What’s in it for me? Find out if Trump is a threat to democracy and what traits he shares with past dictators.
how democracies die summary – Since the 2016 election, there’s been a steady stream of rather unconventional political news as Donald Trump challenges the norms of presidential behavior. While some people say that American politics needs to be shaken up and that Trump’s attitude is a breath of fresh air, these blinks investigate how this compares to situations where democracies in other nations have collapsed.
As the authors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt point out, if democracy is to remain healthy and functioning, it will take a certain amount of adherence to specific rules as well as a pro-democratic code of conduct. By looking at case studies of fallen democracies in places like Venezuela and Peru, the authors claim that similar attitudes to the ones promoted by the Trump administration have led to the rise of dictatorships.
Levitsky and Ziblatt explain how democracy in the US has long been troubled – especially when it comes to voter rights. The authors also give readers hope that the nation can weather this storm.
In these blinks, you’ll also discover
- how the two-party system in the US has served as a strong gatekeeper in the past;
- why Republican leaders need to step up and clear house like Sweden did in the 1930s; and
- how Republicans went from being the party of Lincoln to the party of Trump.
A potentially dangerous autocrat can be hard to spot in advance.
Imagining a demagogue rising to power, you may picture a horde of armed supporters storming a presidential palace. But such a violent and sudden takeover is largely a thing of the past. Nowadays, dangerous demagogues rise to power by aligning themselves with established politicians.
This unlikely arrangement – between an anti-establishment figure and the old guard – can happen when the current establishment is losing voter support. Under these conditions, the powers that be will turn to a populist outsider – someone considered to be a voice of the people.
In this scenario, the establishment will bring in the outsider with the assumption that they’ll be able to control this rogue element. But once he’s in, the demagogue can make his power grab.
This is precisely what happened when the German establishment turned to Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.
By March of 1930, the Great Depression had severely crippled the German economy, resulting in years of political stalemate. In 1933, the conservative leaders made a last-ditch attempt to gain voter support by making the populist champion, Adolf Hitler, the chancellor.
The German establishment made the mistake of thinking they could capitalize on Hitler’s popularity while still keeping his power in check. But within two months of being appointed chancellor, Hitler had outlawed opposition parties and essentially made himself a dictator. What happened in the decade that followed is one of history’s great tragedies.
This shows us that sometimes dangerous demagogues can be lying in wait. To spot them, there are four warning signs you can be on the lookout for.
The first is noticing when someone rejects the rules of democracy. Does he claim that election results are “invalid,” or suggest that the constitution needs fixing?
The second sign of danger is when a politician tries to falsely discredit his opponent. Is someone making unsubstantiated claims that an opponent should be jailed, or is an enemy of the state?
The third warning sign is a tolerance of or encouraging attitude towards the use of violence. Does he conduct business with figures in the mafia or support the actions of militant people?
The last sign is an expression of a desire to reduce the civil rights of a person or institution, such as a claim that the country would be better without a free press/Is there praise for a government that’s actively silencing journalists or protesters?
These are all red flags that suggest someone would likely favor autocracy should he be given power. Whether or not this would happen depends on the way……………
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