The Resistance News
March 16, 2017
Bloomberg View has an article that says basically “Trump is a danger to global democracy” so apart from stopping Trump, what should a person do, to help democracy grow and prosper?
Wikipedia says several philosophers and researchers have outlined historical and social factors seen as supporting the evolution of democracy. Recent theories stress the relevance of education and of human capital – and within them of cognitive ability to increasing tolerance, rationality, political literacy and participation. Two effects of education and cognitive ability are distinguished: a cognitive effect (competence to make rational choices, better information-processing) and an ethical effect (support of democratic values, freedom, human rights etc.), which itself depends on intelligence.
From the Wikipedia:
Evidence that is consistent with conventional theories of why democracy emerges and is sustained has been hard to come by. Recent statistical analyses have challenged modernisation theory by demonstrating that there is no reliable evidence for the claim that democracy is more likely to emerge when countries become wealthier, more educated, or less unequal. Neither is there convincing evidence that increased reliance on oil revenues prevents democratisation, despite a vast theoretical literature on “the Resource Curse” that asserts that oil revenues sever the link between citizen taxation and government accountability, seen as the key to representative democracy. The lack of evidence for these conventional theories of democratisation have led researchers to search for the “deep” determinants of contemporary political institutions, be they geographical or demographic.
In the 21st century, democracy has become such a popular method of reaching decisions that its application beyond politics to other areas such as entertainment, food and fashion, consumerism, urban planning, education, art, literature, science and theology has been criticised as “the reigning dogma of our time”. The argument suggests that applying a populist or market-driven approach to art and literature (for example), means that innovative creative work goes unpublished or unproduced. In education, the argument is that essential but more difficult studies are not undertaken. Science, as a truth-based discipline, is particularly corrupted by the idea that the correct conclusion can be arrived at by popular vote. However, more recently, theorists have also advanced the concept epistemic democracy to assert that democracy actually does a good job tracking the truth.
Robert Michels asserts that although democracy can never be fully realised, democracy may be developed automatically in the act of striving for democracy: “The peasant in the fable, when on his death-bed, tells his sons that a treasure is buried in the field. After the old man’s death the sons dig everywhere in order to discover the treasure. They do not find it. But their indefatigable labor improves the soil and secures for them a comparative well-being. The treasure in the fable may well symbolise democracy.”
Dr. Harald Wydra, in his book Communism and The Emergence of Democracy (2007), maintains that the development of democracy should not be viewed as a purely procedural or as a static concept but rather as an ongoing “process of meaning formation”. Drawing on Claude Lefort’s idea of the empty place of power, that “power emanates from the people […] but is the power of nobody”, he remarks that democracy is reverence to a symbolic mythical authority as in reality, there is no such thing as the people or demos. Democratic political figures are not supreme rulers but rather temporary guardians of an empty place. Any claim to substance such as the collective good, the public interest or the will of the nation is subject to the competitive struggle and times of for[clarification needed] gaining the authority of office and government. The essence of the democratic system is an empty place, void of real people which can only be temporarily filled and never be appropriated. The seat of power is there, but remains open to constant change. As such, what “democracy” is or what is “democratic” progresses throughout history as a continual and potentially never ending process of social construction.
In 2010 a study by a German military think-tank analyzed how peak oil might change the global economy. The study raises fears for the survival of democracy itself. It suggests that parts of the population could perceive the upheaval triggered by peak oil as a general systemic crisis. This would create “room for ideological and extremist alternatives to existing forms of government”.
Bloomber owner is a Republican, who supports Hillary in the 2016 election, and he summed up Trump as a person who few trust, because Trump will do anything for money. Trust is an important issue in American Democracy, as the EIU just down graded American Democracy to “Flawed Democracy” because of trust related issues.
The following is from Bloomberg (source)
President Donald Trump’s approach to democracy, conflicted at best, is settling into a familiar groove. Attacks on the news media, the scapegoating of vulnerable minorities and periodic assaults on the concept of truth, as well as on specific facts, have become hallmarks of his administration.
At the same time, democracy has gotten a few licks in as well. Trump obediently retreated from his Muslim ban at the direction of the courts, and his White House has been leaky, a boon to the free flow of information.
But it remains unclear whether the Republican Congress and other key U.S. institutions have the resiliency and will to repel Trump’s attacks, including the continuing stonewalling on we-don’t-know-what-exactly regarding Russia. (Trump’s sudden aura of competence after his speech to Congress was undermined a day later by a well-timed leak on how Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared to mislead the Senate under oath about his Russia contacts.)
The effect of Trump on societies with weaker democratic institutions is also unknown. But the very existence of a would-be authoritarian thrashing around the American government, forever threatening to break free of institutional constraints, sends a jarring message around the world.
The New York Times published a story on Wednesday about “anti-Soros” forces in Europe being emboldened by Trump’s election. Substitute the word “democracy” for the name of the financier and open-society enthusiast George Soros, and the story still holds.
In Soros’s native Hungary, the Trumpian prime minister, Viktor Orban, has for years been undermining democratic norms and institutions, badgering opponents and bludgeoning the independence of the news media. He is using this hour of authoritarian ascendance to step up his attacks on groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as “foreign agents financed by foreign money.”
Last week in Hungary, an Amnesty spokesman told EUObserver, “The government accused Amnesty of producing fake reports and of inciting migrants to break laws.”
“Fake” reports and law-breaking immigrants. There’s something vaguely familiar about those themes, isn’t there? In a speech earlier this week, Orban said Hungary’s economic success depends on the nation’s “ethnic homogeneity.”
Hungary’s tide of “illiberal democracy” long preceded Trump’s election. Orban’s most recent reign atop Hungarian politics — he’s been there before — began in 2010. “What we’ve seen is a weakening of democratic institutions around that part of the world for maybe a decade now,” said Jan Surotchak, Europe director of the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based NGO that promotes democracy worldwide.
Kenneth Wollack, president of the National Democratic Institute, a kind of Washington doppelganger of Surotchak’s IRI, has been in the business of promoting democracy worldwide for more than three decades. He isn’t convinced that this U.S. president represents a democratic departure. “I think it’s way too early for people to be making judgments,” Wollack said in a telephone interview.
Wollack points out that concerns about President George W. Bush’s commitment to global democracy movements — as a candidate Bush had disparaged “nation-building” — were quickly rendered moot after Bush launched full-scale wars under the banner of democracy.
Trump’s evolution could similarly surprise. Democracy promotion, Wollack said, is now deeply woven into the fabric of international relations, especially for the U.S. “Every U.S. embassy around the world has democracy as part of its agenda,” he said.
Incubating and sustaining democratic institutions is a tough task, however. Democracy doesn’t always take. And it doesn’t always thrive even when it does take. Hungary is one of many examples of democratic backsliding. Certainly the regime of Russia’s Vladimir Putin qualifies.
Nowhere is democracy so firmly rooted as in the U.S., which has been a wellspring for democratic impulses around the world. Perhaps the confidence of Wollack and others is well-founded. But Trump represents a concussive break from a democratic pattern that has not only flourished in the U.S. but reverberated, to the benefit of Americans and others, around the world.
U.S. commitment to foreign engagement can vary with the demands and resources of the era. But questions about the U.S.’s commitment to its own democracy are something strange and new. Democrats around the world can’t help but take note that the pillar of democracy has gone wobbly. Aspiring dictators have no doubt noticed, too.
- In the late 1990s, I was briefly a consultant to NDI.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
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