Donald Trump, populism, tolerance of political violence, those might all be the catalysts for the breakdown of democratic norms, but they are neither sufficient, nor necessary. A much more viable candidate that actually may serve to explain all three:
the election of a Manhattan elitist serial-adulterer slumlord, playing a working-man’s Christian, all on a social network that for a decade was run by a man who looked more like an American Taliban recruit than a San Francisco tech elite,
a distrust of do-nothing elites whose self serving hypocrisy, inaction, and kleptocratic tendencies eats the state from the inside,
and the frustrated reaction to the former exacerbated by American’s inability to distinguish between the “right to bear arms” with the “well regulated” adjective that precedes it,
one culprit may be the two candidate oligopoly that has sabotaged elections around the world for hundreds of years.
Biden v. Trump, Clinton V. Trump, Bolsanaro v. Lula, Netanyahu v. Lapid, Marcos Jr. v. Robredo, such elections are posed as existential fights between bad, worse, with alternatives not dismissed but railed against as spoilers who will simply ensure that the worst will come to power.
The old republican structure with a powerful, long-termed president or prime minister necessitates this majoritarian tilt, while distracting the apolitical bulk of the population from the fact that this need not be the case.
Before a rant suggesting that the constitutions of these states can not be changed and therefore the structure is immutable, one need only look to history to see that the constitution leaves ample room to readjust the balance of power between the parties, led by an immensely powerful executive who thanks to Trump’s precedent is above the law itself as the head of the executive branch and justice department immune to prosecution, with the power to self-pardon, and whose only judge and jury, congress, could be easily stacked with co-partisans who might overlook presidential transgressions.
The expansive federal government and its administration, the president’s ability to order military strikes without congressional approval, and most importantly, the single-choice first past the post voting system are all post-constitutional conventions, not embedded in the constitution, and subject to change.
By first using state referenda systems to force the introduction of ranked choice voting, against the will of the two major parties, congresspeople will be forced to accurately represent the majority views of their districts rather than the will of national political parties, whose ostensive role as gate-keepers and a moderating force has utterly failed. Breaking the oligopoly will also empower legislators to work towards consensus-based legislation and propose moves to weaken the dangerous accumulation of presidential power so clearly illustrated by Donald Trump.
A stronger, less partisan congress, with each legislator most focused on the interests of their own district rather than the national cultural climate and fealty to party elites, may be able to preserve democratic institutions and functions than can a system with every actor in side so focused on a zero-sum fight for survival against the other at the expense of the state.