Opinion | The rest of the world is worried about America
This is evident in our institutions. A society that values democracy and political participation would not shape the system we have. “For example the electoral college,” said Altman. “From my point of view, this is a Neolithic institution. It surprises every democracy scientist worldwide. ”Or the planning of American elections. “Why are you voting on Tuesday?” Altmann asked me. “You don’t give people room to choose. You need to ask your employer to have the time to go out and vote. It’s weird. “Then there is the role of money.” It looks more like a plutocratic democratic regime, “he told me.
From this perspective, the Republican Party’s continued efforts to silence certain voters and politicize the electoral administration are not deviations from a glorious past of fair and competitive competition. They are inversions of our mean. And that makes them all the more successful.
“Younger democracies tend to be weaker,” said Lindberg. “Young democracies fail much more often than older ones. If America went so bad that it could no longer count as a democracy, it would be a return to America’s historical norm: some liberal rights for some people, but not to the extent that it is a real democracy. “
It is less about the idea of democracy than about who is allowed to participate and how their participation is weighted. “It’s not about how people choose their government,” said Ivan Krastev, a political scientist and chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Bulgaria. “It’s all about what kind of people the government wants to vote for – who you give citizenship to, who you vote for, who you try to exclude from voting.”
Krastev’s theory, based on both European and American history, is that democratic states often have two types of majorities. One is the historical majority of the nation-state. In Europe, these majorities are usually ethnic. In America, it is more closely related to race and religion. But then there is the more literal definition of a democratic majority: the coalition of voters who come together to win elections. In contrast to the historical majority, the electoral majority can and will change every few years.
Often these two converge. The electoral majority reflects the historical majority. But in America they are increasingly conflicting. “It used to seem like those majorities were in line, but now it’s about how much the electoral majorities can change the permanent majority,” he told me. During the Yugoslav Wars, said Krastev, there was a famous saying. “Why should I be a minority in your country when you can be a minority in mine?”
Sometimes this is shockingly clear, as Robin Vos, Republican spokesman for the Wisconsin Assembly said, “If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority.” For Krastev, however, Vos’ comment simply makes that Subtext of the moment to the text. “The greatest power in the political community is the power to include and exclude,” he said. “Who decides who to exclude?”