“Two political scientists specializing in how democracies decay and die have compiled four warning signs to determine if a political leader is a dangerous authoritarian:1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules. 2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents. 3. He or she tolerates violence. 4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.“A politician who meets even one of these criteria is cause for concern,” Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, both professors at Harvard, write in their important new book, “How Democracies Die,” which will be released next week.
“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.” ”
Yes. Here is the top comment I endorse:
Mike Roddy is a trusted commenter Alameda, Ca 2 hours ago
I spent a couple of years in Venezuela early in Chavez, reign, and saw the country’s decline up close. Included was utter corruption, even by South American standards, and a President who reflexively lied to the public during eight hour speeches on TV every Sunday.
The Venezuelans laughed at him and shrugged their shoulders, knowing that the elections were rigged and they were helpless. American left wingers didn’t do their homework, and somehow believed his schtick.
The lesson here is that we cannot underestimate the president, for many reasons.
1. Trump won’t decide to follow democratic norms, since he comes from a real estate background that included bribery, partnerships with criminals, and refusals to honor contracts.
2. Strengthening democratic norms is wise, but our attacks on the President must be blunt and relentless. This is not just another blowhard, but rather a dangerous, and murderous, potential dictator.
3. How can someone be expected to obey democratic norms when he doesn’t even know the words to the national anthem?
4. This is the most important: The oligarchs who back Trump- Mercer, Adelson, Koch, and the entire fossil fuel industry- also don’t care about democracy. They are waist deep in global bribery and environmental carnage. The press has been negligent in rarely making those connections. Many of Trump’s staffing decisions were dictated by them.
Your turn, New York Times. You’ve been OK so far (apart from ignoring #4), but without you we lose.