When Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatts’ book How Democracies Die was published in January 2018, critics from political science professors at Harvard University called them alarmists. The book contained a terrible warning: American liberal democracy was in danger because of Trumpism. But two years later Levitsky and Ziblatt didn’t back down on that post in fact they now say they should have been more worried in 2018.
Levitsky told HuffPost that Joe Scarborough had ridiculed him on TV, saying: These guys are fear mongers. It turns out we weren’t alarmist enough.
Scarborough, the Never Trump curator who hosts Morning Joe on MSNBC, is not a fan of President Donald Trump, whom he constantly denigrates. But when How Democracies Die came out, Scarborough argued that America’s democracy was robust enough to withstand Trumps’ destruction of a presidency. Scarborough, in a Editorial of March 15, 2018 for the Washington Post, argued that America’s democracy was much stronger than the chaotic Trump administration.
HuffPost reporter Travis Waldron notes that Levitsky and Ziblatt aren’t the only academics or political leaders to warn that 2020 is a referendum not just on Trump, but the democratic experience of nations as a whole. But Levitsky fears that too many Americans are as worried as they should be.
People are getting killed because of politics, Levitsky told HuffPost. Theres wondering if the election will be free. Law enforcement is manipulated to protect the president’s allies and prey on the president’s rivals. Things are happening on different fronts, and not putting everything in place and not realizing that our democracy is at stake.
Liberal democracies do not necessarily come to power because of a Rebellion or Rebellion: in some cases, authoritarians are elected and progressively undermine a country’s checks and balances. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an obvious example. And Waldron cites Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro as an example of a far-right authoritarian who was elected in a liberal democracy, warning that democracy in the United States is also in danger.
The Republicans in Congress did all they could to protect Trump, says Waldron. They blocked his resignation after House Democrats indicted him and barred administration officials from facing consequences for avoiding their oversight duties. Without these controls, Trump did whatever he wanted: fire inspectors general, attack justice, break laws and take advantage of his own office.
Levitsky told HuffPost that America’s democracy has proven to be weaker and more vulnerable than I thought.
Amy Erica Smith, professor of political science at Iowa State University, warns that some countries claim to be democratic and hold elections but are in fact authoritarian states or, as she calls them, hybrid regimes.
The main defining characteristic of a hybrid plan is that the incumbent uses and I will say his because almost always all of the perks that come out of office to unfairly get re-elected, Smith told HuffPost.
Waldron cites Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian President Viktor Orbn as examples of officials claiming to hold fair elections and argues that Trump is trying to do the same type of thing in the United States by working to undermine the postal service. America and discredit the fraudulent election before it even takes place, an admittedly strange tactic for a leader already in power. Trump’s attacks on democracy are in fact the definitive rupture of the idea of American exceptionalism.
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