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Democracy Diary: Several weekend wins for democracy
Romney's may be the most critical for the US
The people of Ukraine and Volodymyr Zelensky. ‘Nuf said.
It appears that countries are becoming more willing to impose more sanctions on Russian oil and SWIFT, which, to the point of my last post, would be a nice shift from worshiping oil to worshiping democracy, freedom, and human rights, which seem closer to what we might want to take to be ultimately important.
It matters for democracy that Mitt Romney criticized Marjory Taylor Greene for attending a white supremacist event. (Though I’m not a fan of the eugenics-based, intellectual-disability stigmatizing term he used to do so).
How Democracies Die points out that “we like to believe that the fate of a government lies in the hands of its citizens. If the people hold democratic values, democracy will be safe. If citizens are open to authoritarian appeals, then, sooner or later, democracy will be in trouble.
“This view is wrong. It assumes too much of democracy — that ‘the people’ can shape at will the kind of government they possess. It’s hard to find any evidence of majority support for authoritarinism in 1920s German and Italy. Before the Nazis and Fascists seized power, less than 2 percent of the population were party members, and neither party achieved anything close to a majority of the vote in free and fair elections.” The authors cite a similar example in Venezuela, then note “potential demoagogues exist in all democracies, and occasionally, one or more of them strike a public chord. But in some democracies, political leaders heed the warning signs and take steps to ensure that authoritarians remain on the fringes, far from the centers of power.” (p. 21).
They do this in several steps, first by identifying the authoritarians. The authors lay out a litmus test for this, which the Trumpists meet. Then “successful gatekeeping requires that mainstream parties isolate and defeat extremist forces, a behavior political scientist Nancy Bermeo calls ‘distancing.’” (p. 24).
Romney’s comments provide an example of a leader identifying and naming the authoritarian tendencies of people in his own party. The next steps for distancing are to:
keep the authoritarians off the party ballot
root out extremists at the grassroots level
avoid all alliances with antidemocratic parties and candidates
act to systematically isolate, rather than legitimize, extremists
be willing to join with ideologically distant opponents to defeat the authoritarians.
I see Romney taking a stab at steps 3 and 4 here. We’ll see if it becomes a groundswell to address the slew of QAnon and Trumpist candidates eyeing races for election officials (and this article, too).
What’s your view? What are you doing to democracy?