Opinion A political scientist explains why the GOP is a threat to American democracy

16:25  20 october  2020
16:25  20 october  2020 Source:   vox.com

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In response, the American Political Science Association (APSA) released a report in 1950 that In Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity, University of Maryland political scientist Lilliana This analysis is persuasive. But as an account of why the United States lacks responsive Social polarization cannot explain such failures of popular government; but the immense political

Despite reports that the GOP leadership wanted her to stay in and fight the result, Republican “The same worldview explains Republicans’ addiction to conspiracy theories. After all, if people keep US organization that promotes freedom and democracy around the globe issues warning to America .

It sounds hyperbolic to say that American democracy is broken, but an honest glance at the country — at our institutions and the broader political culture — makes it hard to conclude otherwise.

a close up of a logo © Getty Images

As things stand, one of our two major political parties is committed to suppressing as many votes as possible, and the leader of that party, the president of the United States, has said outright that he won’t accept the legitimacy of the election process if he doesn’t win.

If, under those conditions, Trump either wins the election or loses and throws the country into a bitter, protracted fight over the results, it doesn’t seem all that alarmist to suggest the US will have descended into what political scientists sometimes call a “weak democracy” or even “competitive authoritarianism.”

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He stoked the hyperpolarization of American politics to make the Obama presidency as dysfunctional and paralyzed as he possibly could. As with parliamentary gridlock in Weimar, congressional gridlock in the US has diminished respect for democratic norms, allowing McConnell to trample them even more.

As many historians and political science scholars would tell you, US was never intended to be a Therefore USA is a threat to democracy . USA is a little bit misnomer in this statement, since there Though a good amount of the american people unknowingly support and enable what is being done

But I really don’t want to be overly alarmist, so I reached out to Pippa Norris, a political scientist at Harvard University and one of the leading authorities on global democracy. I wanted to know her honest assessment of the state of American democracy, why she thinks the upcoming election is a true turning point for the country, and what the US will have to do moving forward to undo the damage done in the past several years.

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

If American democracy was a patient, how would you describe its condition?

Pippa Norris

I’d say the patient has not been well for a long time. The patient is obese and doesn’t exercise.

Sean Illing

You like to say that democracy is not an “all or nothing” process — it’s more like a continuum with peaks and valleys and lots of movement over time. Would you say that the biggest weakness in the American system right now is this combination of the intractability of our Constitution and the fact that one of our major parties, the Republican Party, is basically invested in an anti-democratic, countermajoritarian agenda?

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Is the backbone of American democracy strong enough to resist the triple blast of pandemic, the Black Lives Matter reckoning That was no idle threat . Given the vagaries of the pandemic, there is likely to be a surge in ballots cast by mail that could take days to count, giving Trump potentially weeks before

A strong sign that a political system is in decline is when the political opposition is referred to as an enemy. However, there are reasons for optimism as a growing national consensus results in political opponents increasingly viewed as legitimate opposition rather than enemies.

Pippa Norris

It’s true that we’re facing an existential crisis in part because the Republican Party has put all of their appeals into a shrinking sector of the electorate — mostly white, mostly older. And they’re using their power to change the rules of the game to favor their own party. That’s all true.

The point about the intractability of the Constitution is also true. There’s something called the Comparative Constitutions Project. They look at the longevity of constitutions and how much change is ideal and how much change is dysfunctional. So you don’t want a constitution that changes all the time because that leads to instability and you need to have rules of the game that everybody can agree upon. But you also can’t have a constitution that’s fundamentally unchangeable.

America is just off the charts in terms of the rarity of changes. It’s not just that we have so few changes; it’s the combination of institutional arrangements that make change almost impossible. America’s Constitution really doesn’t change, and we don’t look abroad for constitutional innovations.

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Political scientist Robert Dahl has argued that if _ exist, most likely will political inequality. Why did James Madison warn agaist the creation of a direct democracy ? Which of the following was a structural factor contribution to the downfall of secregation? African Americans migrating from the

And one political scientist is now calling for Dems to start employing the same kind of procedural combat that their opponents employ to fight not only The filibuster is a sort of antidemocratic relic of a bygone age, and I don’t think it’s justifiable. So once they get rid of the filibuster, Democrats can do

Sean Illing

Can you give me an example of a good constitutional innovation from around the world?

