Tocqueville, who is the inspiration for the title of this article, had caught a glimpse of the weaknesses of the American system despite the sophistication of the democratic institutional machine. Universal moral decline is not going easy on America.
It has therefore democratically grabbed hold of America by means of Donald Trump’s entrance to the White House. But the segment of the American public who dreads the Trump adventure has all the same become rebellious. Not because they contest the democratic legitimacy of the 45th president of the United States, but rather because they reject the result. Who would have thought that in America, we would one day reach the point of hoping that the “great electors” would reconsider respecting the choice for which they had been elected or that we would endeavor to find a way to invalidate the election, by asking for a recount of votes in certain states or by invoking the Russian cyber-operation?
Lacking the power to interrupt the electoral process and thus violating a founding Constitution of American identity, an active part of America is organizing resistance against a dangerous effect of this democracy. And as America is the number one economic and global power, the concern is shared around the world. During the first few hours of Trump's reign, the refusal of this American downward spiral was expressed in the majority of democratic countries.
In recent years, it has been observed in other democratic countries, in Holland, in Austria and elsewhere, as soon as the political forces that cast doubt on the values of free societies are on the verge of imposing themselves. It appears as a sudden burst of democratic safeguarding. Not always in time, however.
In this presidential election, many Americans have given in to the nationalist temptation. The issue here is not explaining the way in which a wealthy businessman without any political base has been able to convince a majority of voters that their salvation is in their own retreat, but it will be “exciting,” as they say, to observe how a population, who have always considered America as its home and the world as its playground, will be converted to this strategy of confinement. It will be especially intriguing to see how Americans react to the discovery that protectionism, even supposing it creates a surplus of jobs, will by other means make their lives more expensive than ever.
More seriously, the social decline of “workers” and countrymen of deep America, who carried Trump to power and who no longer want to see their “boys” die on distant battlefields, will be surprised to see that “America First” means less import, less capital flight, less immigrants but more mistrust and tensions.
Nationalism does not really mean prosperity. But worse, “nationalism is war,” as François Mitterrand’s meteoric phrase summarizes it.