Populism thrives when politics become about symbols rather than substance

Ivan Krastev writes: What is the best way to fight a government you loathe but that has killed nobody, arrested few (if any) and come to power fairly — yet threatens to transform liberal democracies as we understand them?

Where do you draw the line between living in a democracy in which the party you despise has won free elections and living in a dictatorship where the opposition may never be allowed to win again? Is “normalization” of populists the biggest threat facing Europe, or should we also fear the hysteria of populists’ opponents? And can the forms of resistance that worked against Communist and fascist dictatorships work against the democratically elected illiberal governments of today?

History, alas, does not provide many clarifying answers. The memoirs of those who survived the 1930s — Sebastian Haffner’s “Defying Hitler” is a great example — warn against normalizing dictatorships, particularly when new dictators are popularly elected. That makes sense. But there’s a useful counterexample to consider, too: In the 1970s, young leftist radicals were so obsessed with the idea that there were no major differences between Nazi Germany and the postwar German Federal Republic that they made profound errors in judgment and, at times, ended up as terrorists and enemies of democracy.

What is the lesson? Drawing the line between democracy and dictatorship requires passion and a readiness to defend one’s values. It also requires a sense of proportion. [Continue reading…]

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How the Republicans broke Congress

Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, write: In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

Eleven years ago, we published a book called “The Broken Branch,” which we subtitled “How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.” Embedded in that subtitle were two assumptions: first, that Congress as an institution — which is to say, both parties, equally — is at fault; and second, that the solution is readily at hand. In 2017, the Republicans’ scandalous tax bill is only the latest proof that both assumptions are wrong.

Which is not to say that we were totally off base in 2006. We stand by our assessment of the political scene at the time. What is astounding, and still largely unappreciated, is the unexpected and rapid nature of the decline in American national politics, and how one-sided its cause. If in 2006 one could cast aspersions on both parties, over the past decade it has become clear that it is the Republican Party — as an institution, as a movement, as a collection of politicians — that has done unique, extensive and possibly irreparable damage to the American political system.

Even today, many people like to imagine that the damage has all been President Trump’s doing — that he took the Republican Party hostage. But the problem goes much deeper. [Continue reading…]

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Can Americans enjoy fundamental human rights while facing extreme poverty?

The Guardian reports: The United Nations monitor on extreme poverty and human rights has embarked on a coast-to-coast tour of the US to hold the world’s richest nation – and its president – to account for the hardships endured by America’s most vulnerable citizens.

The tour, which kicked off on Friday morning, will make stops in four states as well as Washington DC and the US territory of Puerto Rico. It will focus on several of the social and economic barriers that render the American dream merely a pipe dream to millions – from homelessness in California to racial discrimination in the Deep South, cumulative neglect in Puerto Rico and the decline of industrial jobs in West Virginia.

With 41 million Americans officially in poverty according to the US Census Bureau (other estimates put that figure much higher), one aim of the UN mission will be to demonstrate that no country, however wealthy, is immune from human suffering induced by growing inequality. Nor is any nation, however powerful, beyond the reach of human rights law – a message that the US government and Donald Trump might find hard to stomach given their tendency to regard internal affairs as sacrosanct.

The UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Philip Alston, is a feisty Australian and New York University law professor who has a fearsome track record of holding power to account. He tore a strip off the Saudi Arabian regime for its treatment of women months before the kingdom legalized their right to drive, denounced the Brazilian government for attacking the poor through austerity, and even excoriated the UN itself for importing cholera to Haiti.

The US is no stranger to Alston’s withering tongue, having come under heavy criticism from him for its program of drone strikes on terrorist targets abroad. In his previous role as UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Alston blamed the Obama administration and the CIA for killing many innocent civilians in attacks he said were of dubious international legality. [Continue reading…]

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Global press freedom plunges to worst level this century

The Guardian reports: Media freedom around the world has fallen to the lowest level for at least a decade, according to a study that shows journalists are threatened by government censorship, organised crime and commercial pressures caused by the growth of the internet.

Turkey has experienced the biggest decline in freedom of speech over the past decade but Brazil, Burundi, Egypt, Poland, Venezuela and Bangladesh have also had a disturbing decline in the diversity and independence of the media, according to the report.

