Trump holds a rally with supporters in Anaheim, California, May 2016.   
Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Two years ago, I argued in these pages that America was suffering from political decay. The country’s constitutional system of checks and balances, combined with partisan polarization and the rise of well-financed interest groups, had combined to yield what I labeled “vetocracy,” a situation in which it was easier to stop government from doing things than it was to use govern­ment to promote the common good. Recurrent budgetary crises, stagnating bureaucracy, and a lack of policy innovation were the hall­marks of a political system in disarray.

On the surface, the 2016 presidential election seems to be bearing out this analysis. The once proud Republican Party lost control of its nominating process to Donald Trump’s hostile takeover and is riven with deep internal contradictions. On the Democratic side, meanwhile, the ultra-insider Hillary Clinton has faced surprisingly strong competition from Bernie Sanders, a 74-year-old self-proclaimed demo­cratic socialist. Whatever the issue—from immigration to financial reform to trade to stagnating incomes—large numbers of voters on both sides of the spectrum have risen up against what they see as a corrupt, self-dealing Establishment, turning to radical outsiders in the hopes of a purifying cleanse.

In fact, however, the turbulent

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  • FRANCIS FUKUYAMA is a Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Director of FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford University. Follow him on Twitter @FukuyamaFrancis.
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