Pippa Norris

Almost every new democracy or country going through a transition always sets up a central and effective independent election management system. Now, they’ve all got different degrees of independence. But nevertheless, if there’s an election dispute, there’s an independent executive to say what the results are and to provide a mechanism for handling legal disputes that isn’t tainted by politicized courts.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a Supreme Court. It can be an election court, often common in Latin America. Or there may be other mechanisms which provide informal resolutions. America has all these decentralized forms of electoral administration, which means that just one local area, which had one local problem in its ballot or its count or its regulations, could really derail the whole of the presidential election, particularly if it’s Broward County in Florida or somewhere else in Georgia or somewhere else in Michigan or wherever it is.

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American democracy faces not one, but three distinct and connected crises. There is an ongoing assault Failing to see that these crises are connected diminishes Americans ’ ability to understand the full scope In 1991, the political scientist Samuel Huntington wrote that “successive waves of

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The point is that other countries around the world have developed ways of dealing with these issues and America just hasn’t learned or adapted.

Sean Illing

Is the Republican Party, in its current manifestation, the biggest obstacle to making the sorts of changes we need to make?

Pippa Norris

It is. I’ve done a global party survey in December 2019, asking over 2,000 experts where they place mainstream political parties worldwide on a range of issues, from taxes to health care to environmental policy. And the US results are quite remarkable. If we’re just looking at OECD [post-industrial] countries and trying to measure whether parties favor or oppose checks and balances on the executive, if they’re committed to basic pluralistic values, and if they respect or undermine liberal democratic principles, what you find is that the GOP is surprisingly extremist.

The position of the GOP on these issues is close to parties like Golden Dawn in Greece [a neo-fascist party], Fidesz in Hungary, or the Law and Justice party in Poland. These are illiberal parties cutting back on the freedom of press and stamping out democratic freedoms in their countries. And these are the only parties in the developed world that really compare to the Republican Party in terms of their commitment to what we’d call authoritarian values.

The fight is for democracy

  The fight is for democracy The stakes of this election are so high because the system itself is at stake.Why was I thinking about it? Oh, no reason. But her answer has been ringing in my head since. It explains much of what makes this moment in politics so distinct, so desperate.

So in a two-party system, you would expect a party like the GOP to naturally position itself somewhere around the center of the ideological spectrum to appeal to the median voter and to maximize its vote in general elections, like the Democratic Party tends to do. And the Democratic Party, for what it’s worth, basically scores the same as most of the standard middle-of-the-road European center-left parties.

But what’s happened is that the GOP has now gradually moved much, much further away from that center, a process that Trump has accelerated. Now, the problem is that you’d expect them to change course if they lose badly in the election, because that’s where most American voters are located in a normal curve.

The problem is that primary voters and donors are often more extreme than ordinary Americans. Seats are often uncompetitive, due to gerrymandering. And it often takes more than one heavy electoral defeat to get a party to shift course. You can think of them a bit like ocean liners. They’re sailing along in one direction. Under new leadership, they may try and move to port or to starboard, but it takes time to turn around, partly because after defeat, the incumbents who are reelected can blame Trump’s leadership and events like Covid-19, rather than their core policy appeals.

It may take a couple of electoral shocks for the GOP to learn the lessons, reverse course, and begin to nominate more moderate Lincoln Republicans and mainstream appeals.

Sean Illing

Is it still accurate to call the US a liberal democracy?

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Pippa Norris

Well, remember, I like to think of democracy as a continuum. What that suggests is that you can slide up or down as things improve or deteriorate.

So we could, for example, be closer to what’s called an “electoral democracy,” meaning that elections still work but many other institutions don’t. The judiciary may be undermined or press freedoms may be undermined. These are the kinds of things you see in countries in which democracy is backsliding. When this happens, strongman rulers come to power and they basically reinforce their position through amending or changing constitutions. That’s a very common strategy to make sure that they get elected time and time again.

America is still a liberal democracy insofar as we still have the formal institutions you’d expect to find in a liberal democracy. And there’s still freedom of speech and assembly. There’s still the expectation that the loser of an election will step aside. But the US is sliding toward electoral democracy. Whether it gets even worse depends on what happens this November.