“For the first time, we have a comprehensive and holistic overview of the state of freedom of expression and information around the world,” said Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, the freedom of expression campaign group, which produced the report in conjunction with V-Dem, a political and social database.

“Unfortunately, our findings show that freedom of expression is under attack in democracies as well as authoritarian regimes.” [Continue reading…]

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The self-destruction of American democracy

Thomas B. Edsall writes: President Trump has single-handedly done more to undermine the basic tenets of American democracy than any foreign agent or foreign propaganda campaign could.

“Trump is a political weapon of mass self-destruction for American democracy — for its norms, for its morality, for sheer human decency,” Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at Brookings, wrote by email:

So if Putin backed him, and if he did it to damage the United States, then he dropped one extremely smart bomb in the middle of Washington.

For the moment, let’s put aside the conclusion of “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections,” the F.B.I., C.I.A. and N.S.A. joint report that was released in January, which said that:

The Kremlin sought to advance its longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order, the promotion of which Putin and other senior Russian leaders view as a threat to Russia and Putin’s regime.

This determination, disputed by Trump and others, pales in comparison to the ruinous record of Trump’s 10 months in office.

First and foremost, Trump has gravely damaged the premises and procedures that undergird American democracy.

Partisan polarization, which helped give rise to Trump in the first place, is getting worse as discord intensifies with every slur and insult Trump hurls.

On Oct. 5, the Pew Research Center reported that partisan conflict on fundamental political values

reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger. And the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.

In the introduction to their forthcoming book, “How Democracies Die,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, political scientists at Harvard, write:

Over the past two years, we have watched politicians say and do things that are unprecedented in the United States — but that we recognize as having been the precursors of democratic crisis in other places. We feel dread, as do so many other Americans, even as we try to reassure ourselves that things can’t really be that bad here.

Their attempt at reassurance is not comforting:

American politicians now treat their rivals as enemies, intimidate the free press, and threaten to reject the results of elections. They try to weaken the institutional buffers of our democracy, including the courts, intelligence services, and ethics offices. American states, which were once praised by the great jurist Louis Brandeis as ‘laboratories of democracy,’ are in danger of becoming laboratories of authoritarianism as those in power rewrite electoral rules, redraw constituencies, and even rescind voting rights to ensure that they do not lose. And in 2016, for the first time in U.S. history, a man with no experience in public office, little observable commitment to constitutional rights, and clear authoritarian tendencies was elected president.

In an email, Levitsky argued that “it is important that we understand that the U.S. has largely been doing these things to itself,” before adding, “obviously we should investigate Russian meddling to the fullest, but to blame Putin for the mess we are in today would be ridiculous. We Americans created this mess.” [Continue reading…]

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Myanmar is not a simple morality tale

Roger Cohen writes: As world capitals go, this is one of the weirdest. Six-lane highways with scarcely a car on them could serve as runways. The roads connect concealed ministries and vast convention centers. A white heat glares over the emptiness. There is no hub, gathering place or public square — and that is the point.

Military leaders in Myanmar wanted a capital secure in its remoteness, and they unveiled this city in 2005. Yangon, the bustling former capital, was treacherous; over the decades of suffocating rule by generals, protests would erupt. So it is in this undemocratic fortress, of all places, that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, long the world’s champion of democracy, spends her days, contemplating a spectacular fall from grace: the dishonored icon in her ghostly labyrinth.

Seldom has a reputation collapsed so fast. Aung San Suu Kyi, daughter of the assassinated Burmese independence hero, Aung San, endured 15 years of house arrest in confronting military rule. She won the Nobel Peace Prize. Serene in her bravery and defiance, she came to occupy a particular place in the world’s imagination and, in 2015, swept to victory in elections that appeared to close the decades-long military chapter in Myanmar history. But her muted evasiveness before the flight across the Bangladeshi border of some 620,000 Rohingya, a Muslim minority in western Myanmar, has prompted international outrage. Her halo has evaporated.

After such investment in her goodness, the world is livid at being duped. The city of Oxford stripped her of an honor. It’s open season against “The Lady,” as she is known. Why can she not see the “widespread atrocities committed by Myanmar’s security forces” to which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson alluded during a brief visit this month, actions the State Department defined last week as “ethnic cleansing”?

