Tuesday, November 9, 2021

End of the Line?

A reasonable question in our times: Is Democracy done as a form of government? Now it may not sound reasonable to us - because democracy has been the default government that Americans' believe in. But that hasn't always been the case either historically or now.

Foregt, for a moment, the United States case, and look at the world.

The article was published in 2019, but still raises question that matter.

Some of the interesting points in this article - and me (summing up badly)
  1. Democratic Governments are Declining: After WWII there were only 12 Democracies. By the year 2000 there were 87. But since 2000 the number of Democracies has not risen and is, in fact, falling.
  2. Populist Governments, which discourage full participation and and democracy are Rising through the world: The UK, Italy and the United States (and others) have all elected populist leaders that work for ideological wins and limited participation rather than full support of their constituents. Does this invariably mean that these countries are determined to phase out democracy? No. But it does mean they try to limit "democracy" to those that agree with the leaders.
  3. Some Democratic Governments have been replaced by "illiberal" democracies: Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Thailand, Bulgaria and Turkey are just a few examples of this. These countries' leaders generally move to: a) control the media, b) change the judiciary to their liking and c) persecute opponents. These governments often appeal to local populations by demonizing foreigners and immigrants.
  4. Populist parties and leaders offer simple answers to complicated questions: A populist party offers quick answers to complicated questions (Build a Wall! Mexico will pay for it.). It is not a problem that nominees say these things, it is that people believe them and vote accordingly (Cancel Student debt. Expand Medicare to everything.). Which brings us to number 5.
  5. Democracies are hard: To have a democracy that works you must have an electorate that respects different opinions. And an electorate that respects elections as fair and honest. People must educate themselves and not rely on conspiracies, hatred of elites, demonizing science - or at least the science you don't believe in. We all can see this is NOT the road we are on.

So what is next? Well in 1945, it was communism / socialism that was thought to be the next big thing. That did not pan out anywhere, except China. And the "socialism" in China has been overtaken by controlled capitalism.

Today, the author postulates, right-wing Populism is the ascendant political theory. In this, the electoreate doesn't need to think. They just need to follow and obey.

What held this in check before? Shawn Rosenberg (the author of the piece), states it was the "elites" of the country. Not as defined by Trump, but defined as the people at the top of the political, business and educational hierarchy. Those leaders believed that democracy and capitalism are the best way forward,and most people believed them.

But in the age of the internet, elite opinions share the same informational space as flat earthers, anti-vaxers (both right, with Covid - and left, with measles and mumps) and conspiracy truthers Populists enhanced the disapproval to elicit voters - they play to that misinformation. Just as they disparage scientists, educators and anyone opposed to a simplistic viewpoint.

And, I will say, many elitists play into these stereotypes that paint them as out of touch. The idiotic (to me) argument if a description should be "mothers" or "birthing people" (1 vote for mothers). The democracy-defeating position that no compromise is better than governance. The hyper partisanship on display today both left and right.

For many countries the real model is now China and Hungary. They are semi-democratic authoritarian states that support capitalism. The anchors at Fox News actually praise Hungary's leader, who revels in delegitimizing his political opponents, gays and immigrants. They praise Poland's leaders which replaced every judge in the country and outlawed both abortion and the gay right to live. Trump, not that atypical, praised Putin, Kim Jong Il and China's Xi as the type of leader he wants to be. 

I don't know how to change this. Our best hope is they populists move to far too quickly and get a backlash. But that doesn't look like what is happening.

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