Theorists of tyranny have compiled taxonomies: aristocracy (and its shadow side, oligarchy), democracy (and ochlocracy, or mob rule), and monarchy (and tyranny). Plato’s interlocutors in Republic book 8 discuss the various types of regime but Book 9 dives deep into the most dangerous form of government, tyranny. Aristotle was seemingly more sanguine in his Politics, giving more equal time to each type. Madison and Hamilton, in the Federalist Papers, defended the possibility of energetic yet non-monarchical and non-tyrannical government via separated powers and checks and balances (see #47 and #51). Twentieth-century totalitarianism (see Hannah Arendt’s Origins) appeared to be a new type of regime, in its erasure of any boundary between private and public life; also in that, unlike the pairs democracy/mob rule, aristocracy/oligarchy, and monarchy/tyranny, totalitarian rule has no “neutral” or non-abusive twin.
If American voters manage to check Trump’s power while there is still time to limit the damage, it may be because they sense that with his relentless tweeting and headline-grabbing, he is just not going to leave us alone and let us ignore him for awhile while we pursue our own happiness. If the Republicans, in spite of all their gerrymandering and efforts to suppress voter turnout, do lose control of one or both houses of Congress, it may be because enough of us have gotten irritated and embarrassed enough to bother to vote in a midterm for a change, and limit the damage from the presidential bull-with-his-very-own-china-shop-all-the-time.
So far I believe we have been fairly lucky that our slacker totalitarian president apparently spends a great deal of his time sitting around eating unhealthy food and tweeting at his TV, though he and his minions have made plenty of messes by sabotaging healthcare, environmental regulation, etc. But what if he (trigger alert, plug ears, la la la la la) has a learning curve? What if he actually reads article II of the Constitution and realizes just how much more he can do, and takes Admiral Ronny Jackson’s advice to adopt healthier lifestyle choices? Where will we be able to hide then?