How Democracies Die
from author/editor Walter
Discovery 1 Best way to stop authoritarians is to make
sure they never come to power.
Dictator Methods: Pre Cold
War-Military Coup, Post Cold War-Win Elections, then take control
change in US caudate nomination process opened the door for
a modern day US demigod.
Through the 1968 election, Party leaders picked he candidate at
This smoked room process did not always result in appropriate
candidates, but it did keep extremists out.
By 1972, primaries, conducted over many months, were binding.
The filtration process was gone. A authoritarian had an easier
path to the Presidency.
The Democratic Party created super delegates who can cote for
anyone, to hopefully act as a gatekeeper.
establishment, could act as a gatekeeper by refusing to support
candidates that went to far
Or, they could abdicate this responsibility and overlook
Democracies did failed in 1920's Italy, 1930's Germany,
There, political party leaders, hoping to tap into a Demagogy's popularity, make and eventually lose,
In the U.S. has had a few politicians, especially during war,
who were not checked by their party.
President Lincoln had a free hand and a civil war was needed to
maintain our constitution.
Discovery 2 Our
constitution alone is not enough
to prevent authoritarianism from destroying the fabric of our democracy.
Two Norms of
Democracy are required for stability, they are the soft
Guard Rails Norms of Democracy.
1. Mutual toleration:
public and private acceptance of opponent's legitimacy.
2. Institutional forbearance:
under utilization of one's power-
by accepting the other party's legitimacy and not follow
the letter of the law.
Problem: Politian's are throwing forbearance to the wind.
Note: fights to the death brought down many 1930' European
3. Historical Analysis: Over a Rocky Road, U.S. Soft
Rails Democratic Norms Grew slowly.
Hamilton and Jefferson were bitter political enemies.
Both felt the other side would destroy the Republic.
President Washington began presidential norm developed.
But they failed during the
run-up to, and conducting of, the Civil War.
After a few decades, the Guard Rails norms returned.
No Impeachments, No Court Packing, Judicious use of Filibusters and
Presidents refrained from acting unilaterally by bypassing Congress
and the courts.
4. Six Democratic Norms, If Abused, Could
Bring Down Our Democracy!
issued by the Obama administration on visa and
foreign visitor processing that aimed "to enhance
and expedite travel to and arrival in the United
States by foreign nationals was
reversed by Trump.
This was one of many
trump roll backs of Obama
numbers have dropped
dramatically in the last 100 years. Trump may set a
This is an example of
Supreme Court Packing
was first tried by the
first President Adams.
FDR's famous court
illustrate the respect
many have for political norms.
are crated by the lack of a senate speaking time
limits Attempts to limit the time for
Budget Act of 1974
created the budget
changes made in 2013 and 2017
that required only a simple majority to invoke cloture on
But, most legislation still requires 60 votes.
This is an example of Mutual Toleration.
Appointments Advise and Consent Clause
The Senate rejected only 27 (20%) of the
149 nominees to the Supreme Court made between the
nation's founding and 2005.
This is an example
Only two U.S. presidents have been formally
impeached by Congress-
no U.S. president has ever been removed from office
through impeachment. Only two other U.S.
presidents have faced formal
in the House
They were Richard
Many other presidents have been threatened with
impeachment by political foes without gaining any
real traction in Congress.
This is an example
5. Following the Civil War was a century when
constitutional checks and balance,
with the help of Democratic Norms, protected our constitution.
But political stability was maintained at the price of
racial exclusion and authoritarian rule of the South.
Substantial progress was made in fulfilling the goal of
Democracy began again in the mid 19f60's.
But so to did a new period of polarization.
Checks and Balances provided by the U.S.
are not enough to restrain overreaching politicians.
We also rely on unwritten rules, our guardrails.
Political leaders must be committed to the traditional
political norms of
mutual toleration-accepting the other party as legitimate,
and self-restrain- not always following the letter of
6. Political norms have been unraveling for two or
Early signs in the 1990's when Republicans tried to shut
down government and impeach Clinton.
In 2000's got going with during Obama's campaign when
he was called a Marxist, Terrorist,.
Birther Movement questioned his
All Democrats were not Real American.
7. America has always had an extremist fringe
these comments were from prominent politicians
who were beginning to deny the opposition's legitimacy.
Politicians had decided to play constitutional
exploit our Democracy by following the letter of the
Constitutional Hardball tactics
stonewalling nominations, court packing and exploiting the power
of the purse
have all been recently used by Republicans.
Both parties have used impeachment.
8. Has not-do has become a norm?
Filibuster and government shutdowns have became common.
Lack of a budget almost caused the U.S. Treasury to default.
Finally, the US Senate did not allowing the President to fill a
Supreme Court vacancy.
This had not been done since Post Civil War Reconstruction.
They can do/not-do about anything.
Not-do was becoming the norm?
Some politicians were not accepting
Any tool was to stop the opposition from destroying America was
The problem is not that we elected a demigod.