Perhaps because she sees something else above all: that Myanmar is not a democracy. It’s a quasi democracy at best, in delicate transition from military rule, a nation at war with itself and yet to be forged. If she cannot walk the fine line set by the army, all could be lost, her life’s work for freedom squandered. This is no small thing. Not to recognize her dilemma — as the West has largely failed to do so since August — amounts to irresponsible grandstanding. [Continue reading…]

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CNN hits back at Trump after criticism of foreign reporting

Politico reports: The feud between Donald Trump and CNN reached new heights on Monday, as the network came back swinging against the president’s latest attacks, including that CNN International misrepresents the U.S. to its global audience.

According to sources at the network, Trump’s tweet over the weekend criticizing CNN International produced extra frustration and exasperation because of the inherent risks of overseas reporting and the feeling that his message imperiled journalists working in countries hostile to a free press.

During his Monday broadcast, anchor Wolf Blitzer responded to the president’s latest claims of “fake news,” saying, “CNN and CNN International are not sponsored by any state, nor any autocrat, nor any political organization, and despite the constant criticism from the president, we are unwavering in our mission, free and independent as the press should be.”

Blitzer’s statement followed a nearly five-minute package of clips depicting CNN International journalists reporting from dangerous situations, including under gunfire in Libya and on a helicopter fleeing ISIS in Iraq.

The segment was in response to a tweet Trump sent Saturday: “.@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still a major source of (Fake) news, and they represent our Nation to the WORLD very poorly. The outside world does not see the truth from them!”

The president also took to Twitter on Monday: “We should have a contest as to which of the Networks, plus CNN and not including Fox, is the most dishonest, corrupt and/or distorted in its political coverage of your favorite President (me). They are all bad. Winner to receive the FAKE NEWS TROPHY!” [Continue reading…]

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How Trump is slowly destroying America’s national security agencies

Jeffrey H Smith writes: The Guardian has reported that John Le Carre, the famed British spy novelist, recently said of the Trump presidency: “something truly, seriously bad is happening and we have to be awake to that.” Chillingly, he expressed alarm about the “toxic” parallels between the rise of President Trump and hard right regimes in Poland and Hungary and the rise of fascism in the 1930s.

Mr Le Carre may be overstating the risk of rising fascism but he is surely right to warn that many of Mr Trump’s early actions and words challenge fundamental tenets of democracy.

These challenges include his assertion that the media is “the enemy of the people”, that news he doesn’t like is “fake news,” that there were “good people” among the neo-Nazi demonstrators in Charlottesville, and that the Senate should change its rules to abolish the requirement for 60 votes to end a filibuster, thus eliminating the single most important protection of minority interests in our system of government.

At the same time, the Trump administration has mounted a systematic effort to “deconstruct the ‘administrative state’” as his recently departed chief strategist, Steven Bannon, was fond of saying.

Much of this effort has been focused on the regulatory agencies rather than the national security agencies. But make no mistake; the president’s words and actions are deconstructing those agencies with perhaps even greater consequences. [Continue reading…]

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Putin’s stature being inflated by U.S. fixation on Russia’s election interference, say his domestic critics

The New York Times reports: For months, President Vladimir V. Putin has predictably denied accusations of Russian interference in last year’s American election, denouncing them as fake news fueled by Russophobic hysteria.

More surprising, some of Mr. Putin’s biggest foes in Russia, notably pro-Western liberals who look to the United States as an exemplar of democratic values and journalistic excellence, are now joining a chorus of protest over America’s fixation with Moscow’s meddling in its political affairs.

“Enough already!” Leonid M. Volkov, chief of staff for the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition leader Aleksei A. Navalny, wrote in a recent anguished post on Facebook. “What is happening with ‘the investigation into Russian interference,’ is not just a disgrace but a collective eclipse of the mind.”

What most disturbs Mr. Putin’s critics about what they see as America’s Russia fever is that it reinforces a narrative put forth tirelessly by the state-controlled Russian news media. On television, in newspapers and on websites, Mr. Putin is portrayed as an ever-victorious master strategist who has led Russia — an economic, military and demographic weakling compared with the United States — from triumph to triumph on the world stage.

“The Kremlin is of course very proud of this whole Russian interference story. It shows they are not just a group of old K.G.B. guys with no understanding of digital but an almighty force from a James Bond saga,” Mr. Volkov said in a telephone interview. “This image is very bad for us. Putin is not a master geopolitical genius.”

