Teaching activity

Dictator Trump and the end of American democracy

Mike McCartney

26th January 2024

The prospect of a second term for Donald Trump has been the subject of our Harkness Method discussion.

There has been a great deal of speculation about what the implications of a second spell in the White House for Trump would entail.

See the clip below for instance.

Questions on the video:

1. What do you think a second term for Donald Trump would mean for American democracy?

2. How does the speaker describe Trump's actions during the previous election?

3. Why is the speaker concerned about what a second Trump term would look like?

4. According to the speaker, what has Trump called for that raises concerns?

5. Who does the speaker mention as knowing the dangers of Trump's presidency?

6. Why do some Republicans hesitate to publicly acknowledge Trump's unfitness or the legitimacy of the 2020 election?

7. What personal sacrifices did the speaker make when speaking out against Trump?

8. What is the campaign theme of Donald Trump?

9. Are the speakers worried about facing retribution if Trump gets re-elected? Why?

10. What concerns the speakers about Trump's ability to use government power in a second term?

Correct answers:

1. A second Trump term could potentially mean the end of American democracy.

2. Trump was witnessed trying to steal a democratic election and went to unconstitutional lengths to do so.

3. The speaker is concerned about Trump's rhetoric becoming increasingly erratic and his desire to be a dictator.

4. Trump has called for doing away with parts of the Constitution and weaponizing the Department of Justice.

5. The speaker mentions Vice President Mike Pence as someone who knows the dangers of Trump's presidency.

6. Some Republicans fear facing death threats or online harassment if they speak out against Trump.

7. The speaker knew they could potentially face security threats or death threats when speaking out against Trump.

8. Trump's campaign theme is "retribution."

9. Yes, the speakers are worried about facing retribution if Trump gets re-elected due to the threats and harassment they have experienced in the past.

10. The speakers are concerned about Trump's ability to use government power to target his detractors, the American people, and the media.

More or less every year I conduct a group discussion with my American Politics students on the future of US democracy. I have posted previously on how the mechanics of this work using the Harkness Method:

US Politics Harkness Method

US democracy in peril?

As additional prep I have also distributed the following resources to the group.

Matthew D'Ancona: Trump and the nightmare of tyranny lurking within the American dream

Robert Kagan: A Trump dictatorship is increasingly inevitable. We should stop pretending.

David Freeedlander: Is Trump Really, Truly Going to Be a Dictator?

BBC's Americast: Donald Trump - Dictator in Chief?

These were enough to get students going, but there is a goldmine of resources in print, audio and video out there once the ball is rolling.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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