The problem is we did so when our Guard
Rail Norms are becoming unmoored.
9. Trump's Use of Strategies Used by
Authoritarians to Consolidate power.
Capture the RefereesDuring week one, Trump demonstrated striking hostility
our law enforcement, intelligence, ethics and court referees.
demanded loyalty and compliance from many of his
pressured FBI-Comey to drop investigations of
recently departed NSD-Flynn.
DNI-Coats and CIA-Pompeo to intervene in
the Comey investigation.
intervened with DNI-Coats and NSA-Rogers
to release statements denying the
existence of his collusion with Russia. Both refused.
controversially fired Comey.
One other FBI director had ethical problems and was
fired Manhattan US Attorney
Preet Bharara for continuing his
of money laundering activities which were reportedly getting close to
Trump's inner circle.
reactions to the Mueller
were at best, controversial.
Sideline Key Players
Attacks on the media for being
enemy of the people because hey broadcast fake news,
and conspiring against him.
These were followed by threats
to change the libel laws
to use antitrust actions against CNN
to block the Time-Warner merger
to challenge the license of NBC and other networks.
To date Trump's threats have resulted in no action.
Rewriting Rules Against
called for bolstering Republican majority
strength in the US Senate by
changing archaic Senate rules including tie
The filibuster t was only eliminated for Supreme
which allowed for the Neil Gorsuch confirmation.
most antidemocratic move may have been creating
Commission on Election Integrity
to uncover election fraud perpetrated by
illegal immigrant voters.
Independent studies had show almost no election
States refused to hand over election data.
He disbanded the
Through 2017, Trump has repeatedly
bumped up against the guard rails,
but "he did not
break through them."
He did not cross
over to authoritarianism.
Note: I do not know which is most
that he openly tried to bring back Jim Crow laws
that he thought his attempt to disenfranchise voters
that it represents his inability to accept reality
that like many of his actions, it caters to his base
Discovery 3 Partisan Polarization
Caused by Fear and Loathing
is Eroding the Two Guiderail Norms of Democracy
In 1960, four or five percent of both parties
reported they would be displeased
if their child married into the other party. Today it is fifty percent.
In 2017 forty-nine percent of Republicans and
fifty-five percent of Democrats
say the other party makes them
We have not seen this kind of party hatred since the end of
This is not
normal liberal/conservative polarization about health care and
Religion and Way of Life.
The 4G's of Politics
must protect the constitution.
But, Polarization has frayed this process in much of the Western
4. Future Possible Post Trump Scenarios
Swift Democratic Recovery
as Trump, [like most
loses public support or is impeached of resigns.
But Trump is a result, and not the cause, of building Polarity.
A pro-Trump ultra conservative
GOP maintains control
of the presidency, the U.S. Congress and a vast number of
[Is the Republican control of state governments the result of a
Was requiring relegiouse companies to pay for abortion
Gaining solid control of the Supreme Court could result in
changes that result in durable white majorities.
Opposition could cause dramatic political stability.
Political Polarization will continue to grow
Most Americans look at America through Rose Colored
Democracy, like Capitalism, has a Cycle-a Polarity Cycle when
Democracy Brakes Down.
Polarity Cycle 1 was the period before the Revolution
after which it peaked, and civility return
as both Democracy and her Guard Rails Norms matured.
of Good Feelings,
associated with President Monroe (1817–1825)
was characterized by the dissolution of national political
Polarity Cycle 2 began gaining steam with the growth
of the abolition movement.
Both Mutual Toleration and Institutional forbearance
forged a the compromise
to pass the 1854 Kansas Nebraska Act but it left in an
unhappiness and a
Eventually Democracy broke down, a Civil War resulted, and the
nations democratic ideals were restored.
The military maintained peace in the South as one-part
Republican Northern Oligarchs
maintained dictatorial controls.
Polarity Cycle 3 A Populist Era and a Progressive Movement
erupted during the Gilded Age.
Some would say many average citizens were poorly represented
as the Supreme Court protected property rights over human
Polarity Cycle 4
The passage of the 1965 Civil rights Act began the latest
It accelerated with the Great Society Program and then Roe
Civility, which had been
reasonable for a century, began to decrease.
Global Growth the Rise of Populism
is could somewhere on the 4th cycle.
Who Controls Democratic Politic
theoretical traditions of the study of American politics
Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic-Elite Domination,
Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism
Each predicts influence over public policy:
average citizens; economic elites
organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.
We use one statistical model to contrast theoretical predictions
against each other.
We used a unique data set
that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy
Multivariate Analysis Indicates
Independent Group Impacts on U.S. Government Policy
Teconomic elites and organized groups representing business
Study support for theories of
Economic-Elite Domination and Biased Pluralism.
Little or No
Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian
Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average
Because the Christian Right and NRA are made up of
how can mass-based interest groups,
"have little or no independent influence."
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