Mr. Volkov and others say they have no doubt that Russia did interfere, at least on the margins, in last year’s presidential election campaign. But they complain that the United States consistently inflates Mr. Putin’s impact and portrays his government as far more unified and effective than it really is, cementing his legacy and making him harder to challenge at home.

Ultimately, they say, Americans are using Russia as a scapegoat to explain the deep political discord in the United States. That has left many westward-leaning Russians, who have long looked to America for their ideals, in bitter disappointment that the United States seems to be mimicking some of their own country’s least appealing traits. [Continue reading…]

As necessary as it is to understand the full extent of Russia’s involvement in Donald Trump’s election, it’s true that we shouldn’t lose sight of the reason he’s now president: millions of Americans found his xenophobic nationalism appealing.

They either supported or were willing to ignore his racism.

Russia exploited opportunities weren’t simply the result of Facebook’s algorithms; they tapped into the deep veins of bigotry that trace all the way back to the foundations of a nation built on slavery and white supremacism.

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Autocracies breed terror in Middle East, says Qatari foreign minister

The Guardian reports: Qatar’s foreign minister has claimed the root cause of Middle East terrorism lay in authoritarian rulers, and lack of human rights, presenting Qatar as a more reliable western ally in the fight against terror than “impulsive, crisis-making” Saudi Arabia.

Speaking in front of British ministers at a Qatar-sponsored anti-terror conference in London, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani stressed his country’s commitment to use political and economic policies, as well as security measures to attack extremism’s “breeding ground of injustice and authoritarianism”.

Qatar is run by a royal family and critics claim the Doha-based broadcaster al-Jazeera is more free to criticise other Gulf states than its hosts, but the emir, Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, announced this month that Qatar would hold elections for a 45-strong consultative shura council in 2019.

Such elections have been delayed three times, but pressure from the publicity of holding the World Cup in 2022, and the country’s ongoing dispute with Saudi Arabia, is thought to make a fourth postponement less likely. Qatar is also revising its much-criticised labour laws and plans to grant citizenship rights to some expatriates. [Continue reading…]

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Thankfully recommitting to resistance

Charles M Blow writes: Last Thanksgiving I wrote a column titled, “No, Trump, We Can’t Just Get Along,” in which I committed myself to resisting this travesty of a man, proclaiming, “I have not only an ethical and professional duty to call out how obscene your very existence is at the top of American government; I have a moral obligation to do so.”

I made this promise: “As long as there are ink and pixels, you will be the focus of my withering gaze.”

I have kept that promise, not because it was a personal challenge, but because this is a national crisis.

Donald Trump, I thought that your presidency would be a disaster. It’s worse than a disaster. I wasn’t sure that resistance to your weakening of the republic, your coarsening of the culture, your assault on truth and honesty, your erosion of our protocols, would feel as urgent today as it felt last year. But if anything, that resistance now feels more urgent.

Nothing about you has changed for the better. You are still a sexist, bigoted, bullying, self-important simpleton. But now all of the worst of you has the force of the American presidency. [Continue reading…]

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How Assange, Snowden, and other radical libertarians have allied with Russia in their opposition to liberal democracy

Julian Borger writes: At a time when strange alliances are disrupting previously stable democracies, the Catalan independence referendum was a perfect reflection of a weird age. Along with the flag-waving and calls for ‘freedom’ from Madrid, the furore that followed the vote unleashed some of the darker elements that have haunted recent turbulent episodes in Europe and America: fake news, Russian mischief and, marching oddly in step, libertarian activism.

From his residence of more than five years inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Assange tweeted 80 times in support of Catalan secession, and his views were amplified by the state-run Russian news agency, Sputnik, making him the most quoted English-language voice on Twitter, according to independent research and the Sydney Morning Herald.

In second place was Edward Snowden, another champion of transparency, who like Assange had little by way of a track record on Spanish politics. Together, Snowden and Assange accounted for a third of all Twitter traffic under the #Catalonia hashtag. [Continue reading…]

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Thirty countries use ‘armies of opinion shapers’ to manipulate democracy, says Freedom House report

The Guardian reports: The governments of 30 countries around the globe are using armies of so called opinion shapers to meddle in elections, advance anti-democratic agendas and repress their citizens, a new report shows.

