As a person with a latin name, I really fear the possibility that next week Trump will win. This is not trivial. At least in the medium term, my future is tied to America and any substantive change in how USA treats non-national would affect me, personally. I say this to just state that, besides thinking that Trump represents the very opposite of everything my limousine liberal soul believes in, I have a very credible stake about this.
And yet, there are certain things that I can but uncomfortably acknowledge about what the Trump phenomenon says about American Democracy- perhaps about democracy in general. In particular, there two important claims about democracy that I believe are challenged: its openness and contestability, and its neutrality.
Consider contestability. Trump is an outsider. He is a person that, for a long time, did not think about running into politics, but had a public or semipublic profile. As a result, he has a record. He has written, said and done things that he never anticipated would have any effect on his future. In part, of course, these things reflect the horrible individual he is. But in part, it reflects the fact that no one, except someone that has been looking forward to go into politics for a long time, could resist the type of oppo-research that Trump has suffered. The result is probably an ugly conclusion: there is a strong insider bias in running for office.
Neutrality is pretty much the same thing. I am personally amazed by the degree of opposition that everyone but Trump supporters has shown to Donald Trump. Sure, Donald Trump has worked very hard to piss everyone off. But again, making abstraction of his horrible views about everything, it illustrates the fact that you of the limitations of running for office: even if you are able to gather the votes, you are going to face a substantial amount of opposition if you propose things that are unpalatable for the wrong people.
Again, I would not like to feel that I am regretting any of this. I am not, if only for very selfish reasons. But think of a thought experiment. Assume a not too crazy scenario in which Sanders had been the democratic nominee, while someone reasonably moderate (cannot think of anyone now) had been the Republican one. How would the media, interest groups and even the two main parties have treated him? I would like to answer that it would have been a fair way, but I am not sure.
In the same vein, I can’t avoid being disturbed by the timely involvement of the FBI by dropping information about HRC. It is just fantastic the degree of involvement in the campaign of non-political forces.
As a counterexample, in Spain, a group of former communists with a large record (a record that can be found on youtube) of supporting dictatorships or protodictatorships and saying this that were highly unpalatable for the general public, founded a party and took over a substantial part of the left-wing electorate. Some of the media found some not very cool things online, such as weird tax records and the like -in fact, things that could be found about any outsider. But nothing of the sort of what has been organized against Trump (with a clear sequencing, a strategic dropping of revelations etc) has taken place.
As I was writing this post, I should say I am not sure about which scenario I prefer. But the point rest: many of the points we believe about contestability and neutrality of the democratic system are, I think, proved to be more limited than what it could look like on the surface.