Donald Trump Would Enjoy Operating in a Parliamentary System

The deadlock that has set in on Capitol Hill since the 2018 Congressional elections was not hard to predict. Presidential systems have this variety of chaos in their very DNA. But whilst a democratically elected American president currently struggles to get things done because of his opponents in a democratically elected House of Representatives, Donald Trump has uniquely suffered even beyond these factors due to the inherent flaws of all presidential systems.

In some ways, Donald Trump would have had a more difficult road to power in a parliamentary system because he would have had to work through the ranks of existing parties in order to attain a leadership position. That being said, it is equally possible that Trump could have formed his own political party and knowing Trump, in a parliamentary system this is exactly what he might have done. In such a scenario, due to the drastic socio-economic changes befalling the US, it is not inconceivable that a populist Trump fronted party could win a majority of seats in a would-be US parliament. Just as upstart parties in Malaysia, Pakistan, Britain and Italy have seen major upticks in their recent electoral fortunes, the same could happen in respect of a Trump party in an American parliamentary system.

In a parliamentary system, Trump would be able to do several things he is not able to do in a presidential system.

First of all, if his party won a majority of seats or was able to otherwise form a parliamentary coalition, the deadlock he has faced from Congress in a presidential system would simply not be there. In a parliamentary system, if the American people wanted Trumpism, they would get Trumpism implemented in a more full, more rapid and more efficient fashion. This is clearly more rational than a system in which costly and democratically insufficient deadlock cuts both ways.

Secondly, it must be acknowledged that a great deal of resistance to Trump has come from his own Republican party due to the de-centralised, undisciplined and often meandering style of party  (dis)organisation in presidential systems. In a parliamentary system, a would-be Trump party would only attract those committed to Donald Trump’s ideological manifesto. Others could obviously join rival parties and what’s more is that if a member of parliament for the Trump party began behaving in a manner that could undermine Trump’s vision, the party leadership could simply withdraw the whip and such a troublemaker would have to sit as an independent member of parliament or else join another party. This would allow Trump to build a genuine political machine to serve his agenda and his multiple opponents could do the same in respect of their political agendas. This is vastly preferable to the current system in which both major US parties often appear to display all the functionality of a brain dead dog chasing its own tail.

Thirdly, it is clear that Donald Trump likes a good confrontational debate. Imagine if Trump operated within a Westminster style parliamentary system and had weekly (at minimum) face-to-face debates with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Charles Schumer or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Not only would this test the actual debating skills of the aforementioned politicians, but Trump would likely relish the opportunity to take his infamous insults directly to his chief opponents. As for his opponents, they would have the ability to fire rhetorical missiles back at Trump in real time. This of course is impossible within the confines of rhetorically lugubrious presidential systems.

The point of this thought exercise is neither to endorse nor condemn Donald Trump’s policies but it instead serves as a demonstration of the fact that even in a country famed for its presidential system, its current leader would actually benefit from shifting to a parliamentary system, as would his opponents who could debate Trump in real time.

There are zero advantages of a presidential system over a Westminster style parliamentary system. This is even true of the United States whose system is unfortunately too ingrained to change.

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