The title of Francis Fukuyama's Politico Magazine essay, "Trump’s a Dictator? He Can’t Even Repeal Obamacare," reminds me of a line from the brilliant sitcom "Frasier." As Dr. Crane dines with a date at a restaurant, its owner becomes furious upon learning that his unwed daughter has become pregnant — the father yet unknown to the daughter's father. A visibly nervous, very shaky waiter stands in the background as his future father-in-law rages. Dr. Crane remarks to the restaurant owner that the baby's father is quite obviously the visibly nervous, very shaky waiter, to whom the restauranteur exclaims: "You? You can't even get water in a glass!"
At any rate, Fukuyama's argument is self-evident from the headline. Trump's characterological dictatorial leanings were decimated by a varied collection of determined factional interests, just as James Madison had hoped and predicted any demagogue's leanings would be. "Far from being a potential tyrant as many Democrats fear," Fukuyama writes, "Trump looks like he is heading to the history books as a weak and ineffective president, hobbled by the same checks and balances as his predecessor."
That's the good news. The bad news, according to the author, is that America is, it would seem, stuck with "an institutional system that privileges small minorities like the Freedom Caucus and makes the search for broad consensus so difficult … [and] feeds demands for strongman leadership in the first place." Offsetting the seeming enormity of what Fukuyama observes here, however, is that the "small minorities" are indeed small, and are furthermore doomed — due to demographic changes — to ever-greater smallness.
Nonetheless, we take Fukuyama's secondary point. And his principal argument is strong: that Trump is likely to stumble along not as a fearsome dictator, but as a "weak and ineffective president" — one "hobbled" by institutional checks and balances (a point that should mitigate Fukuyama's sorrow over privileged congressional minorities).
My hope is that Fukuyama is correct — that he is more correct, that is, than he was in his thoroughly enjoyable 1992 masterpiece, The End of History, whose thesis — that we may have reached "the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy" — was, however enjoyable, stupendously wrong.