I can only comment on what I have heard from the Americans I have had contact with, but the common theme is, we are less than happy with the future of democracy in the USA, the crime in the USA and the institutions in the USA. The original promises Trump made in 2016 were clearly attractive, it achieved his election as President. He promised to ‘drain the swamp’. This referred to all that he felt that was wrong with America particularly relating to the US political landscape and his election slogan of “Make America Great Again” attracted a number of disaffected US citizens. What followed when he stood for re-election and failed to win, raised fears about the future of democracy in America.

American democracy in crises

The New Yorker published an article on the future of democracy and said “Our democracy is in crisis. Many institutions of our government are dysfunctional and getting worse. Our electoral system has produced, in a single generation, two Presidents who received fewer votes than their opponents. A changed media landscape has—with the shrewd assistance of malicious actors at home and abroad—loosened our collective grasp on reality. Our politics have become alarmingly acrimonious; one of the potential disasters of the 2020 election is a result that is widely considered illegitimate. Technology is enriching some and leaving many others behind. Meanwhile, as the country’s demography shifts, a nativist far-right is resurgent. Although President Donald Trump, with his scant regard for the values of justice and the rule of law, is undeniably a leading actor in this crisis, it precedes him and seems certain to persist after his departure, whenever that may be”.

The Economist said Americans are anxious

Earlier this year, the highly respected publication, The Economist wrote “Americans are anxious about the stability of their democracy. Roughly 40 percent of the politically active say that members of the other tribe are evil; 60 percent believe they are a threat to the country. More than 80 percent think the system needs “major changes” or “complete reform”. Jeremiads from pundits about the decay of political life no longer seem to match the gravity of the threat. Some scholars have gone so far as to warn of the risk of civil war. All this became dangerously real in the attack by Trump supporters on the Capitol a year ago, which left many injured police officers and Trump supporters, in an attempt to prevent the certification of their champion’s defeat”.

Donald Trump

One unkind journalist observed the Trumps ego was so big you could see it from the moon. I am far from qualified enough to comment on American politics, but I do follow the activities of Donald Trump in the American mainstream media. I became fascinated with his activities since his inauguration ceremony in January 2017, which was live, of course, on TV. Trump claimed, “the largest audience ever to witness an inauguration, period, both in person and around the globe”. The empty stands and public areas were clear for all to see. The New York Times estimated that Trump had drawn a crowd of about one-third the size of Obama’s, which was thought to be a record turnout of 1.8 million. This exaggerated claim alone indicated that we were about to witness an ‘interesting’ presidency.

This was only the start

Donald Trump’s presidency was, to put it mildly, ‘interesting’. He had strong views about politics and especially about America’s position in the World. It’s far from clear how many Americans supported his views, but when the time for the election came around, he lost. Although Trump was not willing to accept that he had lost, courts in America, right up to the supreme court, denied his claim that the election had been fraudulent.

January 6th, 2021, is a date that has gone down in history. Donald Trumps supporters invaded the Capital, the American seat of government, in an attempt to prevent the certification of his defeat to Joe Biden in the presidential race weeks beforehand. Four people died and over 150 were injured. Was this organised or encouraged by Trump? That’s for the American courts to decide. Trumps later comment was “I know your pain, I know you’re hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us. It was a landslide election, and everyone knows it, especially the other side.

Mainstream media and the courts didn’t agree that Trump had won the election. He still continues to claim the election was fraudulent and ‘stolen’ from him. This has become known as the ‘big lie’. When a democratic election is challenged by mob violence, you know democracy as we know it is under threat. Perhaps that is why many Americans are looking for a safer place to live.

Trump battles on, so do the authorities

Is it perhaps too far fetched to speculate that Trump thinks the presidency is like a TV show? He made his name with ‘The Apprentice’, many contestants lost, Donald Trump never lost.

Since January 6th we have all witnessed the most amazing developments of the ex-presidents’ antics. Top Secret documents ‘removed’ from the White House, court case after court case about his tax affairs, the running of his companies, the list goes on.

Is ‘The Swamp’ fighting back?

Trump defends the many actions being taken against him as ‘The Swamp’ taking revenge on him. He believes other presidents and presidential hopefuls, such as Hillary Clinton with her email servers, have done the same sort of thing he is being accused of, but not punished as he is being punished. Then there was the nearly two-year special counsel investigation of Russian election interference led by the FBI’s Robert Mueller that cost nearly $32 million in total, a filing from the Justice Department shows according to CNBC. The reality is we as mere mortals just do not really know what is going on.

Trump is reported to have stated that if the authorities issue any proceedings against him, that America will see riots on the streets like never seen before. That sounds like a serious threat. Would his supporters take to the streets in a manner like January 6th, it’s certainly possible. It can’t be considered as an empty threat.

The Washington Post reported on October 6th “A majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the House, Senate and key state-wide offices — 299 in all — have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election, according to a Washington Post analysis”.

Trump has many supporters who consider that he is the best way forward for America. He is reported to have said that if he was elected president again, he would seriously disable or reduce the power of the courts, the police and the FBI. It has even been suggested that he would make the presidency a permanent position, and not subject to periodic democratic elections.

I can understand why many Americans are looking for a safer place to live. Welcome to Portugal!


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman