Timothy Snyder is the author of “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century” and the Levin professor of history at Yale University. Snyder explains how President Trump’s actions can lead to tyranny, and what we can do to stop it. Following is a transcript of the video:
TIMOTHY SNYDER: So, it’s really important, I think, to accept the logic of our constitutional structure. The logic of our constitutional structure is not that Americans are great. The logic of our constitutional structure is that Americans are people and people have weaknesses.
When the framers of the Constitution were setting up our system, they weren’t thinking about how wonderful we were gonna turn out to be, which is a good thing because we’re not always so wonderful. They were thinking about the structures that would be needed to preserve a Democratic Republic overtime. So the right mood is always scepticism. The framers of the Constitution were worried that someone might come along at some point who could be elected president. This was precisely their worry, who didn’t have concern about the rule of law or about democracy. We are now in that situation.
Up until now, there is nothing in Mr. Trump’s words or in his actions which would convince us or which would even suggest that he cares even a little bit about democracy or about the rule of law. On the contrary, there are plenty of things he said like referring to judges as “so-called” judges, referring to journalists as enemies of the people, talking about “America First” and indulging other kinds of nostalgia for the 1930’s, which suggests he doesn’t like democracy at all. His admiration tends to be limited to foreign tyrants.
So we need to be sceptical about ourselves and we need more than sceptical about him. What I would say is that our institutions were set up for a moment just like this one but they will only protect us if we enliven them and if we support them.