‘Greatest threat to democracy’: Commander of bin Laden raid slams Trump’s anti-media sentiment

The Washington Post reports: William H. McRaven, a retired four-star admiral and former Navy SEAL, defended journalists this week, calling President Trump’s denunciation of the media as “the enemy of the American people” the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s seen in his lifetime.

That’s coming from a man who’s seen major threats to democracy.

McRaven, who was commander of the secretive Joint Special Operations Command, is the man who organized and oversaw the highly risky operation that killed Osama bin Laden almost six years ago. The admiral from Texas had tapped a special unit of Navy SEALs to carry out the May 2011 raid on the elusive terrorist’s hideout, a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock reported shortly after bin Laden’s death.

McRaven left the military in 2014 after nearly four decades and later became chancellor of the University of Texas System. The UT-Austin alumnus, who has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, addressed a crowd at the university’s Moody College of Communication on Tuesday.

“We must challenge this statement and this sentiment that the news media is the enemy of the American people,” McRaven said, according to the Daily Texan. “This sentiment may be the greatest threat to democracy in my lifetime.” [Continue reading…]

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The slippery slope leading towards dictatorship

Thomas Jefferson (1787): “were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

The Washington Post reports: Sen. John McCain spoke out Saturday in defense of the free press after President Trump lashed out against the news media several times over the past week, at one point declaring it “the enemy of the American People!

Such talk, McCain (R-Ariz.) said on NBC News in an interview set to air Sunday, was “how dictators get started.”

“In other words, a consolidation of power,” McCain told “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd from Munich. “When you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.” [Continue reading…]

On Saturday in Florida, Trump continued with his vilification of the press:

 

CBS News reports: Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, advised Americans to take President Trump’s attacks on the media “seriously,” following the president’s denunciations of the press as the “enemy.”

“There’s been a debate about when to take the president seriously,” CBS’ John Dickerson said in a “Face the Nation” interview with Priebus Saturday. “He recently tweeted that the press was the enemy of the American people. Should we take that seriously from him?”

“Well, I think you should take it seriously,” Priebus replied. “I think that the problem we’ve got is that we’re talking about bogus stories like the one in the New York Times, that we’ve had constant contact with Russian officials. The next day, the Wall Street Journal had a story that the intel community was not giving the president a full intelligence briefing. Both stories grossly inaccurate, overstated, overblown, and it’s total garbage.”

Sources told CBS News there is a “chill” in the flow of intelligence to the White House, both because of comments from the president about the intelligence community and anxiety over the handling of sensitive information about Russian interference in the 2016 election. [Continue reading…]

Thomas Jefferson (1823): “the only security of all is in a free press. the force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. the agitation it produces must be submitted to. it is necessary to keep the waters pure.”

Nate Cohn writes: Donald J. Trump won the presidential election as the least popular candidate in the polling era. He assumed the presidency with the lowest approval rating of any incoming president.

And his ratings have continued to fall. The question isn’t whether it’s bad for Mr. Trump and the Republicans, but how bad.

Usually, presidents ride high at the start of their terms. After one month, presidents average around a 60 percent approval rating. Even re-elected presidents with considerable baggage, like Barack Obama or George W. Bush, still had approval ratings around or over 50 percent.

The worst data for Mr. Trump comes from live interview telephone surveys like Pew Research and Gallup, which pin his approval rating among adults around 40 percent.

The most recent Gallup survey, the first conducted entirely after the resignation of Michael Flynn as national security adviser, has Mr. Trump’s approval rating down to 38 percent, with 56 percent disapproving (a differential of minus 18).

Mr. Trump’s ratings aren’t just bad for an incoming president. They’re bad for a president at any point in a term. [Continue reading…]

The ability of a loudmouth in the Oval Office to assemble a few thousand gullible supporters in Florida does not show that the force of public opinion is on Trump’s side. On the contrary, by employing the same power dynamics used by terrorists (drawing national and international attention to local events), Trump is merely using his ability to dominate media coverage as an instrument for amplifying the range of his desired influence.

