A political science professor at Yale named Milan Svolik is an expert on authoritarian rule. In a recent publication on polarization and democracy, he asks, “When can we realistically expect ordinary people to check the authoritarian ambitions of elected politicians?” He then adds that the answer to this question is key to understanding the most prominent development in the dynamic of democratic survival since the end of the Cold War.
President Trump does not appear strong politically as we move toward the 2020 presidential campaign. One indication of his weakness is that he has never achieved great heights in approval ratings. Gallup shows his average approval is 40 percent for his time in office. Earlier this month it was 43 percent, with disapproval at 55 percent.
We know from history that extremist demagogues emerge at times in all societies, even in healthy democracies. We have had our share of them in the United States. Among them are Henry Ford, Senators Huey Long and Joseph McCarthy, and George Wallace, the segregationist governor of Alabama who was a leading contender for the 1972 Democratic nomination for president before he was severely wounded in an assassination attempt.
The country is preparing to conduct the 2020 census. Since 1790, every 10 years the Constitution has required a count of all people living in the United States. We should be aware of the importance of the census for many reasons.
The release of the Mueller report and former FBI director James Comey’s assertion that President Donald Trump pressured him to drop an investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s activities has prompted the president’s critics to consider that the president’s actions may fall into the area of obstruction of justice. Some House of Representatives members say these are grounds for impeachment.
There are now 20 Democratic candidates for president in 2020. Six are United States senators. One is the former governor of Colorado, and one is the current governor of Washington state. Two are mayors—one of South Bend, Indiana; the other from Miramar, Florida. We now have Joe Biden, who served as vice president under Obama and was previously a senator from Delaware. Add to this list two others—one who says she is a spiritual leader and author, and another who says he is an entrepreneur.
Liberal democracy around the world is under its greatest challenge since the depression years of the 1930s.
Winston Churchill is reputed to have said the best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. This sums up what is needed to have democracy work as it should, which is that those who are making the decisions—the voters—need to be more involved and know what is happening. So how can we improve our system of self-government?