Unlike widely reported Russian attempts to influence foreign elections, most of the offending countries use the internet to manipulate opinion domestically, says US NGO Freedom House.

“Manipulation and disinformation tactics played an important role in elections in at least 17 other countries over the past year, damaging citizens’ ability to choose their leaders based on factual news and authentic debate,” the US government-funded charity said. “Although some governments sought to support their interests and expand their influence abroad, as with Russia’s disinformation campaigns in the United States and Europe, in most cases they used these methods inside their own borders to maintain their hold on power.”

Even in those countries that didn’t have elections in the last year, social media manipulation was still frequent. Of the 65 countries surveyed, 30, including Venezuela, the Philippines and Turkey, were found to be using “armies of opinion shapers” to “spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media”, according to Freedom House’s new Freedom on the Net report. In each of the 30 countries it found “strong indications that individuals are paid to distort the digital information landscape in the government’s favour, without acknowledging sponsorship”. [Continue reading…]

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Too many Americans can’t tell fact from fiction

Timothy Egan writes: It would be much easier to sleep at night if you could believe that we’re in such a mess of misinformation simply because Russian agents disseminated inflammatory posts that reached 126 million people on Facebook.

The Russians also uploaded a thousand videos to YouTube and published more than 130,000 messages on Twitter about last year’s election. As recent congressional hearings showed, the arteries of our democracy were clogged with toxins from a hostile foreign power.

But the problem is not the Russians — it’s us. We’re getting played because too many Americans are ill equipped to perform the basic functions of citizenship. If the point of the Russian campaign, aided domestically by right-wing media, was to get people to think there is no such thing as knowable truth, the bad guys have won.

As we crossed the 300-day mark of Donald Trump’s presidency on Thursday, fact-checkers noted that he has made more than 1,600 false or misleading claims. Good God. At least five times a day, on average, this president says something that isn’t true.

We have a White House of lies because a huge percentage of the population can’t tell fact from fiction. But a huge percentage is also clueless about the basic laws of the land. In a democracy, we the people are supposed to understand our role in this power-sharing thing.

Nearly one in three Americans cannot name a single branch of government. When NPR tweeted out sections of the Declaration of Independence last year, many people were outraged. They mistook Thomas Jefferson’s fighting words for anti-Trump propaganda.

Fake news is a real thing produced by active disseminators of falsehoods. Trump uses the term to describe anything he doesn’t like, a habit now picked up by political liars everywhere.

But Trump is a symptom; the breakdown in this democracy goes beyond the liar in chief. For that you have to blame all of us: we have allowed the educational system to become negligent in teaching the owner’s manual of citizenship. [Continue reading…]

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British and Spanish leaders say Russian trolls meddled in their elections

The Washington Post reports: In a remarkable one-two punch aimed at Russian hackers, bots and trolls, the prime ministers of Britain and Spain have separately accused Russian entities — including some allegedly supported by the state — of meddling in European elections and have vowed to foil them.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said Tuesday that an “avalanche” of bots spread “fake news” about Spain during Catalonia’s independence referendum last month and that Spanish authorities think that more than half of the originating accounts are in Russian territory.

British Prime Minister Theresa May on Monday night charged that President Vladimir Putin’s Russia was attempting to “undermine free societies” and “sow discord” in Britain and among its Western allies by “deploying its state-run media organizations to plant fake stories.”

“So I have a very simple message for Russia,” May said. “We know what you are doing. And you will not succeed.”

The allegations leveled by May and Rajoy stand in stark contrast to remarks made over the weekend by President Trump, who appeared to defend the Russian president. [Continue reading…]

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How social media fires people’s passions – and builds extremist divisions

File 20171109 13337 wt1fzf.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Passionate feelings can lead to extreme divisions.
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By Robert Kozinets, University of Southern California

The people of the United States continue to learn how polarized and divided the nation has become. In one study released in late October by the Pew Research Center, Americans were found to have become increasingly partisan in their views. On issues as diverse as health care, immigration, race and sexuality, Americans today hold more extreme and more divergent views than they did a decade ago. The reason for this dramatic shift is a device owned by more than three out of every four Americans.

Americans’ political beliefs have become increasingly polarized. Pew Research Center

As social media has emerged over the last two decades, I have been studying how it changes innovation, and researching the effects of internet communications on consumer opinions and marketing. I developed netnography, one of the most widely used qualitative research techniques for understanding how people behave on social media. And I have used that method to better understand a variety of challenging problems that face not only businesses but governments and society at large.