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Michael Flynn, general chaos

Nicholas Schmidle writes: Two days before the Inauguration of Donald Trump as the forty-fifth President of the United States, Michael Flynn, a retired lieutenant general and former intelligence officer, sat down in a Washington restaurant. On the tablecloth, he placed a leather-bound folder and two phones, which flashed with text messages and incoming calls. A gaunt, stern-looking man with hooded eyes and a Roman nose, Flynn is sharp in both manner and language. He had been one of Trump’s earliest supporters, a vociferous booster on television, on Twitter, and, most memorably, from the stage of the Republican National Convention. Strident views and a penchant for conspiracy theories often embroiled him in controversy — in a hacked e-mail from last summer, former Secretary of State Colin Powell called him “right-wing nutty” — but Trump rewarded Flynn’s loyalty by making him his national-security adviser. Now, after months of unrelenting scrutiny, Flynn seemed to believe that he could find a measure of obscurity in the West Wing, steps away from Trump and the Oval Office. “I want to go back to having an out-of-sight role,” he told me.

That ambition proved illusory. Three weeks into his job, the Washington Post revealed that Flynn, while he was still a private citizen and Barack Obama was still President, had discussed American sanctions against Russia with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian Ambassador in Washington. The conversations were possibly illegal. Flynn and Kislyak’s communications, by phone and text, occurred on the same day the Obama Administration announced the expulsion of thirty-five Russian diplomats in retaliation for Russia’s efforts to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Flynn had previously denied talking about sanctions with the Ambassador. At the restaurant, he said that he didn’t think there was anything untoward about the call: “I’ve had a relationship with him since my days at the D.I.A.” — the Defense Intelligence Agency, which Flynn directed from 2012 to 2014. But, in a classic Washington spectacle of action followed by coverup followed by collapse, Flynn soon started backpedalling, saying, through a spokesman, that he “couldn’t be certain that the topic [of sanctions] never came up.”

He compounded his predicament by making the same denial to Vice-President Mike Pence, who repeated it on television. Flynn later apologized to Pence. But by then his transgressions had been made public. In a White House characterized by chaos and conflict — a Byzantine court led by a reality-television star, family members, and a circle of ideologues and loyalists — Flynn was finished.

The episode created countless concerns, about the President’s truthfulness, competence, temperament, and associations. How much did Trump know and when did he know it?

John McCain, a Republican and the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the fiasco was a “troubling indication of the dysfunction of the current national-security apparatus” and raised “further questions” about the Trump Administration’s intentions regarding Vladimir Putin’s Russia. [Continue reading…]

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Trump’s news conferences look a lot like Putin’s

Hannah S. Chapman writes: This week, President Trump’s first solo news conference since taking the presidency was fodder for late-night television. But that’s just an extension of what we’ve seen since he took office. Under Trump and press secretary Sean Spicer, the near-daily White House news briefings have changed from routine interactions with a professional press corps to a high-profile media spectacle. The briefings frequently beat soap operas in daytime TV ratings and have been immortalized on “Saturday Night Live.” While that’s a shift away from normal U.S. politics, it resembles Russian President Vladimir Putin’s media strategy.

Under Putin, the Kremlin has built a media empire centered around the idea of information as entertainment. Access to the president is limited to circuslike news conferences attended primarily by regime supporters who ask the president softball questions. The most recent of these conferences, held in December, included questions about stray animals, chess and kvass, a traditional drink made from fermented bread. One reporter even asked Putin how it felt to be “the most influential person in the world.”

These news conferences offer the facade of genuine dialogue and the illusion of freedom of the press while giving the president the tools to control the political dialogue and distract the media from important issues.

What might the Russian example tell us about the White House’s communications strategy? [Continue reading…]

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John McCain on the survival of the West

 

Many of those of us who have an interest in and experience of living in non-Western cultures have a distaste for what can sound like sanctimonious and domineering claims about Western superiority.

What is superior about a civilization that built its strength through subjugating others? The failings of the West are easy enough to discern from a passing glance over world history.

Nevertheless, the value of open societies is currently being undermined from within, not by people who are promoting better alternatives but on the contrary mostly by those whose cynicism has festered deep within the only societies they have ever known.

To be concerned about the future of Western democracies does not require overlooking their failings but simply recognizing that if they fail, what will follow will without doubt be much worse.

