Monday, June 14, 2021

Democracy on the Rocks

Surely, political scientist Brian Klaas makes a salient and often ignored point: if American democracy does not appear to be working, other countries will not be adopting it. Period. End of thought. Verdict: true.

Unfortunately, Klaas, who teaches at Johns Hopkins and who has written a column for the Washington Post, reflects the problem more than the solution. You see, by his lights, the fault lies entirely with Donald Trump. 

He is up in arms about what he calls the January 6 insurrection-- not Trump’s finest hour-- but he ignores completely the months of insurrectionary violence that consumed major American cities. If American democracy, and Democratic Party governance, cannot control the streets of its major cities, if it cannot tamp down violent crime, surely that is not an argument for democracy.

After all, the theory behind democracy is that giving the people a say in their governance will channel their views into the political process and away from street violence.

And, of course, Klaas rattles on about the Republican objections to the way the 2020 vote was conducted, but still, he never mentions that Democratic politicians failed, after the 2016 election, to recognize the legitimacy of the Trump presidency. They harassed and abused President Trump, beginning before he took office, and did everything in their power to render his government dysfunctional. 

The first rule of democratic decorum is that the losing party respects the results of the election. On this score Democrats failed in 2016, and continued to do so through their impeachment vote in January 2020. If you are looking for a gratuitous display of flagrant disrespect, look to the second Trump impeachment. Democrats are in no position to criticize those who are simply following their rule book. 

Surely, the seditious rhetoric directed against Trump provided the script for the Democrat-inspired riots of the spring and summer of 2020. 

So, American democracy is dysfunctional. As are American Democrats. America is setting a bad example for the rest of the world. One of the reasons is that American political scientists like Klaas have no sense of how to provide an objective analysis. They are simply thinking like Democratic Party hacks. It is a bad look, indeed.

As Klaas notes, America’s allies are despondent over the state of American politics:

U.S. allies see our democracy as a shattered, washed-up has-been. We used to provide a democratic model for the world, but no longer. The chaos, dysfunction and insanity of the past several years have taken a predictable toll.

The numbers are depressing. Just 14 percent of Germans see American democracy as a desirable model for other countries, while 54 percent say that it “used to be a good example, but has not been in recent years.” Public opinion in France, Britain, South Korea, Japan and Australia is similarly bleak. In New Zealand, fewer than 1 in 10 citizens sees American democracy as a desirable model.

Speaking of shattered, washed-up has-beens, countries around the world must have noticed, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post, that America just elected a shattered, washed-up has-been to the office of the presidency. Even the pathetic prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, reportedly said that Kamala Harris would be America’s president before the next election. Considering what an incompetent fool Harris has shown herself to be, it does not restore faith in American democracy. 

In short, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris give evidence of the problem, not the solution.

And they highlight a disturbing, inescapable dilemma that the Biden administration must confront: Until the United States fixes its broken democracy at home, it will be unable to effectively fight authoritarianism abroad.

Put bluntly: The United States’ authoritarian slide isn’t just a domestic policy issue. It’s a foreign policy disaster, too.

Klaas, who seems not to be able to express himself very clearly, is trying to say that America took an authoritarian turn with Trump, and that he is counting on Biden to right the ship. Incidentally, he should know better than to split infinitives, too.

Of course, as many commentators have noticed, if Trump really had been an authoritarian, then his Congressional and media detractors would never have been able to harass him non-stop for the four years of his presidency.

Again, Klaas blames it all on Trump:

Ever since Donald Trump emerged as the Republican front-runner in 2016, China has been exploiting the unhinged turmoil he ushered in as evidence that democracy is a bad joke rather than a serious way of governing a society. As the Trump years descended into mayhem, China ramped up its rhetoric. And when Trump’s failures to contain the covid-19 pandemic became plain for the world to see, Beijing cited it as further evidence that democracy was a failed experiment.

If we accept that Trump did not do a great job with the coronavirus pandemic, we should also accept that so-called scientists who were leading the fight were also political partisans who were making decisions that they believed would damage Trump. To think that Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birks have no responsibility for the pandemic response is mind-numbingly naive.

So, countries that do not want their major cities to descend into turmoil and who do not want a system where the opposition party becomes a disloyal opposition are turning to more authoritarian models, as in, China.

This matters because emerging economies are slowly getting pulled into China’s orbit as they seek a viable blueprint for their own development. In Afrobarometer surveys of public opinion across Africa, China has pulled even with the United States. Six in 10 Africans have a favorable view of China’s role in their country. And while the United States is still seen as offering the best development model, China isn’t far behind. This is a drastic shift in just a few decades — and it will play an increasingly important role in U.S. foreign policy as some of these developing countries decide whether to follow Washington or Beijing.

