To no one’s surprise, Russia’s Vladimir Putin won another six-year term as president on Sunday. Against a slew of unimpressive, Kremlin-approved candidates, Putin supposedly won 76 percent support with 67 percent turnout.
Here is the best analysis I’m reading:
Robert Coalson: The Kremlin has placed Putin entirely above and outside of politics. His supporters may complain about various policies or problems in their lives, but they don’t connect those problems with Putin.
Mark Galeotti: Having turned the law into an instrument of state policy and private vendetta, having turned the legislature into a caricature without power of independence, and having encouraged a carnivorous culture of self-aggrandisement and enrichment, can Putin afford to become an ex-president? Conventional wisdom would say that he cannot; without being at the top of the system, he is at best vulnerable, at worst dead, and he knows it.
Torrey Taussig: One of the greatest threats to a personalist regime’s stability is succession. Systems governed around a cult of the individual set up a self-defeating incentive structure. Once power has been consolidated, the leader will seek to eliminate able and ambitious competitors who could threaten his rule. This strategy, while effective in the short term, hollows out the leadership funnel in the long term. Unlike in autocracies run by strong parties, in which leaders rise within the party’s hierarchy, personalist systems have no institutional structure for preparing the next generation of autocrats. Read more
Tyler Cowen argues in Politico that fascism cannot happen in America because its government is too large and too complex:
No matter who is elected, the fascists cannot control the bureaucracy, they cannot control all the branches of American government, they cannot control the judiciary, they cannot control semi-independent institutions such as the Federal Reserve and they cannot control what is sometimes called “the deep state.”
Cowen then bases his argument on the size of government relative to the economy, citing estimates that Weimar Germany taxed and spent about a third of GDP.
The one-year anniversary of Donald Trump’s presidency has seen some relief. The republic still stands. NAFTA and NATO survive. There is no border wall, no war with Iran or North Korea. Trump’s biggest accomplishments so far — tax cuts, energy deregulation, repealing the Obamacare mandate — are pretty conventional right-wing stuff.
Ignore the rhetoric and norm-breaking, the argument goes, and Trump is just like any other Republican.
Except the rhetoric and norm-breaking are precisely the point. Read more
Two recent stories have similar takes on what motivated millions of Americans to vote for Donald Trump:
Masha Gessen draws on Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom (1941) to argue in The New York Review of Books that Trump’s supporters are overwhelmed by freedom of choice and would rather cede agency to a strongman. Hence Trump’s obsession with those who embody choice: immigrants and transgenders.
Adam Garfinkle and Aviezer Tucker argue more specifically in The American Interest that it is a complex reality Trump’s fans wish to escape from: Read more
How Ripe for Tyranny Is America? Two Numbers to Give You Pause
Nearly one in two Americans believe the news media fabricate stories about President Donald Trump. The number is 76 percent for Republicans. Only 11 percent of Republicans are confident the media report honestly. (Conor Friedersdorf’s latest in The Atlantic is worth reading in terms of this partisan divide.)
Half of all college students (62 percent of Democrats, 39 percent of Republicans) believe it is acceptable to shout down controversial speakers. One in five would even tolerate violence!
“For My Friends, Anything. For My Enemies, the Law.”
Donald Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was found guilty last month of criminal contempt of court, reminds me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”
The president can grant clemency to anyone, but Trump’s predecessors used this power carefully.
David Frum writes in The Atlantic that Barack Obama only issued his first round of pardons two years into his presidency. George W. Bush waited until May 2004, six months before his reelection.
Trump, by contrast, appears to have put no formal deliberation into Arpaio’s pardon. He didn’t even wait until the former sheriff could be sentenced! Read more