}

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The decline of American democracy won't be televised


This video from Vox describes the path the USA could take to the end of its democracy. This is based on classic political science theory on how democracies can die without violence or force. As Vox puts in the YouTube description:
We imagine democratic failure will start with a spectacular event: a military coup or the declaration of martial law. But in a country like the U.S., democratic backsliding will likely to start off looking a lot more normal – with slow, legal attacks on our democratic institutions. It's the kind of thing that won't generate many news headlines – at least not until it's too late.
The question here is obvious: It it already too late?

The current regime in the White House has demonstrated consistent and fervent devotion to distraction, lack of transparency, deception, misinformation, and outright lies. The fact that many of the regime’s lies are about things that don’t matter or are insignificant (like lying about how “large” the crowd was(n’t) at Don’s swearing in) misses the point: They lie so much and so often so that eventually no one will be able to tell what’s true and what isn’t. This is also what’s behind their constant use of the phrase “fake news” to describe everything that they don’t like or find uncomfortable or inconvenient—even when that news is actually fully verified, factual, and truthful, though unflattering to Don and his regime. They need to sow distrust and disbelief in journalism so that no criticism is effective or, ultimately, even possible.

The fact that Republicans are pressing ahead with Trumpcare, even though big majorities oppose it, shows they don’t have a commitment to democracy and that they don’t care about the will of the people (apart from the insanely rich ones, of course). This is not going to change unless the hardcore base of the party turns against Don, and that will almost certainly never happen. Indeed, it seems he has a hardcore of support among the general public: Frank Newport from Gallup pointed out recently that Don’s approval rating, though well below historical averages, “has not changed materially over the past four months”.

Democrats, meanwhile, are plagued by a fifth column within their ranks, people who claim to oppose Don and the Republicans but whose incessant attacks only serve to advance the extremist agenda of Don and the Republican Party. To be sure, the Democratic Party has many very real problems, but dealing with them is markedly more difficult when there are people who seem far more concerned with tearing down the only vehicle for opposition now, and for defeating the Republicans next year. Apparently both mainstream Democrats and their supposed opponents on the same side haven’t learned from the 2016 elections.

I think the next three months will be crucial. During that time, the case must not only be firmly made for removing Don from office, but the necessity for doing do so must be widely accepted. Only then will there be an imperative among voters for taking away political control from Republicans one year later. If we go much past that point without the tide having decidedly turned, it may be too late.

Can American democracy be saved? I think so, yes. But much needs to happen for that to be the case. If the effort fails, then it definitely won’t be televised. This is one good time to hope for wall-to-wall television coverage.

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