Not long ago, historian Bård Larsen of the Civita think tank suggested to the Norwegian daily Aftenposten that Trump could turn the US into a "simulated democracy" upon establishing himself as a dictator. Likewise, Ketil Raknes, the author of the book Secrets of Right-wing Populism, told Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet Trump's voters shared "basic authoritarian values." However, Øyvind Østerud has dismissed these claims as far-fetched.
"They are just alarmist. Trump lacks the means to do as he pleases. It would be almost impossible to carry out a real coup if he wanted it. It is not enough that he has a supportive majority in both the Congress and the Senate. They will not obey him blindly, and there are numerous other obstacles along the road," Øyvind Østerud told Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen.
According to Østerud, Trump also lacked support from the armed forces, which is vital for virtually any coup to succeed.
"In the US, the military is divided into different branches with strong rivalries. It is almost impossible to imagine that the military would support such a project. The odds that it will fail are huge, and they have everything to lose. Besides, it would have caused an immediate schism within the defense sector," Østerud said.
"While Trump is indeed an unpredictable character with low impulse control, he has not exhibited any desire to form a corporate state, establish a cult of leadership or abolish elections. When people commonly call him 'fascist,' it is more of a handy invective and a way of distancing themselves from him," Østerud argued.
Trump-bashers across the globe previously expressed fear that he would lead America into new wars, perhaps with China or Iran, and at worst even trigger a nuclear war. Again, Østerud sees no reason to panic. Despite all the signals of a more assertive policy towards China and Iran, Trump would have trouble starting a major war, which also needs approval from the Congress.
"There is no doubt that the US is a society with big problems, and the choice of Trump is only a reaction to this. In recent decades, there has been a sharp increase in the differences between the rich and the poor. Wealthy pressure groups have acquired great influence, while millions of ordinary people feel increasingly marginalized. For many Americans, Obama deserved no halo, as he showed neither the will nor ability to address these issues, while Hillary Clinton had little other than insults to offer," Østerud pointed out.
Øyvind Østerud is a professor of in international conflict studies at the University of Oslo. His areas of study include geopolitics and patterns of conflict, power studies, regime transition and questions of sovereignty.
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