Allow me to pose a question:
How do you test the strength of a pane of glass?
For most people the first and most obvious answer might be: “Why risk breaking it in the first place?”. After all, our virgin pane is beautifully clear, smudge-free and – seemingly – fragile. The temptation is to treat it with kid-gloves, to carefully wipe it with a feather duster, not subject it to abuse. Why risk damaging it? Surely if the glass fails the test and shatters you have a disaster on your hands; your carefully formulated glass compound has been found to be imperfect. Back to the drawing board.
However, there are degrees of disaster. In this case, it would be much worse to fit out all the windows of your house with the untested glass, only for the calm of summer to end and a winter gale reduce to your home to a pock-marked tapestry of brickwork and jagged holes.
You should test your glass: you should want to know that it can survive bombardment by a variety of blunt objects. It is a mistake to assume that just because a certain projectile hasn’t hit your window before, that it never would. Learn to embrace pebbles, sticks and other destructive elements, cherish them in fact, because only they can tell you how strong your glass really is.
Many people treat the United States constitution and democratic system as if they were also something fragile that should be wrapped in cotton wool and shielded from harm. While that way of thinking is understandable, it is ultimately self-defeating. The democratic institutions that underpin the government of the United States of America were not set-up to rebuff, divert or disallow individuals hell-bent on subverting them. Instead, they were designed to smother such people, to frustrate their ambitions through robust checks and balances. The constitution exists to limit their ability to wield power; an ever watchful free press stands ready to expose lies and deceit.
But what if an individual was elected who was determined to undermine that system? Wouldn’t it be a step too far to allow a natural born dictator to be President? Could an American incarnation of Adolf Hitler be subdued by such a system if he were elected to the highest office in the land (as the real Hitler was by German voters in the 1930s)? The answer is that a perfectly constructed democracy should allow such people to assume Presidential authority, contain and neutralise them, then disgorge them at the end of their term leaving the system intact and essentially unchanged. If this doesn’t happen, then at least you’ve learned that your system is flawed.
American democracy is a pane of Gorilla Glass, and voters have chucked a giant Trump-shaped rock at it. Let’s see if he’s able to scratch it.
He will try.