Sean Illing

You say, rather ominously, that everything turns on what happens in November. If Trump wins, if the GOP’s countermajoritarian strategy is rewarded, what then?

Pippa Norris

We’ve got at least these two scenarios. Number one, there’s a landslide and the Democrats win so overwhelmingly that the system essentially staggers back to where it was and, hopefully, Biden brings in some much-needed reforms. If confidence in elections returns, if there is basically a change in the Senate, as well as in the presidency, then you could see America returning to the system that was there with Obama — deeply imperfect, but working.

If there’s a narrow result and the Electoral College is very narrow, and it is one where Biden gets the edge, then there’s going to be so many disputes and confidence is going to go down. We’ve already seen the cracks in places like Michigan, where, let’s be honest, domestic terrorists were plotting to kidnap the governor, and we can expect to see more of this extralegal violence as social trust and tolerance keeps eroding. That’s hard to get your head around, but it’s real and it’s absolutely on the table.

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If Trump returns to office, then things are going to get worse. We know that when authoritarian populists come in the first term, they’re just trying out ideas, seeing what works and what doesn’t. But they’re almost always more moderate. The second term is when it’s much more problematic. And the worst case would be something like Hungary, where illiberal populists have destroyed the foundations of the electoral system in ways most people don’t really understand. It all happened right in front of people’s eyes, but not enough attention was paid early on — and now it’s too late.

Sean Illing

If Trump loses, what’s the path to democratic restoration look like?

Pippa Norris

We need reforms — lots of reforms. Corruption and the role of money in politics is a core problem. We haven’t heard much about this lately because more attention has been paid to issues like voter suppression, with good reasons, but it’s a fundamental issue standing in the way of nearly everything else.

We have to restore the integrity of the Department of Justice. If you don’t have an umpire you can trust, then where can you go? We need impartiality and independence. There are two meanings of the “rule of law” and they often get misunderstood. When Trump says “rule of law,” what he really means is the power of the law to control the system, as opposed to the power of the law to check the executive and the legislative branch in effective, independent, impartial ways. It’s clear which one we need.

It will sound nuts, but I really think we need a bipartisan commission to start a conversation among moderate Republicans and Democrats and progressives about the larger problems of American democracy beyond voter suppression and beyond gerrymandering and beyond corruption in politics. When there’s a real crisis in governance, you have to get out of single party and you have to forge a new consensus. Many countries, including Britain, have done things like this and it’s important. You can think of it like a democratic audit, one that engages the public in a real dialogue.

Again, I know this sounds silly, but when the problems run this deep, all of civic society has to be engaged in this enormous rebuilding effort. We all have to ask, “What are the key issues in America?” and frame them in ways that cut through the conventional Republican-Democrat frame.

Sean Illing

What gives you the most hope about our political future?

Pippa Norris

The mobilization has been fantastic. A lot of the mobilization has gone in dangerous directions, as we just saw in Michigan. But on the other side, we have all this energy dedicated to improving the country in big and small ways. If you look at the number of women running for office, if you look at the Black Lives Matter movement, if you look at how many people have taken to the streets to call for change — that’s all exciting and necessary. We need that energy. It tells us the country isn’t asleep at the wheel any longer, that people are waking up.

Democracy is on the ballot in this election — everybody knows it. And people are mobilized either for or against it. As long as this energy can be contained and positively channeled, there’s hope for real, lasting change. We just have to avoid violence. Plenty of countries have disputed elections, but we have to manage that conflict without violence. Once that line is crossed, it’s hard to go back.

I’ll just end by saying that a crisis is an opportunity. Just like Covid is an opportunity to rethink the nature of work, so the crisis which America’s going through is an opportunity to rethink how we’re running our liberal democracy and explore the possibilities of serious and moderate reforms, and maybe learn from other countries. Our problems won’t disappear, but with effective reforms and a renewed commitment to change, there is at least hope.

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Former UK Prime Minister Cameron backs internships for Black students .
Former UK Prime Minister Cameron backs internships for Black studentsThe 10,000 Black Interns project is based on a smaller programme that provided similar internships in the fund management industry.

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