The Phenomenon of Trump and the American System of Separation of Powers

Vladimir I. Yakunin – Doctor of Politics, Head of the Public Policy Department, Lomonosov Moscow State University, 27-4, Lomonosovski pr., w, Russian Federation, 119192. E-mail:
Nikita Y. Molchakov – lecturer, Department of Constitutional Law, Moscow State Institute of International Relations (University) MFA Russia. 76, pr. Vernadskogo, Moscow, Russian Federation, 119454. E-mail:
Вся статья: 

DOI 10.24833/2071-8160-2018-1-58-42-62 (Read the article in PDF)

The US political system is repeatedly subjected to significant deviations from those constitutional provisions that determine the relationship between the three branches of power. The scientists use such phrases as «Jacksonian democracy» or «Imperial presidency» to illustrate the attempts of American presidents to intervene those issues which constitutionally assigned to the other branches of power.

In general, despite these deviations from legally established rules, the elites retained a general consensus on the notion of stable domestic and foreign policies. As the main threat to this stability, the possibility of organizing a revolution from above was considered. However, in November 2016 D. Trump managed to be elected under the slogan of such a revolution, becoming the first the president in the political history of the United States, which has no firm support among the elites.

Undoubtedly, such a success illustrated serious problems within American society, that’s why the reasons of the conflict between D. Trump and his opponents could be found first of all in the ideological sphere. The newly elected president proposes a transformation of the fundamental basics that determined the vectors of US foreign and domestic policy in recent decades.

In this case, unlike the historical precedents considered in this paper, D. Trump’s criticism goes beyond simple accusations on the pages of the mass media or in statements of the leading representatives of the American political establishment. It takes a form of an acute confrontation between the branches of power and within them. The analysis of this situation is proposed in the article, both from the point of view of political and legal sciences, which could help to make a forecast on the chances of D. Trump to become a winner in this conflict within the American political elite.

Key words: separation of powers, constitutional system, political elite, elite conflict, political stability, D. Trump, USA.

