Trump has stated in October of 2019 that Joe Biden was “only a good vice president because he understood how to kiss Barack Obama’s ass”, and this is one of many examples of how Trump has disregarded democratic norms and is adding to democratic erosion in this nation. Recently, Trump fired Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, who testified there was a quid pro quo exchange with Ukraine in the impeachment hearings. This is a prime example of democratic erosion within political institutions. Looking further into this issue, this situation reveals itself to compromise the idea of democracy, and Trump can even be considered an authoritarian politician.
To fully understand the situation, people need to understand why Trump was impeached, which is the first of many reasons why he can be considered undemocratic. Trump was accused of withholding 400 million dollars of military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure Ukraine into digging up information on Joe Biden and his son, even though this money had already been allocated to Ukraine by Congress. Joe Biden is one of the Democratic Canidates for the 2020 election who could pose as a large threat to Trump’s reelection. 
The center of this issue is the fact that Trump fired Gordon D. Sondland and twin brothers Lieutenant Colonel Alexander S. Vindman and Lieutenant Colonel Yevgeny Vindman very shortly after the impeachment trials. Sondland and Alexander Vindman were both witnesses who spoke out against Trump in the trial. Trump defended his decision to fire Alexander Vindman in a tweet saying that Alexander Vindman was “insubordinate” and “given bad reviews by his superior”. Trump, however, gave no reason for firing his twin brother or Sondland. 
Presidentialism is a form of government in which the head of the government leads an executive branch that is seperate from the legislative branch. Lust and Waldner discuss the idea of Super-Presidentialism, which states that power seeking presidents unconstrained by powerful institutions or competing centers of power initiate backsliding, or the general decline of democracy. Trump can be included in this narrative because of the way he fired the staff that disagreed with him during the impeachment trials. He wanted to maintain his power by silencing those in lower positions of power who did not agree with him. This is considered not only super-presidentialism, but also a tactic of an authoritarian politician. 
Authoritarian politicians reject the democratic rules and deny the legitimacy of rivals, and Trump does both of these. Trump rejected the democratic rules during his presidency by withholding the 400 million dollars of military aid from Ukraine. In a democratic system, he would not have had to make an agreement with a foreign country in order to dig up information on a potential opponent. In addition, Trump has repeatedly denied the legitimacy of Biden by saying things like Biden was “never smart” or “a good senator”. If Trump viewed Biden as a legitimate rival, he would not talk about him so disrespectfully in public. 
President Trump’s actions in this situation are undemocratic and can be considered authoritarian because Trump is rejecting the “democratic rules of the game”. He is firing his employees simply because they do not agree with him, not based on their work ethic or other important factors. In addition, many senators advised Trump that he should not fire Sondland, but he did not listen to them. It is obvious that Trump did not see any issue with his actions, implying that he is willing to discard anyone who is not in agreement with him.
The Ukraine situation violates the democratic norms of mutual toleration and forbearance, which state that competing parties should accept one another as legitimate rivals and politicians should not use their powers to their maximum extent. Trump does not accept Biden as a legitimate rival as he has repeatedly talked about him with disrespect and does not percieve him as a threat. In addition, he used his presidential power to fire Sondland and the Vindman twins, which is using his power to the maximum extent. If he were not president he would not be able to fire them without any justification. By violating these two democratic norms, Trump is leading America away from democracy with every action he takes.
I agree with you, and I think that Trump’s abandonment of democratic norms is definitely a threat to the US’ democracy. The examples mentioned are very recent, but we can see Trump breaking these norms even much earlier in his presidential term (the firing of FBI Director James Comey) and before he was even elected (the constant criticizing of Hillary Clinton). Trump definitely appears to be showing signs of what Ozan Varol calls “Stealth Authoritarianism,” and this can definitely be very harmful for the country’s democracy, especially if his presidency starts a precedent for future undemocratic presidents. However, it appears that Trump’s disregard for such norms and his undemocratic actions have caused many people to become upset. His presidency overall seems to be attracting a lot of attention, so I wonder if that will make a president who acts in such a way less likely or more discreate in their undemocratic actions.
