Stephen Sondheim on Trump: It’s the end of democracy

Stephen Sondheim on Trump: It’s the end of democracy


norman lebrecht

September 30, 2018

From yesterday’s interview with Richard Morrison in the Times:

So what’s it like to live in America at the moment?

“You know the answer to that question,” Sondheim replies. “Distressing in the extreme. It’s really the end of democracy — a major catastrophe, not a passing one.”

Hasn’t the US always contained widely diverging tribes? Liberal east coast sophisticates have always been a long way from Bible belters in their world view. “Yes, I agree political opposites have always existed in America,” Sondheim says, “but until now these different tribes belonged to one nation. Then along comes this politician who is the standard bearer for divisiveness and hatred, and all consensus falls apart.”

But, I say, on the other hand . . . Sondheim cuts me off. “There is no other hand,” he declares…



  • Mark says:

    November is last chance! Remember his (trumps)base are crazy and will never take defeat without resorting to violence! The gun rotting psychos

    • Greg says:

      A curious comment. Seems to me the recent wave of violent extremism has come from the left. I don’t see Trump supporters smashing windows, hanging people in effigy, destroying public property, shouting down administration officials while dining in public, etc. Many of the cowards of the so-called Antifa movement cover their faces while being hooligans. I don’t recall seeing this level of unrest during Obama’s presidency, and he was the most divisive and incompetent president we’ve had. Got nothing done, paid off terrorists, paid ransom for traitors, covered up American deaths overseas, oversaw a vast criminal empire disguised as an administration, and stoked the flames of racism for political gain.

  • Andy says:

    Dramatic stuff. Wrong though. Trump is a moron of epic proportions, but it’s not the end of democracy. It’s democracy delivering results that the left really really doesn’t like. America (and democracy) was there long before Trump, and will still be there long after he’s gone.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      I agree. Trump gives the institutions of US democracy a hell of a test. Without those, Trump might have been acting like a third world dictator. He talks like one. His contempt of law and order undermines his supporters’ faith in the institutions. Let us hope that the resulting disfunction will not outlast his deplorable presidency.

    • Richard Cumming-Bruce says:


  • Doug says:

    I always turn to Sondheim for a serious analysis of the current political situation. But as they say, even a blind pig finds a truffle, although he may not even realize it: the United States of America is not a democracy, it’s a representative republic. Here’s yet another example of the influence of the Frankfurt School propaganda and lies.

    • Vienna calling says:

      Democracy and Republic are not mutually exclusive. Apples and oranges.

    • Sue says:

      Exactly. Never ask ‘artists’ about anything political or complex!! Especially Hollywood ‘stars’, eg. Geena Davis, who virtue signal, go on protest marches against Trump but who’ve starred in something like this:

      And if democracy is being lost you can thank the people who brought you identity politics, which parsed the nation into warring tribes – one against the other! And who try to shoot down a SC candidate with a sexual McCarthyist witch-hunt. Self-awareness not their strong suit!! The vast majority of Americans wanted Trump to drain the swamp precisely for this reason.

      I wonder if Sondheim’s shows are gaining more audiences because if improved employment, economic growth and a gaining stock market? Maybe the ‘deplorables’ don’t like his verbose shows. Yeah, that’s another way to unite a country – call them ‘deplorables’!!

      • Sue says:

        Oh, and the gender wars being played out right now in the USA; middle Americans and mainstream people with families to support didn’t start that war. Those who did have turned around and accused those very, ordinary people of dividing the USA. If ever there was a mass ‘projection’ this is it. Trying to project your own perfidy onto others will never work.

        • Herr Doktor says:

          Every time I read one of your comments Sue, I have to admit, you make me feel incredibly grateful that I don’t have a tortured and angry brain as you clearly do. I mean this with all kindness, you’d probably be a lot happier in life if you spent some time really facing yourself, working on yourself, perhaps with a sympathetic counselor. There’s obviously a lot of damage present that you’re probably not dealing with in a manner that will probably be truly beneficial for you.

          Additionally, you’ll make things much more enjoyable for the rest of us if you leave the political commentary to the right-wing websites that you surely spend lots of time visiting, and stick to commenting about music. I always enjoy reading thoughtful musical comments of yours. They do occur on occasion without the bitterness and anger that accompanies your all-too-common political rants.

        • Herr Doktor says:

          Helen Wynn, assuming you’re even a woman and even not a Russian bot….

          If you want to debate the merits of our illegitimate President, feel free to on some other website designed for that purpose. Otherwise, as with most of us, we stick to talking about classical music.

