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Yale 62

Will the Yale Class of ’62 Live to See the End of Democracy in the USA?
A candid opinion from an astute classmate closely watching the political scene

By Bill Weber

[Ed Note: For the second opinion piece on what a second Trump administration might mean to the United States and to the world, please see Kent Hughes’ essay.]

Will our class live to see the end of democracy in the USA? If the answer is yes, it will be because Donald Trump will have been reelected and his administration will have been structured in the fashion of dictators past and present around the world, ensuring a continuation of the policies and personalities of his first term in office, with some notable exceptions as evidenced by events of the recent past.

The essential feature of Trump’s presidency will be one of his direct control of any portion of the government within his grasp. In his recent public appearances, he has made it clear there will be retributions against his perceived enemies within the justice and state departments, and there will also be attempts to control the military. There is evidence that he tried to do this in his first term, but was rebuffed by General Milley, who Trump subsequently suggested should be executed! Various regulatory agencies will have policies and procedures adjusted to the needs of Trump and his cohorts – all designed to do his bidding.

Imagining what the Trump administration will look like and how it will perform, it’s important to see its evolution in an historical comparison. Well-known dictators of the 20th century included Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Gaddafi, Pinochet and Chavez. These strongmen were either elected or gained office via coups, and their fundamental modis operandi was to stay in office by any means necessary. Being the leader in a totalitarian state is a license to pursue unfettered power, wealth and influence, and to bear no consequences.

Typical actions while in office to reinforce such a leader’s desire to remain in office are typified by the following:

1) Convince as many people as possible that our democratic institutions no longer work.

2) Convince more and more people that our election process is broken and corrupt (recall the stolen votes claim of the 2020 election!).

3) Control the legislative process at the state level (consider the current attempts at contesting the Colorado and Maine primary ballot exclusion for Trump).

4) Neutralize highly influential and effective political figures.

5) Encourage violence to secure what’s good for him, while simultaneously characterizing the move as being what’s good for the country (witness the insurrection of the Capitol and electoral vote confirmation on Jan 6, 2021).

Prior to his election in 2016, and during the months preceding it, Trump made the following statements as part of his roadmap for his would-be administration:

1) Dismantle the “deep state,” which would strip many civil servants of their power and function, simply getting rid of any opposition in the federal government.

2) Stop the invasion of our Southern border by ordering mass deportations in violation of current laws and regulations and posing logistical complexities contrary to basic human decency. (Recall that Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the USA.)

3) Trade policies would be based on tariffs on imports as well, as continuing his obstruction of the Trans-Pacific trade organization.

4) The Trump foreign policies would be the opposite of longstanding normal diplomatic approaches toward our closest allies, including NATO. (Remember that the wars in Ukraine and Israel require diligent and thoughtful responses by the USA for both our own and our allies’ best interests.)

5) His energy policy would be in opposition to the current world position regarding diminishing the effects of climate change brought on by human activity. Especially egregious would be the continuation of his withdrawal of the USA from the Paris Accord.

6) In his recent public appearance he has pledged to terminate the Dept. of Education and to exert increasing influence on local school districts, colleges and universities.

7) In the matter of public safety, there is the danger of excess federal control of police agencies and the use of the justice department to enforce a series of laws in a manner akin to the SS and Gestapo of Hitler in Germany.

Trump is the epitome of the populist movement, and he is extremely convincing when he informs his audiences that they need his help in these difficult times. The MAGA motto instills and reinforces a belief that America is declining, and that he – and he alone – has the answer and the means to restore our national stature in the world.

One of the most fearful results of a Trump reelection would be the creation of a successor dictator-type administration that would endure after his demise (remember that he’s now 78 and would be well into his 8th decade while serving as president). You can be sure he will have provided for like-minded successors to operate the presidency in the fashion he will have created. If all of this happens, democracy as we know it in America will be gone during our lifetime.

BUT — if he loses the election, since he is not currently a sitting president, he will not have the clout to incite another insurrection of the Capitol during the election certification process. However, we can be sure there will many claims of fraud and demonstrations by his adherents causing mass disruptions – to no avail, we hope.

AND — if Trump does not officially run for president by one means or another, because of the currently undecided issues regarding the 14th amendment under consideration by various courts, it is left for others to contemplate.


We welcome your comments below.


  • None of the four cases in which he has been indicted is likely to have been concluded prior to the election. If the Fourteenth Amendment does not keep him from the presidency, the only way Trump will be thwarted is at the polls.
    Polling indicates that Trump is likely to win the Electoral College vote even if he loses the popular vote by millions as in 2016. Red-State votes have much greater weight than Blue in the Electoral College. has interactive maps to view various Electoral College scenarios and polling data.

  • Ken Merkey

    Wow, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. It is scary that an Ivy educated person can get so swept up into the pathos.

    Do you want to see fascism up close? How about a liberal twit in Maine with a poly sci degree from Middlebury, with no legal training, never worked in the private sector, never elected to anything, deciding to become judge, jury, and executioner, without any arraignment, any hearing, or any evidence remove a past president from the ballot. This strikes at the core of democracy. And no one stopped her. The liberal dufus who is Governor of Maine, the White House, the weaponized DOJ?