Horror of horrors, Klaas suggests that the United States has lost the moral high ground. In truth it has nothing to do with the moral high ground-- which mostly just makes you a target-- but systemic dysfunction.

The United States has lost the moral high ground. The world might have always been wary of lectures from the United States about the virtues of democracy and freedom, but at least those on the receiving end of those lectures often believed that the country giving the lecture knew how to build a successful democracy. That’s no longer true.

Happily perhaps for him and his editors, Klaas then offers a lame metaphor by saying that we need a president whose words pack a democratic punch.

At a time of authoritarian resurgence, we need the words of the U.S. president to pack a democratic punch. Instead, they ring hollow. After all, due to ongoing Republican machinations, American voters can’t even be sure that their right to vote will be protected in the years to come. What can the United States teach the world about democracy when the country is continuing its steady slide toward authoritarian politics?

Do you think that Joe Biden’s words pack a democratic punch. The man cannot hold an open press briefing, because his handlers are terrified that he will start drooling and go off script. Biden’s words are completely rehearsed, at best, read off of cue cards. He is a sad argument for American democracy.

Again, Klaas blames it all on Trump, inveighing against Trump’s wish to jail his political opponents-- tell me when that happened, professor?-- while completely ignoring the ongoing criminal investigations that Trump’s detractors hope will put the Donald in jail.

Worse, now that the world doesn’t respect or admireU.S. democracy, dictators have a rhetorical trump card. They can point to the fact that Trump (falsely) claimed the U.S. election was rigged; that Republicans are actually trying to rig elections with voter suppression and worsened partisan gerrymandering; and that the former president repeatedly called to jail his political opponents. Our hypocrisy will enhance dictators’ impunity.

With political scientists like Klaas, we are not in very good shape. Intellectual life has lost the name of fair and objective analysis. After all, you cannot attack foreign countries for producing propaganda when you have turned most major media outlets and most social media platforms and have turned them into non-stop propaganda. You cannot have a functioning democracy when you have monopolized the marketplace of ideas and have encouraged Silicon Valley oligarchs to shut down free speech, beginning with that of the former president of the United States.


RKV said...

"Not Trump's finest hour" - please stop repeating the party line and think for a bit. The so-called "insurrection" was a made for TV moment. IOW - a scam. A con job by Pelosi who refused Trumps offer of additional national guard protections and with the cooperation of Capitol Hill police who let the protestors in to the building. We have that last part ON VIDEO. Say her name - ASHLI BABBIT. She was murdered. Use of deadly force was not legal when she was shot as there was no danger of death or serious bodily harm.

Anonymous said...

There is significant evidence that the "insurrection" began before Trump even showed up to speak AND that it was pushed by Antifa and BLM interlopers with the intent of discrediting Trump's supporters. The "riot" was actually peaceful and access to the capitol was mysteriously allowed by the capitol police, UNTIL one of the demonstrators was shot needlessly and probably criminally. It was after that when the demonstrators understood that Ashli Babbit was shot in cold blood that the demonstrators became more violent, which coincidently was exactly when the capitol police became more violent. Most of the demonstrators that were arrested did nothing illegal except perhaps trespassing. Oddly those caught on film doing illegal things wore black block and are as of yet unidentified, odd because they were clearly NOT Trump supporters. It is clear that what is going on here is "lawfare" using our DOJ like the KGB and using our penal system like Gulags. IF this isn't rectified soon I do believe we are all lost. This is like 1933 in Germany or Russia in 1917. The many political and illegal acts of the left are literally identical to both of those era's in those countries.

370H55V said...

"[i]f Trump really had been an authoritarian, then his Congressional and media detractors would never have been able to harass him non-stop for the four years of his presidency."

And if Trump had been an authoritarian, he would have ignored all those court orders from pipsqueak judges in Hawaii. If Trump had been an authoritarian, he would have told the SCOTUS where to go re DACA: "If Obama can executive order it, I can executive order undo it!"

"Six in 10 Africans have a favorable view of China’s role in their country."

That is truly remarkable when you consider the outright blatant racism of the Chinese and their open plan to re-colonize Africa. I guess slavery is OK as long as the masters aren't white.

Suzannemarie said...

The Queen of the Britons will celebrate her Platinum Jubilee next year, marking 70 years since she ascended to the throne.
US President Biden: She reminds me of my mother.
The Queen has met every US president since the Fifties save Lyndon Johnson. One wonders how she rates them, in private.

