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America after Trump: from “clean” to “dirty” democracy?

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Foa, RS 
Mounk, Y 


In recent years, the debate about the state of democracy in the United States has split political scientists into two camps: those who believed that American democracy was stable, and those who feared that former President Donald J. Trump might engage in significant violations of executive authority, such as using a declaration of national emergency to postpone elections. In this article, we argue that this debate rests on an overly simple juxtaposition between democracy and authoritarianism, and has misidentified the true danger faced by American institutions. The United States is in the process of becoming a less functional democracy in which both major parties retain a feasible prospect of winning elections but the nature of their competition is transformed in a manner that undermines the informal norms of healthy democratic life. This entails a shift from “clean” forms of competition which largely take the rules of the democratic game for granted towards what we term “dirty” democracy, in which competition consists, to a significant extent, of attempts to change the rules of the democratic game.



Democracy, trump, democratic consolidation, populism, quality of democracy

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Policy Studies

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Informa UK Limited