    Does anyone believe that Hunter has the brains to conceive the pay-for-play scheme that has been going on in the Biden family for more than 2 decades? Papa Joe and Uncle Jim used the poor tyke as their puppet to enforce the agreements. Why would Joe, as VP, take Hunter on Air Force 2 to an official visit to China? Why would Joe threaten to withhold federal funds if the AG of the Ukraine was not fired?

    So here we have Dumb and Dumber in the White House. Joe spent almost 40% of his time on vacation last year. The Border Czar has never been to the border. When was his last press conference? He can’t even exit the stage without help. Have we forgotten the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan? Where was Biden? On vacation of course. Where was Blinken? On Martha’s Vineyard.

    Biden and Blinken are both products of the Biden Penn Center. Who funded the center? The Chinese, of course? What was the reward for the President of Penn for allowing this to get formed? The Ambassadorship in Germany, of course. Can anyone believe that their hands are not tied to China? What was Blinken’s reward? SOS.

    2024 is the Chinese year of the tiger. (Most of my classmates were born in the year of the tiger.) What concerns me really big time, is this is the year that China will try and take back Taiwan. With the sad sacks in the White House, the State Department, and the military, Tigers will always take the initiative. If it looks like Trump will be elected, they will do it sooner rather than later.

    What did Trump give us? Closed borders, energy independence, no wars, low inflation, pride in our country, and a strong military. No one fears Biden. Putin took the green light to invade Ukraine when Biden approved the Nord Stream pipeline. Does Joe scare anyone? Does he even have anyone’s respect?

    Smaller government, at every level, is a good thing. We could reduce the federal workforce by 30% and no one would notice. The Dept. of Education is a joke. Has anyone ever had a satisfactory experience dealing with a federal agency? Has anyone ever received a return phone call?

    Getting out of the Paris Accords is a non-event. It meant nothing. Throwing money at green solutions is not the answer. There is only one significant solution and that is nuclear energy. I hope that Trump will give it to us. We all know that Biden will not.

    I could go on, but I need to ask what has Biden done? It is easy to bash Trump. {No one liked my high school football coach, but he did produce winning teams.) Can anyone cite one example of where Biden has made an excellent decision?

  • Bill Weber


    Thanks for your comments, but you miss the point. I am not talking about today, or the current state of our government. What I am saying is that Trump represents the drift to totalitarianism personified by the man, Donald Trump. History gives us the roadmap we need to avoid.

    I ask you — what kind of person do you want to be our President and do you believe in our democracy as defined by the constitution?

  • Rody Salas


    As Americans we are at a crucial moment that requires a thoughtful CONVERSATION about whether we want to preserve our constitution and protect the will of the people or not.

    For open-minded classmates who are willing to accept your well-intended thoughts and want to have that meaningful conversation about democracy vs autocracy, I believe you hit the mark.

    For classmates who hate Biden and MAY NOT see the larger picture, just as Germans in the ’30s or Venezuelans in the ’90s and many others in recent history did not, but who instead have fallen for a charismatic demagogue who SEEMS (based on his own statements) to want to rewrite the Constitution and rule for life, you were bound to get an emotional response and no conversation of value.

  • For an alternative view of the profound danger of Trump as President — from an AI perspective, here is my brief NYT op-ed piece in 2017:

  • Bill Webetr


    Thanks. Given the time from your original AI view, what can you say about the situation today?

    • Bill,

      I don’t have a short answer to question, but overall, I am profoundly pessimistic that democracy will continue if Trump is elected. Worse, even if he is not elected, I suspect that the fallout will be equally catastrophic. In reading about the fall of prior civilizations, there appears to be one common thread; the inability of the well-off “upper classes” to recognize when their civilization is in rapid decline. Sadly, this denial seems to have further accelerated their particular civilization’s demise.

      As a neurologist who’s written extensively on the subliminal nature of decision making and the corresponding illusory nature of conscious rational thought, I have come to the sad belief that various lines of contradictory reasoning cannot be overcome with yet better arguments and, recitation of so-called “facts.” In short, debating the pros and cons of Donald Trump has no significant effect on his supporters decision-making. Policy statements and attempts to provide facts for various points of views rarely change deeply entrenched points of view. (Consider the loss of Hillary Clinton in 2016).

      A further problem: as a lifelong far left progressive, I have hoped/expected that education might narrow the divide and that certain common values could be taught – such as subjective empathy and relatively bias-free critical thinking. However there is scant scientific evidence to support this point of view. Perhaps we can teach cognitive empathy – understanding the suffering of other people, but to actually feel for others appears to be a trait present from early childhood (to various degrees). Without empathy, it is virtually impossible for large-scale societies to coexist. As this is a very complex subject, I’ve tried to summarize this in a brief editorial in Salon in 2021:

      I realize that this point of view is unpalatable and unlikely to sway the minds of others for the very reasons inherent in this point of view.

      If you would like to chat further, please feel free to holler.