What I have found has shaken up some of the most firmly held ideas that marketers had about consumers – such as how internet interest groups can drive online purchasing and the power of stories, utopian messages and moral lessons to connect buyers with brands and each other. In one of my latest studies, my co-authors and I debunk the idea that technology might make consumers more rational and price-conscious. Instead, we found that smartphones and web applications were increasing people’s passions while also driving them to polarizing extremes.

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Trump is part of the Saudi story

Anne Applebaum writes: There are countries in which you are accused of an act of corruption and then you are arrested. And then there are countries in which someone decides to arrest you and only then are you called corrupt.

Saudi Arabia belongs to that second category. Last week, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, used the excuse of “corruption” to arrest several dozen people, including close members of his family, and to lock them up in the posh confines of the Ritz-Carlton Riyadh.

Nobody took the charges at face value. “Corruption” — theft from the state — is not easily defined in Saudi Arabia, a place where the ruling family is the state, and vice versa.

Instead, those who know the country have argued that these arrests are part of a major political transition, an assault on the country’s sclerotic, traditional power structure. The crown prince appears to be “deliberately dismantling the traditional governance system in Saudi Arabia,” wrote The Post’s David Ignatius. The arrests were preceded by other changes: Talk of social modernization, for example — one of the world’s most misogynistic societies will soon allow women to drive — as well as of the diversification of an economy almost entirely dependent on oil.

But if those are the goals, these arrests also represent another setback for U.S. leadership in the era of President Trump, and a major blow to the prestige of a very different model of modernization and political transition. Most European countries were once monarchies like Saudi Arabia, but they handed over power to parliaments. The United States once denied women many rights, but it slowly enfranchised them. That Western model — to expand rights and freedom, to establish the rule of law and independent courts, to pass sovereignty from an aristocracy to a broader group of citizens — was long promoted by Americans as a matter of course. During what is remembered as the “Third Wave” of democratization, from the 1970s to the 1990s, dozens of countries in Latin America, Asia and central Europe sought to emulate this tradition and carry out this kind of reform.

Now that model is in retreat. Instead of following a Western model of modernization and reform, the crown prince has taken the path of China and Russia, where “political transition” means that power is retained by a tiny, very wealthy elite. [Continue reading…]

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In Tuesday’s elections, women won big. Here are three things we learned about women and politics

Jennifer L. Lawless and Danny Hayes write: The story line emerging from Tuesday’s statewide elections in Virginia and New Jersey revolves around Donald Trump. Observers have focused on what the Democrats’ big night means for Trump’s political fortunes, the future of “Trumpism” in the Republican Party, and the 2018 midterms.

But on a night that saw a record number of female candidates, and major wins by women in Virginia, what do the results tell us about women and politics? We see three takeaways.

1. There was a Trump effect.

For a year now, Democratic women have been angry, energized and active. And last night, their dismay with the president appears to have been a key factor in both states’ election outcomes.

In Virginia, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam won 61 percent of the vote among women, according to exit polls. In New Jersey, Democrat Phil Murphy won the governor’s race thanks to 55 percent of the women’s vote. It’s not unusual for women to support Democratic candidates, but these margins proved to be a significant advantage, especially for Northam on a night when Democrats turned out to vote at high rates.

The results of a Politico/American University/Loyola Marymount University poll from May 2017 help explain why women may have so strongly backed Democratic candidates on Tuesday.

The survey found that 70 percent of Democratic women were “appalled” by Trump’s victory, more than two-thirds were “shocked” by it, and more than half reported feeling “angry” and “depressed.” Nearly three-quarters of Democratic women reported “a sick feeling” when they saw Trump on the news. The women with the most visceral reactions were roughly four times as likely to engage politically after Trump’s victory than they were before it. For Democratic women in New Jersey and Virginia, casting a ballot may have represented yet another way to express their displeasure with Trump.

The Trump effect goes beyond voters, however. Virginia and New Jersey also saw a record number of female candidates running for state legislative office. In Virginia, 53 women appeared on the ballot — an 18 percent increase from a previous record of 45. In New Jersey, the 79 women on the ballot also represented a high point, up nearly 10 percent from 72 in 2013. [Continue reading…]

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