This isn’t a matter of conjecture. Look at the Middle East and the effects of the withdrawal of American power. This hasn’t opened the doors to self-determination. It has instead led to an ongoing and very bloody power struggle between competing autocratic powers.

What the retreat of the West facilitates both outside and inside the West is the rise of nationalism, authoritarianism, and xenophobia.

When Western power can be superseded by something better — something that better reflects global diversity — then it will indeed be time to dispense with the very concept of the West. But we haven’t got anywhere close to arriving at that point in history.

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Why Trump wants to disempower institutions that protect the truth

Lawrence Douglas writes: Donald Trump is hardly the first president to lie. But what distinguishes Trump from previous presidential fibsters are his meta-lies. These claim that the very institutions empowered in a democracy to expose lies are themselves corrupt, dishonest and lying. In spreading his meta-lies, Trump poisons the well of democratic discourse.

The great political thinker Hannah Arendt once dryly observed: “Lies have always been regarded as necessary and justifiable tools … of the statesman’s trade.” Arendt writes that what distinguishes democratic from authoritarian regimes is not the greater honesty of democratic politicians. The saving grace of democracies is the existence of neutral, politically-independent institutions capable of safeguarding truth from the politics of prevarication.

It is precisely these institutions that are the target of Trump’s most persistent lies and calumny.

These institutions – the university, the judiciary and the free press – subject the statements of politicians to truth-testing. In this way, citizens can make informed choices at the polls. Without these institutions – and, just as crucially, without belief in their integrity – democratic self-governance would be impossible.

That is why it is significant that after storefront windows in downtown Berkeley were smashed by non-student rioters, Trump threatened to withdraw federal funds from the University of California, Berkeley, for practicing “violence on innocent people with a different point of view”.

After US district court judge James Robart, a stalwart Republican jurist appointed by George W Bush, issued a nationwide stay on the president’s travel ban, Trump attacked Robart as a “so-called judge”, and encouraged his supporters to “blame him [Robart] and the court system” if “something bad happens”.

And in response to reports of a testy phone call with the Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, Trump insisted the conversation had been “very civil” and dismissed claims to the contrary as “FAKE NEWS” that the “media lied about”.

These are not ordinary lies. These are meta-lies, second-order lies, lies about the very institutions vouchsafed with testing and examining the truthfulness of political statements. [Continue reading…]

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Marching towards nowhere?

 

Ivan Krastev writes: What strikes any observer of the new wave of revolutionary politics is that it is a revolution without an ideology or a project. Protesting itself seems to be the strategic goal of many of the protests. Failing to offer political alternatives, they are an explosion of moral indignation. In most of the protests, citizens on the street treat politics not so much as a set of issues but as a public performance or a way of being in the world. Many protesters are openly anti-institutional and mistrustful toward both the market and the state. They preach participation without representation. The protest movements bypass established political parties, distrust the mainstream media, refuse to recognize any specific leadership, and reject all formal organizations, relying instead on the Internet and local assemblies for collective debate and decision making.

In a way the new protest movements are inspired by mistrust in the elites, empowered by mistrust in leadership, constrained by mistrust of organizations, and defeated by the protesters’ inability to trust even each other: “This is an obvious but unspoken cultural difference between modern youth protest movements and those of the past. […] Anybody who sounds like a career politician, anybody who attempts to use rhetoric, or espouses an ideology, is greeted with visceral distaste.”

Mistrusting institutions as a rule, the protesters are plainly uninterested in taking power. The government is simply “them,” regardless of who is in charge. The protesters combine a genuine longing for community with a relentless individualism. They describe their own political activism almost in religious terms, stressing how the experience of acting out on the street has inspired a revolution of the soul and a regime change of the mind. Perhaps for the first time since 1848 — the last of the pre-Marxist revolutions — the revolt is not against the government but against being governed. It is the spirit of libertarianism that brings together Egypt’s anti-authoritarian uprising and Occupy Wall Street’s anti-capitalist insurrection.

