Half of Trump Supporters Desire Autocracy

A quarter of Americans believe the president should have the power to overrule the courts.

American soldiers rehearse the inaugural parade of Donald Trump in Washington DC, January 15
American soldiers rehearse the inaugural parade of Donald Trump in Washington DC, January 15 (USAF/Brian Ferguson)

Half of Donald Trump’s supporters believe the president should have the power to overturn judicial decisions he doesn’t like, Public Policy Polling has found.

That is one in four Americans effectively desiring autocracy.

The reason Public Policy Polling asked the question is that judges recently overruled Trump’s executive order banning travelers from seven predominantly Muslim countries, including asylum seekers, refugees and — for a short while — even legal residents of the United States.

45 percent of voters support the ban, but only half of them agree it’s a Muslim ban.

Just 22 percent would support a Muslim ban, which corresponds to 23 percent of Americans who feel their country is unsafe and the same number citing the fictional “Bowling Green massacre” as an example of why Trump’s immigration policy is necessary.

Authoritarian tendencies

That Trump’s diehard supporters have authoritarian tendencies, while shocking, isn’t news.

From his “I alone can fix it” to his tough talk on perceived enemies at home and abroad to his apologies for foreign dictators to the violent atmosphere at his campaign rallies, it has been obvious for a while that Trump relishes decisiveness over deliberation and personal rule over the rule of law.

We’ve also known for a while that a segment of the Republican electorate supported Trump not in spite but because of this.

During the primaries, Quinnipiac University found that 95 percent of Trump’s supporters agreed with the statement, “America needs a powerful political leader who will save us from the problems we face.”

72 percent agreed that real leaders “don’t worry about what other people say, they follow their own path.”

Those findings caused the Brookings Institution’s William A. Galston to remark that Trump’s voters “are literally looking for a savior who will solve our problems singlehandedly.”

To achieve this monumental feat, he must ignore the sentiments of those who disagree with him and be unconstrained by any limits — including moral limits — on the means needed to achieve his ends.

Galston pointed out that such a conception of leadership is everything the framers of America’s constitution feared and tried to prevent.

How Trump governs

Yet it’s how Trump governs. He fires career bureaucrats who “betray” him (by following the law) and warns judges that they will be responsible for the next terror attack if they don’t uphold his Muslim ban.

Politico reports that Trump has been surprised as well as frustrated that he cannot seem to run the federal government the way he ran his businesses — which underlines how ill-prepared for the job he was.

So far, Trump has tested but not circumvented the rule of law. His government is complying with court orders. Let’s hope the desire of a quarter of Americans for one-man rule doesn’t change that.

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