The resistance movement against President Donald Trump has one of the country's premier historians onboard — and his reasons for opposing Trump are pretty terrifying. Leading historian at Yale, Timothy Snyder, warns that Trump could try overthrowing democracy during his presidency. In fact, he predicts it's "inevitable."
Snyder has spent his career working on Modern Eastern Europe, and as such he has plenty of knowledge on authoritarian leaders. Using his research, he wrote a book to help get America through the Trump presidency and it's called On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century. The book is more of a guidebook that takes lessons from the past to figure out what the resistance needs to do on a daily basis under Trump.
Snyder's concerns over the nation's political system were further explored in an interview between him and Salon. Snyder explained to Salon's Chauncey DeVega that Trump could theoretically mount his own version of the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany to try and consolidate power outside of Democracy. In addition to detailing the theory in his own book, he has also put forward this argument in The New York Review of Books.
Essentially, Snyder argues, it would start with some sort of terrorist attack or other national emergency. In response to the attack, Trump could institute a state of emergency whereby constitutional law and freedoms are limited. "I think it’s pretty much inevitable that they will try," Snyder told DeVega, explaining that "conventional ways of being popular are not working out for them." To be clear, this is all theoretical.
Trump's polling numbers remain at historic lows. So, save that path to continued governance, an alternative method of consolidating control could be "getting into a new rhythm of politics, one that does not depend upon popular policies and electoral cycles."
Whether the strategy would actually succeed is an entirely other question. Snyder explains, "Whether it works or not depends upon whether when something terrible happens to this country, we are aware that the main significance of it is whether or not we are going to be more or less free citizens in the future." His personal thought on the matter is that, no, a power grab wouldn't ultimately work — "not so much because we are so great but because we have a little bit of time to prepare."
Snyder basically thinks enough citizens and government actors have thought about the possibility and won't let it happen. Reading his book might prepare you to join in the fight. "What my book does is it goes across the arc of regime change, from the beginning to the end, and it provides things ranging from simpler to harder that people can literally do every day," Snyder explains to Salon.
Herein comes the most interesting part:
The thing that matters the most is to realize that in moments like this your actions really do matter. It is ironic but in an authoritarian regime-change situation, the individual matters more than [in] a democracy. In an authoritarian regime change, at the beginning the individual has a special kind of power because the authoritarian regime depends on a certain kind of consent.
If enough individuals "find the ways not to express their consent," then the overthrowing of democracy won't be successful. Perhaps it's not the usual way to spend your July 4, but there's probably not a more patriotic way to spend Independence Day.