For the protesters, it is no longer important who wins elections or who runs the government, not simply because they do not want to be the government, but also because any time people perceive that their interests are endangered, they plan on returning to the streets. The “silent man” in Taksim Square, Istanbul, who stood without moving or speaking for eight hours, is a symbol of the new age of protests: He stands there to make sure that things will not stay as they are. His message to those in power is that he will never go home.

While it is popular for Europeans to compare the current global protest wave with the revolutions of 1848, today’s protests are the negation of the political agenda of 1848. Those revolutions fought for universal suffrage and political representation. They marked the rise of the citizen-voter. The current protests are a revolt against representative democracy. They mark the disillusionment of the citizen-voter. The current protests function as an alternative to elections, testifying that the people are furious; the angry citizen heads to the streets not with the hope of putting a better government in power but merely to establish the borders that no government should cross. [Continue reading…]

Anti-war, anti-capitalism, anti-globalization, anti-interventionism — the problem with centering any movement around opposition is that almost in obedience with the laws of physics, the end result will be inertia.

The logical conclusion of insistently saying no is that we end up going nowhere.

The successful movements of the last century have instead always been centered on positive goals — women’s rights; civil rights; marriage equality, and so forth.

Likewise, the most effective forms of resistance against the socially corrosive agenda of the Trump presidency are not simply anti-Trump; they are affirmations — for immigrants, for Muslims, and for women.

To build a better world, we have to unite around the things we support and not simply the things we oppose.

What Trump is counting on is that his opponents remain locked in an oppositional posture in which we will eventually tire and thereafter fall into torpor and silence.

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How Trump is undermining public trust in the military

Benjamin Haas writes: After his inauguration, President Donald Trump didn’t take long to boast of his purported political support from the military. In his speech to the CIA – given in front of the Memorial Wall that honors CIA employees who have died in the line of duty – he claimed that “the military gave us tremendous percentages of votes. We were unbelievably successful in the election with getting the vote of the military.”

As a former Army officer, I know that new officers and enlistees take an oath to “support and defend the Constitution,” not a particular president or party. Therefore, Trump’s comments struck me as jarringly improper. So when I learned that Trump would speak to soldiers at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in Florida last week, I wondered whether he would echo the claim he’d made at the CIA or demonstrate that he’d learned his lesson.

Just a few lines into his speech, Trump answered my question: “We had a wonderful election, didn’t we? And I saw those numbers, and you liked me, and I liked you. That’s the way it worked,” Trump declared.

There are two problems with Trump’s statements. First, they are misleading at best, false at worst. Second – and more importantly – politicizing the military risks undermining the public’s trust in the armed forces, an institution that enjoys greater public confidence than any other in the country. [Continue reading…]

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Fake news, fake Ukrainians: How a group of Russians tilted a Dutch vote

The New York Times reports: Harry van Bommel, a left-wing member of the Dutch Parliament, had persuasive allies in convincing voters that they should reject a trade pact with Ukraine — his special “Ukrainian team,” a gleefully contrarian group of émigrés whose sympathies lay with Russia.

They attended public meetings, appeared on television and used social media to denounce Ukraine’s pro-Western government as a bloodthirsty kleptocracy, unworthy of Dutch support. As Mr. Van Bommel recalled, it “was very handy to show that not all Ukrainians were in favor.”

Handy but also misleading: The most active members of the Ukrainian team were actually from Russia, or from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, and parroted the Kremlin line.

The Dutch referendum, held last April, became a battering ram aimed at the European Union. With turnout low, Dutch voters rejected the trade agreement between the European Union and Ukraine, delighting Moscow, emboldening pro-Russia populists around Europe and leaving political elites aghast.

It is unclear whether the Ukrainian team was directed by Russia or if it was acting out of shared sympathies, and Mr. Van Bommel said he never checked their identities. But Europe’s political establishment, already rattled by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union and the election of President Trump in the United States, is worried that the Netherlands referendum could foreshadow what is to come. [Continue reading…]

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Tillerson conducts U.S. diplomacy under a veil of secrecy — refuses to answer questions

Following Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s last minute decision to attend a G20 gathering of foreign ministers in Germany — his first trip overseas as America’s top diplomat — the New York Times describes his meeting with Britain’s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson: At the beginning of their meeting, a small group of reporters was ushered in to take photos of Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Johnson sitting across from each other. One reporter shouted a question to Mr. Tillerson asking what message he was sending to his colleagues about President Trump’s executive order on travel and refugees.

