The Sunday Magazine

The Trump Effect: When America sneezes, the world catches a cold

Two weeks post-inauguration, the world is reeling at the spectacle emanating from Washington. From Muslim travel bans, to picking fights with long-time allies, to threats of trade wars and "putting Iran on notice", the U.S. seems perilously close to tipping the global order off its axis. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Eric Foner says, Don't worry ... too much. We've seen this sort of thing before.
Izzy Berdan joins the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. REUTERS/Brian Snyder - RTSXY69

Alexis de Tocqueville was a 19th Century thinker and writer who was sent by France to the United States to report on a curious and remarkable experiment: American democracy. 

Among the many observations recorded in the first volume of Democracy in America, published in 1835, de Tocqueville wrote, "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults." 

Such are the hopes of many people fretful about the state of American democracy after an extraordinary period in the U.S. — the first two weeks of the Donald Trump presidency.

People gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa Monday afternoon to protest an executive order signed by President Donald Trump banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)
Executive orders barring Syrian refugees and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US. Congressional conventions thrown out the window. The consolidation of power among Trump's inner circle — and then there's those tweets. Democratic norms and institutions already seem to be taking a beating.
Thousands of people protest against the U.S. immigration policy of the Donald Trump administration, at the United States embassy in Ottawa, Monday, Jan. 30, 2017. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)
Some of the most astute and level-headed commentators and politicians from across the American political spectrum are openly expressing fears of demagoguery -— a silent coup orchestrated by Trump's chief of staff, Steve Bannon, the end of the republic, and even the end of American democracy itself. 

If anyone knows of historical antecedents for Donald Trump's presidency, or what it might portend, it would be Eric Foner. He is the Dewitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University and perhaps the pre-eminent historian of American democracy and freedom. 

Professor Foner is the author of more than 20 books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. His most recent book is Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad.
People participate in a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's travel ban in Brooklyn on Feb. 2, 2017. (Stephanie Keith/Reuters)

Click the button above to hear Michael's interview with Eric Foner. 

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