Sam L. said...

"if American democracy does not appear to be working, other countries will not be adopting it. Period. End of thought. Verdict: true." Ahhhhhh, but our media LIEEEEEEEEES. Which gives the appearance of "not working".

"Unfortunately, Klaas, who teaches at Johns Hopkins and who has written a column for the Washington Post,..." Sooo, more WaPoo WaPooping...

"And they highlight a disturbing, inescapable dilemma that the Biden administration must confront: Until the United States fixes its broken democracy at home, it will be unable to effectively fight authoritarianism abroad. " Not gonna happen while the Dems are running this show.

urbane legend said...

What is wrong with these people? What is in the water they drink that they have this disconnect from the real world, and revel in it? If the difference between a cup of black coffee and used motor oil is obvious, so should be the difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

I never was worried about " The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, . . . . " under Donald Trump. I have been under Joe Biden from day one.

Walt said...

The authoritarians are the ones in power now. The ones who want to control the “news,” indoctrinate the children, stack the court, stack the senate, undo the filibuster to create that dreaded “tyranny of the (manufactured) majority,”, and anally regulate every aspect of what used to be called private life.

However, though I liked his administration’s policies and occasionally liked the man himself, Trump badly misled people into thinking that Pence could constitutionally nullify the election results which (beyond his control,—and mobs are always beyond control) led to a riot infiltrated by lunatics from both ends of the spectrum. . And I further believe he greatly contributed to the crucial loss in Georgia by telling voters to take their marbles and go home. I sincerely hope he won’t run again because he would lose and America would be lost. My hope is that he’ll fully endorse Desantis.

Anonymous said...

"Trump badly misled people into thinking that Pence could constitutionally nullify the election results"

The simple truth is we don't know that. There is as good an arguement that Trump was right about that as there is that he was wrong. Like so many constitutional questions the Supremes (for better or worse) decide what is constitutional. Many constitutional experts agreed with Trump, many disagreed. I wonder if the lefts practice of punishing anyone who agreed with Trump may have influenced some of those constitutional scholars who simply decided to lie a little about what they really believed rather than be caught agreeing with Trump.

My question is if the evidence of voter fraud is as obvious and overwhelming as it was in the presidential election SHOULDN'T the leaders try to correct the problem??? Those constitutional "experts" who thought they shouldn't must surely be wrong. This kind of goes back to the Nuremberg trials where it was clearly decided that going along with political crimes is wrong regardless of your rank or who told you to do so. Everyone who certified those stolen elections should go to jail AND everyone who knew the elections were stolen and did nothing should pay a price as well. This ISN'T about Trump it is about a communist/Marxist takeover of our country.

IamDevo said...

It was not until Champollion deciphered the Rosetta Stone that Egyptian hieroglyphics became understandable. Today, our Rosetta Stone reveals the following: Take EVERYTHING published in the corporate media and reject it as a lie. Modern "journalism" is propaganda. Accept that the Washington Post is Pravda and the NY Times is Izvestia and remember that, "There is no Pravda in Izvestia and no Izvestia in Pravda."

Anonymous said...

Everything Democrats and Leftists scream about is a projection. They are the authoritarians. Klaas — a sham intellectual — lives in an echochamber and now scribbles in that rag that sets the agenda for the echochamber: the Washington Post.

What is clear to me is that they want to destroy the Constitution. Whether by subversion or overt destruction, they are the aggressors. Instead of We the People, it’s We the Lightworkers… the very people who are serially incapable of building a functioning website with unlimited resources. Websites that are supposed to deliver superior public policy results to the people they claim cognitive mastery over.

Everywhere you look, they complain about the threats to our democracy, the system, and complain that nothing is working. They really are positioning for a Constitutional takedown. The SCOTUS commission, neutering the Second Amendment, HR1, etc.

Biden is a stooge, a puppet. He doesn’t know where he is most of the time. Well, SOMEONE is in charge! Who? Valerie Jarrett?

I don’t give a hoot what the rest of the world thinks of us. Switzerland is the only country that ever adopted our constitutionally-limited federal republic model. The rest of the world has followed the parliamentary democracy model, which is dangerous. Parliamentary democracy is a unicameral, winner-take-all, majoritarian nightmare of a system. There are no checks on government power. That’s the system Democrats and Leftists want because they can control the institutions and levers of power. Look at the lunatic response to COVID in the United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, etc. The people have no voice, no power — no way to keep government from encroaching on every corner of their lives.

These are our betters, the smart set. Pathetic.