Mr. Tillerson remained mum.

“Good try,” Mr. Johnson said to fill the silence, as others in the room nervously chuckled.

The reporters were brought back into the room at the end of the meeting, and this time a shouted question — How would the turmoil in Washington affect the trans-Atlantic alliance? — was directed at the normally voluble Mr. Johnson. This time even he was silent.

As the reporters were leaving, however, Mr. Johnson was heard to ask: “Are we still being recorded?”

To which Mr. Tillerson, whose two-week tenure has not included a single news conference, press availability or routine briefing, replied, “They never give up.”

Later, during his meeting with Mr. Lavrov, — the first face-to-face high-level encounter between Russian and Trump administration officials — the news media pool was ushered into a small room to witness Mr. Lavrov give his usual flowery introduction. “I would like to congratulate you once again,” Mr. Lavrov said to Mr. Tillerson.

Invariably in such meetings when one side gives introductory remarks, the other side does as well. But as soon as Mr. Lavrov was finished, State Department press aides asked reporters — including a bewildered-looking Russian news crew — to leave.

While the reporters were herded out, Mr. Tillerson said: “Thank you, Mr. Lavrov, it’s a pleasure to see you.” And then he stopped. Just as the reporters reached the door, Mr. Lavrov was heard to ask Mr. Tillerson, “Why did they shush them out?”

After the meeting, Mr. Tillerson gave his statement calling on Russia to honor its commitments to Ukraine, but took no questions. [Continue reading…]

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Constitutional experts describe how Trump may pose a threat to democracy

Ryan Goodman writes: In his debut on this past weekend’s Sunday morning shows, Stephen Miller, the President’s Senior Policy Advisor, repeated what to some was an alarming statement about the federal judiciary. Defending the White House’s immigration and refugee Executive Order against significant setbacks in federal court including a few days earlier the Appeals Court for the Ninth Circuit, Miller said on Meet the Press:

I also want to be clear we’ve heard a lot of talk about how all the branches of government are equal. That’s the point. They are equal. There’s no such thing as judicial supremacy. What the judges did, both at the ninth and at the district level was to take power for themselves that belongs squarely in the hands of the president of the United States.

I posed the following question to some of the most highly respected constitutional law experts across the country, excluding current members of Just Security’s Board of Editors. I separately sent each person excerpts (see here) of transcripts of Fox News Sunday and Meet the Press, and posed the following query:

Some worry that at some point our country may face a constitutional crisis in which President Trump does not comply with a decision of the Supreme Court, whether in the immigration context or some other case. In view of that concern, how do you view Miller’s statements? You might say, for example, whether you think his views are part of a mainstream school of thought in constitutional law, are potentially limited to the immigration context, or represent a view that would support the President’s disregarding judicial orders from the federal courts or the Supreme Court in particular. Please feel free to address any one of those dimensions or another that you think this issue raises.

Throughout the answers below, the emphasis in the text (in bold) is provided by me, not the author of the statement.

1. Strong Rejection of Miller’s Statements as Expression of Attitude or Ideology

Professor Laurence Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard:

We can try to interrogate what Miller said by recourse to different legal schools of thought and the like, but I want to focus on a different plane and the one in which I believe Miller attempted to register his claim. I am concerned that, well beyond a purely theoretical and ignorant account of the role of an independent judiciary, Miller appears to be channeling President Trump’s underlying attitude, one doubtless not formulated in theoretical terms but baked into his personality and his sense of what it means to be a strong president. In that respect, Miller seemed to be engaged in a performance to earn the praise of his boss. The performance was consistent with the attitude Mr. Trump expressed in disparaging the supposedly “Mexican judge” Curiel back during the campaign, in calling U.S. District Court Judge Robart a “so-called judge,” and in saying the remarkably thoughtful 9th Circuit oral argument was “disgraceful” and “political” when it was as far from either as a judicial exchange dealing with a politically explosive issue could be. It is this gestalt—rather than a well formulated theory of the judiciary’s role—that may someday threaten the foundations of our constitutional democracy if not in this litigation under the Trump administration than in another.

