When Donald Trump pardoned former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2017 — before the court even had a chance to sentence him for contempt — it reminded me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”
Let’s take a break from the right-wing apologists of a would-be autocrat in the United States to check in with the left-wing apologists of an actual autocrat in Bolivia.
In the face of mass protests, the Bolivarian military has forced the left-wing populist Evo Morales to step down.
Morales served an unconstitutional third term as president from 2014 to 2019. He called and lost a referendum in 2016 on whether he should stand for a fourth term, but the Supreme Court canceled that result, arguing that “American imperialism” had influenced the outcome.
In his latest bid for reelection, observers from the Organization of American States found clear manipulations, including a 24-hour freeze in the vote count, before which Morales was losing and after which he suddenly won.
Brazil is the latest country to lurch toward right-wing nationalism. When Jair Bolsonaro resoundingly defeated his left-wing opponent, Fernando Haddad, in the country’s presidential election last month, news whirled around the world reporting this was Brazil’s Donald Trump.
Matthew Yglesias argues in Vox that there is method to the right-wing madness in the United States.
The violence, and threats of violence, are the result of a Republican strategy, he argues, to foster a political debate that is centered on divisive questions of personal identity rather than on potentially unifying themes of material advancement.
The downside of this strategy is that it pushes American society to the breaking point. The upside for Republicans is that it facilitates policies that serve the interests of their wealthiest supporters. Read more “Donald Trump’s Strategy of Tension”
Michael Meyer-Resende of Democracy Reporting International argues for Carnegie Europe that applying the term “illiberal democracy” or “majoritarianism” to the politics of Hungary and Poland is a misnomer. The ruling parties there are not undermining democracy — by taking control of the (state) media, stacking the courts and rewriting election laws — for the sake of the majority, but rather to maintain their own power. Read more “Don’t Call Them Illiberal Democrats”
Donald Trump’s flattering comments about Kim Jong-un are shocking but not surprising. They are wholly in line with the American’s authoritarian personality.
In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, who reminded Trump of the appalling human-rights abuses in North Korea, the president praised the young tyrant as a “tough guy”.
When you take over a country, tough country, with tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don’t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have — if you can do that at 27 years old… I mean, that’s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he is a very smart guy. He is a great negotiator.
When Donald Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio last year before the former Arizona sheriff could even be sentenced for criminal contempt of court, I wrote it reminded me of that adage of South American dictators: “For my friends, anything. For my enemies, the law.”
Will Wilkinson of the libertarian Niskanen Center tells The Washington Post that expanding affordable housing in America’s major cities is the key to reducing inequality.
Wages have barely budged in decades, yet housing costs have soared due to restrictive zoning and land-use policies. Young and working Americans are now unable to save. Homeowners are getting richer.
Kevin D. Williamson, a conservative columnist who was recently hired and then fired by The Atlantic for his right-wing views (more on that here), has similarly argued in National Review that working-class Americans left behind in the Rust Belt need to move to the coasts. He partly blames them for staying put, but recognizes that policy plays a role.
Consider California, where so many of the jobs in the new economy are. Its housing crisis (you can buy a private island or a castle in Europe for the price of a San Francisco apartment) is entirely man-made, “a result of extraordinarily restrictive zoning and environmental codes and epic NIMBYism of a uniquely Californian variety.”
A Republican Party wishing to renew its prospects in California (which it once dominated) or in American cities could — and should — make affordable housing the centerpiece of its agenda for the cities.
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 “Putin Wins Sham Election, Trump Battles FBI”