          • david hilton says:

            If you will notice, Herr Doctor, Helen’s very perceptive comments are included in a discussion of “Stephen Sondheim on Trump” . . not ‘Stephen Sondheim on Classical Music’, as you seem to think. If you do not want discussion of politics at this website tell Mr Lebrecht to stop including articles like Richard Morrison’s interview, excerpting only the political discussion from a longer interview. Don’t attack those of us who choose to debate the points raised.

      • Petros Linardos says:

        Your rants rest on factually incorrect assumptions.

        For starters, have you seen comparisons of employment, economic growth and real wage growth in of the last 10 years?

        • Herr Doktor says:

          Petros…I admire your comments in general, and this one in particular. But facts, data, and logic you might put forward have no impact upon the Sues of the world.

          That great philosopher Pete Townshend really said everything that needs to be said about this period we’re living through in the U.S. in the lyrics to his song, “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

          • Petros Linardos says:

            Thank you Herr Dr. I also appreciate your contributions.
            I won’t second guess what Sue makes out of my political and social comments, but they are also addressed to readers who pay attention to facts too.
            The myth that Trump jump started the US economy may is very worth debunking. It may even be partly believed by people who otherwise don’t like the unworthy President. He is not illegitimate, because he still won the electoral college, despite his significant loss of the popular vote.

          • Herr Doktor says:

            Petros, thank you for your kind words. I disagree with your comment that Comrade Trump is not illegitimate, but as this is a classical music website, I’ll take my own advice and not have that discussion here. But otherwise, I’ve appreciated your comments and efforts to talk facts and sense to people who live in their own bubble which is impervious to reality.

    • Mike McCarthy says:

      We’re a democratic republic. Democracy is inherent in that. Also doesn’t change a lick of what Sondheim’s saying. No need to parse these words. It’s just a deflection.

  • Hilary says:

    “but until now these different tribes belonged to one nation. Then along comes this politician who is the standard bearer for divisiveness and hatred, and all consensus falls apart.”

    The lyrics for a new Sondheim song perhaps?

  • Cubs Fan says:

    The end of democracy begins when someone is accused of a crime and is determined to be guilty by mob rule; without any more assumption of innocence until proven guilty. The real fascists are the leftists who speak without thinking. The real fascists are those on the left who shut down free speech that they disagree with. God help us.

  • M McAlpine says:

    Ridiculous. Shows how out of touch these people are with the real world. He needs too try living somewhere really undemocratic. At least in USA you can always change the government if enough people agree.

  • Jonathan Sutherland says:

    A revised Sondheim musical: ‘Sweeney Trump – the Demon Barbarian of Wall Street’?

  • Escamillo says:

    Time for a book – ‘The Nuttiest Presidents of the USA’. There’ve been quite a few but the country still keeps ticking along (although the Great Depression and Prohibition nearly sank it). The difference now is that Trump’s nuttiness has global repercussions, which is why we’re all interested.

  • Mike Schachter says:

    By the end of democracy he means that people have the temerity to disagree with him. As Atlee said, you can always trust the intelligentsia to be wrong. Most of them are pining for the Soviet Union, where you could be locked up for having incorrect thoughts.

  • Robert Groen says:

    Send in the clowns……don’t bother, they’re here.

  • Edgar says:

    The DisUnited States of America are already in the state of non-violent civil war (for now) since many years. This reality has only now become utterly obvious and visible for all the world to see. The latest victim, witness the Kavanaugh hearings, is the independent judiciary – symbolized in what once was a respected, non-partisan and truly independently ruling Supreme Court, now permanently degraded by the Vichy Republicans (Frank Rich) by means of their totalitarian anti-democrat Master in the White House.

    He is the result, not the cause, of decades-long undermining of American political and cultural principles as envisioned by the Founders and Foundresses (what would John Adams be without Abigail!!). The Vested Interests (having infiltrated and corrupted both political parties) have succeeded to purchase Congress and the Presidency and are most pleased with the current situation, as it are they, and only they, who reap the gains form it.

    As Soviet Communism crumbled under the “Organized Irresponsibility” of its kleptocratic Nomenklatura , so the US crumbles under its very own home made bankruptokleptocasinocapitalist Nomenklatura’s “Organized Irresponsibility” (term respectfully borrowed from the late Rudolf Bahro, dissident in communist East Germany, and, after his deportation from there to West Germany, active there as one of the most well-read and intelligent critics of what we now experience as Real Existing Capitalism which is as much a disaster as the Real Existing Socialism).

  • Cubs Fan says:

    Here’s how ridiculous the left is getting – I wonder if Sondheim will approve?

    Read it here:

    • Nydo says:

      Cubs fan, a little hint: most on the left don’t really focus on or care much about a student production’s casting in West Side Story, anymore than those on the right care much about who the grand wizards of the KKK will be.