[Continue reading…]

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Gerrymandering is why American democracy is broken

Brian Klaas writes: There is an enormous paradox at the heart of American democracy. Congress is deeply and stubbornly unpopular. On average, between 10 and 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress – on a par with public support for traffic jams and cockroaches. And yet, in the 2016 election, only eight incumbents – eight out of a body of 435 representatives – were defeated at the polls.

If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it’s getting rid of gerrymandering – the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It’s also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens – Democrat and Republican – should be able to agree on. Indeed, polls confirm that an overwhelming majority of Americans of all stripes oppose gerrymandering.

In the 2016 elections for the House of Representatives, the average electoral margin of victory was 37.1 percent. That’s a figure you’d expect from North Korea, Russia or Zimbabwe – not the United States. But the shocking reality is that the typical race ended with a Democrat or a Republican winning nearly 70 percent of the vote, while their challenger won just 30 percent. [Continue reading…]

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Stephen Miller: ‘the powers of the president … will not be questioned’

 

Univision News: Some of the students who knew Miller in high school said he had no interests other than radical politics, and that he always seemed unhappy.

“He had a lot of grudges. He didn’t go out of his way to go to dances or to have girlfriends,” de la Torre said. “I don’t remember ever seeing him smile.”

The Atlantic: “Miller had two very well earned reputations: as an aggressive self-promoter and as a bomb thrower,” said one friend of Miller’s from Duke who holds him in high regard and requested anonymity for professional reasons. “He was extremely effective at both. He sustained himself on liberal tears and hysteria. Some Duke [College Republicans] used to call him the ‘Miller Outrage Machine.’ You might say he was the Trump campaign 10 years before the Trump campaign.”

 

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Israel bulldozes democracy

Ayman Odeh writes: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.

Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.

In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles. [Continue reading…]

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The fragile condition of Europe’s youngest democracies

Jan Kubik writes: On 31 January, during an evening session that was suspiciously secretive, the Romanian government adopted two ordinances changing the country’s penal code. The measures were immediately seen by many as a clumsy attempt to decriminalise certain corruption offences, with the main beneficiaries being the politicians of the ruling party. Street protests broke out during that night, culminating last Sunday in the biggest demonstration since the fall of communism.

These events bring into sharp relief the main features of a volatile situation in eastern Europe where three forces vie for dominance: disconnected and sometimes corrupt “traditional” politicians, increasingly impatient and angry publics and assertive demagogues.

The east central Europe that shed communism in 1989 is a convenient laboratory to observe the emergence of a new politics. It is not necessarily due to its politicians being more corrupt, its demagogues flashier (who can compete with Trump?) and its publics angrier. It is more because its democracies are still fresher, more “basic”, their institutions not yet wrapped in a resilient layer of protective pro-democratic cultures. The whole system is thus more exposed to pressure tests. [Continue reading…]

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Popular support for the rule of law and democracy has weakened across America

Austin Sarat writes: There is much to celebrate in the court decision against President Trump’s immigration ban. It was a stirring victory for the rule of law and reaffirmation of the independence of the judiciary. Yet America faces a serious problem which that decision did not address: the erosion of public faith in the rule of law and democratic governance.

While we have been focused on partisan divides over government policy and personnel, an almost invisible erosion of the foundations of our political system has been taking place. Public support for the rule of law and democracy can no longer be taken for granted.

In 2017, the rule of law and democracy itself are under attack by President Trump and his administration. This is as much a symptom as a cause of our current crisis. Public Policy Polling has released the startling results of a national survey taken this week. Those results show significant fissures in the public’s embrace of the rule of law and democracy.

Only 53% of those surveyed said that they “trust judges more than President Trump to make the right decisions for the United States.” In this cross-section of Americans, 38% said they trusted Donald Trump more than our country’s judges. 9% were undecided. Support for the rule of law seemed higher when respondents were asked whether they thought that President Trump should “be able to overturn decisions by judges” when he disagrees with those decisions. Here only 25% agreed, with 11% saying they were unsure. [Continue reading…]

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