Thomas Homer-Dixon of the Royal Roads University's Cascade Institute spoke to Inside Edition Digital after penning an impassioned opinion piece last month.
Democracy in the United States is set to fail – that is, unless Americans can stop Donald Trump from winning a second term of presidency. Those were the words of warning one Canadian political scientist had for his neighboring country.
“There’s been a sense, especially in Canada, that … the United States has gone back to normal,” Executive Director Thomas Homer-Dixon of the Royal Roads University’s Cascade Institute told Inside Edition Digital. “But there’s no normal anymore in the United States.”
Homer-Dixon, who is one of the world's leading experts on threats to global security, has been observing different potential threats on American democracy manifest over the several decades, and believes the reelection of Donald Trump could tip the scales in authoritarianism’s favor.
Last month, he penned an opinion piece published in the Canadian publication Globe and Mail meant to sound the alarm for Canadian onlookers about the fraught state of U.S. democracy, what it means for Canada and the potential implications worldwide should it collapse.
Here’s what he had to say about Donald Trump’s America, and other crises he said are threatening democracy in the United States.
Why Donald Trump Must Not Win Again
“We generally thought that … the institutions in the United States would probably be strong enough to withstand a first Trump administration and the authoritarian tendencies, and that more or less turned out to be the case,” Homer-Dixon said, speaking for himself and others he said have followed U.S. politics for many years. “It was a close call, but in the end, democracy prevailed and power was transferred to President Biden.
“A second Trump administration is a very different kettle of fish,” he said.
Homer-Dixon said that many underestimated Trump’s charisma, which allowed him to build a strong and loyal base of supporters in key positions of power. “He is administratively incompetent, but people consistently underestimated his charismatic ability,” he said. “He has this capacity to connect emotionally with his followers in an absolutely vivid, direct way.”
As a result, Trump stands a real chance at winning if he runs for president in 2024, he said.
And while Trump regaining presidency would not turn the country upside down overnight, it may signal the beginning of the end of American democracy, he said.
“Whether that’s going to produce the kind of hardened, consolidated dictatorship … is uncertain. It may be the first stage, because he’s so administratively incompetent, he may be the wrecking ball that makes a mess and wrecks American democracy,” he said. “But there may be a successor who maybe doesn’t have quite the charismatic and demagogic abilities as trump, but nonetheless is more administratively competent who can consolidate a right-wing regime further down the road.”
Why a Second Trump Term Could Impact Everything
If Trump wins a second term, his two goals will be “vindication and vengeance,” Homer-Dixon said, and rearranging who’s in charge in the official streams of power will be his first goal.
“He will have two aims of vindication and vengeance when he comes back into power,” he said. “Opponents within the bureaucracy, within the federal state apparatus, the technocrats and the others who abide by the rule of law and are reasonably nonpartisan and who would oppose Trump – those people will be largely eliminated both at the federal and state levels under a second Trump Administration.”
He may even be able to extend his influence over the military if he is able to appoint key people to the Department of Defense, Homer-Dixon said.
If Trump is able to install key figures that are above-all loyal to him, “then all the other battles that we are engaged in on the environmental fronts, civil rights and human rights, Black Lives Matters, all that stuff, all of that will be lost … There is no possibility of an effective global climate policy under a new Trump Administration,” he said. “The central ring in the circus right now is the battle for democracy; that's where it counts and that's where people need to focus their attention because if we lose that, we lose everything else.”
The State of the Republican Party
While the two-party system – with much of the U.S. run by either Democrats and Republicans – was built as a mechanism to keep the other in check, Homer-Dixon said that system is broken, and it is because of the Republican party.
“The Republican party has been captured by extremists and has been turned into a personality cult,” he said.
The best thing in the long run, however, Homer-Dixon argued, is if moderate Republicans can form a faction just right of center to gather support of those in the party who are not loyal to Trump, but are not interested in supporting the Democrats.
“A new conservative party would render the right unelectable in the United States for a period of time because the vote would be split on the right,” he said. “In time, that will work itself out, I expect.”
However, he said that such an outcome is unlikely as moderate Republicans would be wary of a result that would cause “wilderness” in their party “as things sort themselves out.”
Are Voter Rights in Jeopardy?
One major step America can take to strengthen institutions that support democracy is to address voting access and laws concerning voting.
“Making sure that people have the ability to vote effectively and are not excluded from voting; opposing legislation that would allow state legislatures to overturn the will of their people,” he said. “The swing states are key – Wisconsin, Arizona, Nevada, Georgia. What happens in those states is going to be critically important.”
But with impediments to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act in Congress, and a new Republican-drawn congressional district map that some argued disenfranchises Black voters upheld by Trump-appointed Supreme Court judges earlier this month, Homer-Dixon said that the move to strengthen voter’s rights in the U.S. is a battle in and of itself.
“It now becomes a political mobilization process in the individual states where progressive forces and Democrats can do what they can to make sure that Republicans don't seize the apparatus of the democratic system,” he said. “That's where the battle is now.”
Capitol Rioters, And Why Homer-Dixon Says the Justice Being Sought Against Them Is Not Enough
“Is it enough? I wish it were. I don’t think it is,” Homer-Dixon said. “Most of the people who have been charged are essentially minor actors, people who were in the building at the time. The people who were involved in encouraging the attack, instigating it, all the way up to the President himself, have gotten away scot-free.”
He said that the investigation into the Jan. 6 Capitol Riots is serious effort by Democrats to understand the events of day, but the Republican effort to dismiss concerns brought up by the investigation continues to undermine the pursuit of justice and democracy in the United States.