I agree with the observations made on Trump’s behavior and their potential implications for the future of American democracy, but would like to further this conversation in emphasizing that Trump is not one of the seeds of the US’s democratic deconsolidation, but rather, he is the blooming of it; a man who simply showed up under the exact circumstances needed to get a candidate as unqualified and unsupported by all parties of congress as himself elected into presidential office. Therefore, it is important to recognize that he cannot hold all of our focus amidst the host of factors that led to antidemocratic manifestation in the US. In Levitsky & Ziblatt’s book How Democracies Die, the authors list four major qualifications for the making of a populist (rejection of democratic rules, delegitimization of political opposition, toleration/encouragement of violence, and readiness to curtail civil liberties of opposition and media), all of which Trump successfully embodies. While it is essential to acknowledge these red flags, to categorize Trump as a significant initial burgeoning of our country’s democratic decline would be a complete misdiagnosis. His presidency is simply one of deconsolidation’s symptoms; Trump’s election is merely an unfortunate byproduct of our nation’s slow democratic decay. Despite him being unpresidential in every conceivable manner, he managed to get past the party gatekeeping mechanism of our country’s democracy (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 2018), successfully landing himself in the oval office. Since then, he has become a blemish in the face of our nation, clinically embarrassing and a poor representative of the public. But what got us, after centuries of refining our sophisticated modern democracy, to this point? How did we allow a man with no political experience and no semblance of a Presidential countenance hold executive office? I believe that there is a lot more to pay attention to than our current executive. It is now vital to identify and acknowledge the forces currently eroding our cherished democracy—which have, in their wake, paved the way for Trump’s succession.
According to UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, the top 10% of the population are now earning nearly ten times as much income as the bottom 90%. Behind this harrowing statistic are a multitude of factors which have augmented economic inequality and deteriorated intergenerational mobility in America: from barriers to higher education, to mass incarceration of minority groups, to the rising costs of living, the rich get richer while lower income sectors of society become poorer. The Gini coefficient for the US climbed to a five-decade high in 2018 with a ratio of .485, which is comparable to that of a developing nation’s economy. In Wike and Fetteroff’s article Liberal Democracy’s Crisis of Confidence (2018), surveys revealed that across nations lower-income and lower-education individuals in advanced economies showed greater support for autocratic and military rule. Domestically, the growing economic burden of middle and lower classes has generated significant dissatisfaction with democracy. Americans gravitated towards a leader who would provide for them, without having to abide by the slow complex processes of democracy.
Simultaneously, the population of foreign-born citizens has increased dramatically. According to the theory of reciprocated altruism, in a racially and ethnically homogeneous society, people are more likely to want to redistribute wealth—which would lessen the financial gap between the elite and poorer sectors of society—and as the US has become increasingly comprised of foreign-born individuals, a greater public aversion to the redistribution of wealth manifests, further exacerbating socioeconomic inequality. This socioeconomic cleavage was additionally aggravated by Trump in his campaign, which was largely based upon an inflammatory nativist sentiment weaponized against nonwhite Muslims and Latinos. His exploitation of society’s swelling ethnic and racial tensions contributed greatly to his election.
Significant economic struggle, in combination with the aforementioned societal heterogeneity, has thusly been linked to increasing political polarization among the public. Alongside trends of inequality, ideological differences between parties on the liberal-conservative scale move in tandem, as the theatre of politics centralizes around the contest of haves and have-nots. Among those especially attracted to autocrats are right-wing conservatives, according to Wike and Fetteroff (2018). As the ideological right radicalize with economic decline, their attraction to authoritarianism increases. Consequently, in an economically, ethnically, and ideologically polarized society, the American electorate desired a strong leader who would cut through the red tape and be their voice, get things done—and the shoe just so happened to fit Trump, who has consistently presented himself as a brutal, no-B.S., hard-balling bull of a man. The odds were already in his favor.
Then, in came the age of the Internet.
According to Persily (2017), Trump’s 2016 campaign was truly an anomaly—spending significantly less than Clinton, Trump managed to generate billions of dollars in free press, all while livestreaming his events and cultivating an air of authenticity that Clinton lacked. Anything Trump spoke of would be amplified through his millions of followers and prominent influencer allies. Meanwhile, traditional news outlets were dying out of public eye, and consequently the electorate shifted their attention from reliable channels of information to the fickle and faithless world-wide-web, entwined with fabulists and internet trolls whom provided content that proved to be more entertaining than veracious. With all eyes on him, and the power of setting the media’s agenda, Trump twittered his way into presidential office, utilizing his cyber-power to depose and delegitimize congressional members who defy him.
With all of these factors combined, we see how Trump’s arrival was granted through his exploitation of socioeconomic, demographical, and cultural shifts which collectively pose a greater threat to our democratic norms and processes; his ascent was permitted by driving the ideological divide between citizens and accentuating preexisting civil unrest, demonizing minorities and delegitimizing his opposition, creating an abrasive and disrespectful rhetoric among the highest representatives in public office. Of course, this cumulative theory on the emergence of America’s democratic decline is illustrated in the hopes that we will be able to accurately identify and repair the broken parts of our democracy, rather than to condemn us all to our eventual demise at the hand of an authoritarian. Our condition is bleak, but with time, we can mend it, given that we correctly discern the variables that have contributed to the state of our nation. Only by doing so can we create hope for the future of our nation and the security of our democracy.