The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) released its 2021 Global State of Democracy Report yesterday. Aside from adding the U.S.-- for the first time-- to the list of nations backsliding away from democracy, the report found that the world is becoming more authoritarian and that autocratic regimes have become more brazen in their repression. Many democratic governments are backsliding and are adopting authoritarian tactics by restricting free speech and weakening the rule of law.
Jutta Urpilainen, the European Commissioner for International Partnerships today, as the report was unveiled: "The Global State of Democracy report is not a wakeup call, it’s an alarm bell. Authoritarianism advances in every corner of the earth. Universal values-- the pillars of civilization that protect the most vulnerable-- are under threat. The EU shares many of the challenges. But we do have a unique and diverse experience of democracy. Our Team Europe Democracy (TED) Initiative, that we are launching today, brings EU and member states’ democracy support together for the first time. We will not weather this storm divided, and we will learn as well as teach. We need Global Action for Democracy and the EU will play its part including at the upcoming Summit for Democracy."
The number of backsliding democracies has doubled in the past decade, now accounting for a quarter of the world’s population. This includes established democracies such as the United States, but also EU Member States such as Hungary, Poland and Slovenia. More than two-thirds of the world’s population now live in backsliding democracies or autocratic regimes.
Overall, the number of countries moving in an authoritarian direction in 2020 outnumbered those going in a democratic direction.
The world has lost at least four democracies in the last two years, either through flawed elections or military coups. The Global State of Democracy (GSoD) indices show that authoritarian regimes have increased their repression, with 2020 being the worst year on record.
...The Report finds that many countries held credible elections in exceedingly difficult conditions created by the pandemic, often by expanding the modalities to exercise suffrage. Nonetheless, International IDEA warns against the grave and looming threat of disinformation and baseless accusations of electoral fraud, as seen in Myanmar, Peru and the United States.
...Asia has suffered a wave of growing authoritarianism as crises of various kinds have affected Afghanistan, Hong Kong and Myanmar. Democratic erosion is also widespread, including in India, the Philippines and Sri Lanka with many of them suffering from rising ethnonationalism and the militarization of politics. China’s influence, coupled with its own deepening autocratization, also puts the legitimacy of the democratic model at risk.
Recent declines in democracy in Africa have undermined remarkable progress made across the continent over the past three decades. The Covid-19 pandemic, though seemingly less damaging to public health than elsewhere in the world, has added pressure on governments to respond to concerns regarding governance, rights and social inequality... [T]he year has seen four successful military coups in Chad, Guinea-Conakry, Mali and Sudan.
The Middle East’s tainted track record on protecting civil liberties was even further strained by the pandemic, with many elections held with the sole aim of keeping existing regimes in power, such as in Algeria, Egypt and Syria.
Half the democracies in the [Americas] have suffered democratic erosion, including notable declines in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador and the United States.
...[In Europe] the pandemic has placed a strain on democracy. In some countries where democratic principles were already under threat, it provided an excuse for governments to weaken democracy further. Ongoing democratic backsliding intensified in EU Member States Hungary and Poland, while Slovenia joined them as the region’s third backsliding democracy in 2020. Europe’s non-democratic governments—Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Turkey have intensified their already very repressive practices.
The report traces the U.S.backsliding to "at least 2019 but the report found that Trump's coup attempt was an "historic turning point" for American democracy. Alexander Hudson, a co-author of the report: "The United States is a high-performing democracy, and even improved its performance in indicators of impartial administration (corruption and predictable enforcement) in 2020. However, the declines in civil liberties and checks on government indicate that there are serious problems with the fundamentals of democracy."
Yesterday, conservative anti-Trump provocateur Max Boot used his Washington Post column to warn that Republicans are fomenting a violent insurgency in America and urge the GOP to "damp down its incendiary rhetoric and urge its supporters to moderate their zeal," while asserting that "is not what Republicans are doing. They continue to fan the flames of hatred, violence and division." Their low-IQ, Fox-brainwashed followers believe the kind of bullshit they're hearing from seditionists like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, etc.
Boot noted that "Many on the right routinely depict Democrats as America’s enemies. At one recent conference Sen. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) said, 'The left hates America,' while Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) said: 'Their grand ambition is to deconstruct the United States of America.' At the same time, Republicans make a fetish of gun ownership and use; weapons of war are the hottest fashion accessory in GOP campaign ads. The message many Republicans receive is that violence is justified to save the United States from a leftist takeover. An audience member at a pro-Trump event spoke for many when he asked: 'When do we get to use the guns?' An American Enterprise Institute poll found that 39 percent of Republicans believe, 'if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.' Another survey by the University of Chicago found that 21 million adults believe the 'use of force is justified' to restore Trump to the presidency." Anyone you know? A relative? A colleague? A family member?
As Boot wrote, "it doesn’t take many extremists to cause mayhem in a country awash in firearms."
Why do so many Republicans go along with extremism? Some, like Gosar, are zealots themselves. But many others are simply afraid of the crazies. Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO) said Republican colleagues told him they feared for their safety if they voted to impeach Trump in January. One of the pro-impeachment Republicans, Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (OH), is leaving Congress in part, he says, because of the danger to him and his family. Even the 13 House Republicans who recently voted for a bipartisan infrastructure bill have received death threats.
Republicans are complicit in fomenting violent extremism-- and they have also become hostage to the extremists in their ranks. It’s an ugly situation familiar from other people’s civil wars, and it portends more grief and bloodshed for a country that has already seen far too much of both. It’s not too late to avert a wider insurgency, but it will require Republicans to dial down their violent and apocalyptic rhetoric-- which they show no sign of doing.