The US Republicans are turning their backs on democracy. Only dictator who has only contempt for the rule of law, not to mention that he is corrupt and probably in the hands of foreign powers. But he is also lazy, undisciplined, egocentric and incompetent.
No, I have not lost my mind. And yes, Individual-1 is a would-be dictator who has only contempt for the rule of law, not to mention that he is corrupt and probably in the hands of foreign powers. But he is also lazy, undisciplined, egocentric and incompetent. And since the threat to democracy is not just one man, but much broader and much deeper, we are even lucky that the forces that threaten America have chosen such a ridiculous person as their figurehead.
Nevertheless, these forces could still make the race.
Anyone who wants to understand what's happening in the US needs to read Steven Levitsky's and Daniel Zilblatt's “How Democracies die”. The two professors of government education at Harvard University point out that in recent decades, several nominally democratic countries have de facto become authoritarian one-party regimes. In none of these countries did tanks roll through the streets in a classic military coup. What we experienced there were more subtle coups: the takeover or intimidation of the media, electoral fraud that brought opposition votes to voters, new rules of the game that gave the ruling party overwhelming power even when it no longer had a majority in the people Diffraction of the legal system.
Chosen Republicans are not only increasingly acquiring the values of Fidesz, the Polish PIS or other white nationalist parties, but they also share their contempt for democracy.
The classic example is Hungary, where the white-nationalist ruling party Fidesz has practically taken over a large part of the media. It has destroyed the independence of the courts, influenced elections in such a way that the votes of the supporters count and those of the opponents are not re-tailored, electoral districts in their favor and changed the electoral system, so that a minority of votes in the people becomes a majority in parliament.
Does that sound familiar? It should. Republicans in the US use similar tactics (not yet) at the federal level, but in the states where they have power.
The states are "laboratories of democracy," once said the former Supreme Court judge Louis Brandeis. As Levitsky and Zilblatt point out, they are now in danger of becoming "laboratories of authoritarianism," "if rulers, in order to stay in power, change their suffrage, redraft electoral districts, and even deprive people of their right to vote."
Screening out voters and deliberately restricting access to minority ballot boxes has become common practice in the US. Had the designated Governor of Georgia Brian Kemp - who was the Secretary of State to oversee his own election - won without these tactics? Not likely.
The GOP has also manipulated election districts on a large scale. Some were reassured that the landslide victory of the Democrats, thanks to the large majority of votes, actually brought with it a comparable majority of seats in the US House of Representatives. But nothing but reassuring is what happened in the states, because there, the majority of votes did not pull a majority in parliament after itself.
In particular, let's look at the events in Wisconsin.
The shameless grip on power that Republicans are currently pulling away in Madison has been widely reported in the US media. After losing all electoral posts in Wisconsin in November, the Republicans used the power vacuum until the new incumbents took over to dramatically curtail the power of these offices, leaving state rule in the hands of the GOP Majority has.
The fact is that the GOP, in its current composition, is ready for anything to seize power and stay in power.
Less attention was paid to the fact that the republican majority in the House of Representatives and Senate came about undemocratically. In the November elections, Democratic candidates won 54 percent of the vote, but received only 37 percent of the seats.
In other words, Wisconsin is just becoming a Hungarian on the Great Lakes, a state where elections are held, but it does not count because the ruling party clings to power no matter what voters do.
And worst of all, to the best of my knowledge, not a single prominent Republican in Washington has condemned this cramped hold on power in Wisconsin, nor a similar action in Michigan and not even the obvious electoral fraud in North Carolina. Elected Republicans are not only increasingly suited to the values of Fidesz, the Polish PIS or other white nationalist parties, but they share with them also the contempt for democracy. The GOP is an authoritarian party in waiting.
And that's why we should be grateful to Trump. If he were not so underground, the Democrats might have won the House of Representatives only by a majority of 4 or 5 instead of 8.6 percent. In that case, the Republicans might have retained the majority, and we would continue on our way to a permanent one-party rule. Instead, we are heading for a time of divided government, in which the opposition party has the power to block laws. In addition, perhaps more importantly, she may issue compulsory summonses and investigate Trump's criminal offenses.
However, that could only be a delay. No matter what becomes of Donald Trump: his party has turned its back on democracy. And that should scare us.
The fact is that the GOP, in its current composition, is ready for anything to seize power and stay in power. As long as that is so and the Republicans remain politically competitive, we are only ever separated from the loss of democracy in America.
REMARK: This article was first published by Paul Krugman for The New York Times from where it was translated into German by Anne Emmert and re-published by IPG. (Internationale Politik und Gesellschaft) It was translated back into English by me.