1. Vil’son V. Gosudarstvennyi stroi SShA [Constitutional law of the USA]. St. Petersburg, tipografiia A.G. Rozena Publ., 1909. 282 p. (In Russian).
2. Glazkova A.A. Osobennosti prozvishch amerikanskikh prezidentov [The peculiarities of nicknames of American presidents]. Fundamental’nye i prikladnye issledovaniia v sovremennom mire, 2017, no. 17–3. pp. 68–70 (in Russian).
3. Gromyko A. «Novyi populizm» i stanovlenie postbipoliarnogo mirovogoporiadka [New Populism and the Post-Cold War Order in the Making]. Sovremennaia Evropa, 2016, no. 6 (72), pp. 5–12 (in Russian).
4. Duverger M. Politicheskie partii [Political Parties]. Moscow, Akademicheskii Proekt Publ., 2007. 538 p. (in Russian).
5. Zakaria F. The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad. New York, W.W. Norton Publ., 2003. 286 p. (Russ. ed.: Zakaria F. Budushcheesvobody: neliberal’naiademokratiia v SShA i za ikh predelami [The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad]. Moscow, Ladomir Publ., 2004. 330 p.
6. Konstitutsionnoe pravo zarubezhnykh stran [Constitutional Law of Foreign Countries]. Ed. by M.V. Baglay, Iu.I. Leibo, M.L. Entin. Moscow, Norma Publ., 2004. 832 p. (In Russian).
7. Creveld M. Amerikanskaia zagadka [American Riddle]. Moscow, Mysl’ Publ, 2016. 552 p.
8. Mishin A.A. Printsip razdeleniia vlastei v konstitutsionnom mekhanizme SShA [The principle of separation of powers in the constitutional mechanism of the USA]. Moscow, Nauka Publ., 1987. 190 p. (In Russian).
9. Popov N.P. Amerikanskoe obshchestvennoe mnenie i rossiiskaia politika administratsii Trampa [American public opinion and the Russian policy of the Trump administration]. Kommunikologiia - Communication Studies, 2017, vol. 5, no. 2. pp. 15–28 (in Russian).
10. Sogrin V.V. Demokratiia v SShA. Ot kolonial’noi ery do XXI veka [Democracy in the USA. From colonial epoch to XXI century]. Moscow, Ves’ Mir Publ., 2011. 368 p. (In Russian).
11. Sogrin V.V. Istoricheskiiopyt SShA [Historical experience of the USA]. Moscow, Nauka Publ, 2010. 581 p. (In Russian).
12. Sogrin V.V. Politicheskaia istoriia SShA. XVII–XX v. [Political history of the USA. XVII–XX century]. Moscow, Ves’ Mir Pub., 2001. 400 p. (In Russian).
13. Entin L.M. Razdelenie vlastei: opyt sovremennykh gosudarstv [Separation of powers: experience of the modern states]. Moscow, Iuridicheskaia literature Publ., 1995. 175 p. (In Russian).
14. Domhoff G.W. The Higher Circles. The Governing Class in America. New York, Random House Publ., 1970. 367 p.
15. Duverger M. Echec au roi [Failure to the king]. Paris, Albin Michel Publ., 1978. 249 p.
16. Fisher L. Teaching the Presidency: Idealizing a Constitutional Office. Political Science & Politics, 2012, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 17-31.
17. Graham D.A. The Republican Backlash Against Trump’s Vote-Fraud Commission //, 06.07.2017. Available at: archive/2017/07/kobach-to-whereyou- came-from/532878/ (accessed: 30.07.2017). 18. Hicks J. A short history of American Democracy. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1956. 864 p.
19. Jacobson G. The Triumph of Polarized Partisanship in 2016: Donald Trump’s Improbable Victory. Political Science Quarterly, 2017, vol. 132, iss. 1, pp. 9–41.
20. Jones G.S., Martini J.A. The Imperial Congress: Crisis in the Separation of Powers. New York, World Almanac Publ., 1988. 384 p.
21. Kleinerman B. The Discretionary President: The Promise and the Peril of Executive Power. Lawrence, University Press of Kansas Publ., 2009. 338 p.
22. Lowi T. The Personal President: Power Invested, Promises Unfulfilled. New York, Cornell University Press Publ., 1986. 240 p.
23. Mason A., Beaney W. American Constitutional Law. Introductory Essays and Selected Cases. 3d ed. New Jersey, Prentice-Hall Publ., 1964. 588 p.
24. Mills C.R. The Power Elite. New York, Oxford, Oxford University Press Publ., 2000. 448 p.
25. Rossiter C. Constitutional Dictatorship: Crisis Government in the Modern Democracies. New York, Harcourt, Brace & World Publ., 1963. 322 p.
26. Schlesinger A. The Imperial Presidency. Boston, Houghton Mifflin Company Publ., 1973. 505 p.
27. Schlesinger A., De Groin A. Congress and the Presidency: Their Role in Modern Times. New York, AEI Press Publ., 1967. 189 p.
28. Schmitt M.N., Ford C.M. Assessing U.S. Justifications for Using Force in Response to Syria’s Chemical Attacks: An International Law Perspective. International Law. Laws of War, 2017, vol. 9, no 2, pp. 1–19.
29. Singh M. Syria after the Missile Strikes: Policy Options. Testimony Submitted to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. House Foreign Affairs Committee, 27.04.2017. Available at: http://www. view/syria-after-the-missile-strikes-policy- options (accessed: 30.07.2017).
30. Skowronek S. Presidential Leadership in Political Time. Reprise and Reappraisal. 2nd ed. Lawrence, University Press of Kansas Publ., 2011. 240 p.
31. Warden J.K. North Korea`s Nuclear Posture. An Evolving Challenge for U.S. Deterrence. Proliferation Papers, Ifri, 2017. Available at: files/atoms/files/warden_north_korea_ nuclear_posture_2017.pdf (accessed: 30.07.2017).
32. Wright Th. The 2016 Presidential Campaign and the Crisis of Foreign and the Crisis of US Foreign Policy. Lowy Institute for Foreign Policy, 10.10.2016. Available at: publications/2016-presidential-campaign- and-crisis-us-foreign-policy (accessed: 15.08.2017).