four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:
- The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.
- He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.
- He or she tolerates violence.
- He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.
.. “With the exception of Richard Nixon, no major-party presidential candidate met even one of these four criteria over the last century,” they say, which sounds reassuring. Unfortunately, they have one update: “Donald Trump met them all.”
.. democracies are more likely to wither at the hands of insiders who gain power initially through elections. That’s what happened, to one degree or another, in
- Russia, the
- Sri Lanka,
- Poland and
.. Venezuela was a relatively prosperous democracy, for example, when the populist demagogue Hugo Chávez tapped the frustrations of ordinary citizens to be elected president in 1998.
.. the Venezuelan public overwhelmingly believed that “democracy is always the best form of government,” with only one-quarter saying that authoritarianism is sometimes preferable. Yet against their will, Venezuelans slid into autocracy.
“This is how democracies now die,” Levitsky and Ziblatt write. “Democratic backsliding today begins at the ballot box.”.. he has tried to undermine institutions and referees of our political system: judges, the Justice Department, law enforcement agencies like the F.B.I., the intelligence community, the news media, the opposition party and Congress. But to his great frustration, American institutions have mostly passed the stress test with flying colors... Levitsky and Ziblatt warn of the unraveling of democratic norms — norms such as treating the other side as rivals rather than as enemies, condemning violence and bigotry, and so on. This unraveling was underway long before Trump (Newt Gingrich nudged it along in the 1990s), but Trump accelerated it... It matters when Trump
- denounces the “deep state Justice Department,”
- calls Hillary Clinton a “criminal” and
- urges “jail” for Huma Abedin,
- denounces journalists as the “enemy of the American people” and
- promises to pay the legal fees of supporters who “beat the crap” out of protesters... The answer, they said, is not for Trump opponents to demonize the other side or to adopt scorched-earth tactics, for this can result in “a death spiral in which rule-breaking becomes pandemic.” It’s also not terribly effective, as we’ve seen in Venezuela... they suggested protesting vigorously — but above all, in defense of rights and institutions, not just against the ruler... build coalitions, even if that means making painful compromises, so that protests are very broadly based.