      PS: I very much enjoy the monthly zoom but tend to watch in the evening when it is more convenient for me.


      • I’ve just read Robert Burton’s 2017 NYT article about Trump as an AI and his 2021 Salon piece, “Embracing hopelessness: Getting over our faith in reason is the only path forward.”
        I feel much better about my feelings of hopelessness.

  • Ken Merkey

    One wonders how similarly educated people can be poles apart politically. I grew up in a conservative, working class, Christian home My years in the military confirmed many of my political beliefs.

    My hypothesis is that liberals believe that people are basically good and will do the right thing. We conservatives believe that people need guidance, governance, and a proper education. Empathy is commendable. Empathy without enforcement is worthless.

    You are absolutely right that the key to our future as a society is education. But where liberals and conservatives differ is how to provide education.

    We are failing at education. Being woke makes absolutely no sense in education. Gender studies can wait until college when the student is better prepared for the discussion. CRT is absolutely wrong. In our inner cities, we should focus on practical education, especially for our minority students. We should focus on trade schools and basic training. Nothing gives more satisfaction than a job and the ability to provide for one’s family. Unless we make substantive changes, generational welfare will be the norm.

    Why would California agree to provide health care to illegals, including sex change operations? It is creating an enormous pull factor. Unless we get control of our southern border, we will not have a country to govern. Apparently, liberals believe that we can accommodate the world’s masses, and everything will end well.

    Being woke in private industry has proven to be a non-starter. Disney lost half its market cap after the new CEO went woke. Just ask the folks at Budweiser how a liberal, unsupervised twit could alienate an entire nation of dedicated, loyal beer drinkers.

    My hypothesis is that Trump is the lesser of 2 evils. One must have faith that Congress, and the courts will contain any authoritarianisms. Biden is simply not capable of governing. Who knows who is pulling the strings, but it is certainly not Biden. We have a cabinet that was chosen on the basis of DEI, not qualifications. Our federal judiciary and senior bureaucracy are filled with miscreants and the Democratic senate blindly confirms every nominee.

    It is my hope that Trump will give us secure borders, energy independence, proper education, smaller, less intrusive government, and a balanced budget. Unless we get those things, we might as well turn ourselves into an insular nation and hope for the best.

  • Bill Weber


    Thanks for your additional comments. You and I are not far apart on many issues, as I am a long time Republican involved in many elected positions locally. I differ on your comments on immigration of illegals, but the real RUB is on the future of our country. The lesser of two evils is not the answer, and we must find ways to preserve our democracy and not take the easy way out by siding with a hate mongering snake oil salesman.

  • Ken Merkey

    What an awful choice. A snake-oil salesman versus a corrupt, mentally deficient, physically challenged, person who is sleepwalking through the presidency. What is really scary is the probability that he would not make it through a second term, and we wind up with Cackling Kamy.

    A note about the coffee hour this week. My men’s luncheon group has decided that the solution to Gaza is to have Israel manage Gaza for a period of 20 years until they have been trained to manage themselves and a new generation educated to not hate Jews. The British worked this vey well through the commonwealth. A 2-state solution will only produce another Hamas. We must break the cycle of hate that is being taught to Arab children.

  • Charlie Valier

    Bill, What a response you received! Having been a pragmatic Republican all my life I like the dialogue and disagreement expressed here. I was elected three times in a Democratic stronghold and later was appointed to public office eight or nine times by both Republicans and Democrats. As long as we support and adhere to liberal democratic values I think the country is ok. As an aside I would hate to have to work for Trump. I did serve under a Democratic mayor of St. Louis who had similar tendencies, so the party label does not define an autocrat. If we enter the debate knowing we may be outvoted, then our system of government will survive. It is when we refuse to accept the verdict of the people that democracy will fail. Too often today there is an intransigence, an unwillingness to listen that prevents solutions to problems. I like the back and forth this essay provoked. Of course, I still consider myself a member of Calhoun College who loved Davie Napier.

  • Bill Weber


    Thanks, great to hear from you again. I live in a small town where party politics only matter when it comes to being on a ballot. I am a Republican and was sort of abandoned by my party when they supported a tie in vote of another Republican. So we have a Democrat for a Supervisor and he is doing great. I cannot talk about Trump with my breakfast buddies and recognize that they suffer from not having had a liberal education from an elite university, which I remind them of from time to time!
    And the band played on!

    And I contribute to Stanford yearly in memory of B. Davie, the man who married me and Bonnie.


  • Steve Howarxd

    Bill, Love your article. Rody, Your comment is right on!

  • Mike kane

    Bill , I thank you for the thought and work that went into your post. I fully share your concern for the threat to our country posed by the authoritarian personality currently dominating much of our airspace.
    In a lighter vein, I encourage classmates to read “President in Cheat”, a humorous account of Trump’s golf game, written by a well known sports journalist. (I share the former President’s liking for the game but only from a far higher handicap level.)

  • Great dialogues here! I am really enjoying this thread!

    I hope Ken is right about the checks and balances in our institutions, but I am not optimistic about that!