Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comic strip, has a post claiming a Trump presidency wouldn't be as bad as people fear. It's a good post. But it's wrong.
Trump is certainly not as bad as his haters claim. Trump not only disables the critical-thinking ability of his supporters, but also of his enemies. In most conversations, I end up defending Trump -- not because I support him as a candidate, but because I support critical-thinking. He's only racist sometimes, most of the time I love his political incorrectness.
But with all that said, he would indeed be a horrible president. As a long-term Republican, I'd prefer a Hillary Clinton presidency, and I hate Hillary to the depths of my soul. She's corrupt, and worst of all, she's a leftist.
But there's a thing worse than being a leftist (or right-winger) and that's being a "populist demagogue". Populist demagogues tell you that all your problems are caused by them (you know, those people), and present unrealistic solutions to problems. They appeal to base emotion and ignorance.
When nations fail because of politics, it's almost always due to populist demagogues. Virtually all dictators are a "man of the people", protecting the people's interests against the powerful (somehow, the dictators themselves are never part of the "powerful", since by definition, they are "of the people"). We see that in Venezuela right now, whose economy has crashed with oil prices (50% of their GDP was oil exports). The leader is making everything worse by running the playbook of bad populist policies. For example he's printing money, which first year economics textbooks tell you causes inflation, then blaming the resulting inflation on the United States and the CIA manipulating prices. That's the essence of populism: they pursue horrible policies, but blame the consequences on them.
In a Trump presidency, bad results that educated people know is caused by the government policy will instead be blamed on Mexico, China, and so on. The worst things get, the more crowd will cheer on Trump's and congress's bad policies, the more they punish Mexico and China, and the more they make bad policies worse.
Consider the $15 minimum wage promoted by Bernie Sanders, a hateful populist demagogue who is, if anything, worse than Trump. Hillary wanted $12.
Why not $18? Why not $25? Why not $100/hour minimum wage? Presumably, there are some negative thingies that happen the more you hike minimum wage. Presumably, there are some educated people out there who have studied this problem and can measure these things. And there are. An example is this non-partisan, Congressional Office of Management and Budget (OMB) analysis of raising minimum wage to $10.10. It describes numerous positive and negative effects, none of which fits in a demagogic sound bite.
Raising the minimum wage has broad popular support, even among Republicans, because few are educated enough to appreciate the downsides. But yet, it doesn't get raised. The only explanation by populists like Bernie, or Trump, is that there must be some conspiracy (such as by Wall Street billionaires) that prevents the minimum wage from being raised. The truth is that our political leaders are basing their decision on things like the OMB report. They are basing their votes on an educated analysis of the policy, not on corruption and bribes from Wall Street. Note that there is no right or wrong answer to raising the minimum wage. There are reasonable people on both sides. It's just that this true debate based on education is far different than the public debate, which is based on emotion and ignorance.
Trade, which both Bernie and Trump oppose, is the same way. Educated people are for it, because it's such an obvious benefit to the population as a whole. Yet, special interests exploit the ignorance of the populace, which is why most people oppose trade.
Again, since anti-trade policies are so obviously a crowd pleaser, populace demagogues explain why such policies aren't adopted by blaming the vast conspiracy of the powerful, like Chinese lobbyists and Wall Street executives who want to move factories to Mexico.
Again, there's really no right and wrong answer. I oppose the latest "trade" deals like TPP and TTIP because they expand regulation rather than reduce tarifs, for example. I also appreciate that while benefits of trade exceed the costs, the costs of the change are often born unfairly by some groups.
The point isn't that you should support trade and oppose raising the minimum wage. Instead, the point is that populists present things as moral issues that transcended educated thought, and that when these policies are opposed by reasonable, educated people, the populist creates conspiracy theories explaining their opposition. Their power rests on the quality of their conspiracy theories.
All politicians are a little populist in this regard. The current one is President Obama. Yet when Obama has failed at his populist policies, like closing Gitmo, he blames the Republicans only a little bit. He hasn't gone scorched-earth populist-demagogue on them.
The only danger to a Democracy is such populist demagoguery. We see how Alexis Tsipras was elected on a wave of populism, and proceded to make the Greek debt crisis much worse. We see how the populist leader of Venezuela is making his oil crisis much worse. When the educated opposed policies for smart reasons, ignorant crowds overran them. The educated soon learned to keep quiet.
The same will happen with a Trump presidency. When a crisis happens, and a crisis will always happen, his will revert to populist demagoguery. He'll sweep aside any informed, rational debate on the issue. And as we've seen with the Republican politicians who have meekly agreed to Trump's candidacy, very few politicians will have the backbone to stand up to him. Republicans are already mute on criticism of Trump, and Democrats so frothing at the mouth in hatred Trump that nobody listens to them, either.
Trump is unforgivably racist (though barely so, not the white supremacist his enemies claim). Trump is a crappy businessman, not nearly successful as he claims. The few successes he's had are based on flim-flam, the faulty belief in his success. He's a con man, not a good manager. He's not the negotiator he claims, international politics works much different than negotiating price for building materials. On the world stage, everyone will laugh at him.
But all of these things can be forgiven, because most candidates suck just as much. Instead, the thing that makes Trump dangerous is his populist demagoguery. Historically, it this more than anything else that destroys democracies and make people's lives worse off.