken system to save the United States from sliding into an autocracy.
“Bottom line: I was already pretty cynical about the trajectory of American democracy when I arrived at the conference, and I left feeling justified in that cynicism,” he concludes. “Our problems are deep and broad and stretch back decades, and the people who study democracy closest can only tell us what’s wrong. They can’t tell us what ought to be done.”