Reviews | The rest of the world is worried about America

It shows in our institutions. A society that values ​​democracy and political participation would not design the system we have. “For example, the Electoral College,” Altman said. “From my point of view, this is a Neolithic institution. This surprises all the specialists of democracy in the world. Or the programming of the American elections. “Why are you voting on Tuesday? Altman asked me. “You are not giving people space to vote. You must ask your employer to have time to go and vote. It’s strange. “Then there’s the role of money.” It looks a lot more like a plutocratic democracy regime, “he told me.

From this perspective, the Republican Party’s continued efforts to silence some voters and politicize the election administration are not aberrations of a glittering past of fair and competitive competition. These are returns to our average. And that makes them all the more likely to be successful.

“Young democracies tend to be weaker,” Lindberg said. “It’s much more common for young democracies to fail than old ones. If America got so bad that it could no longer be considered a democracy, it would be a return to America’s historic norm: some liberal rights for some people, but not to the extent that it is a real one. democracy.

It is less about a fight for the idea of ​​democracy than about who can participate and how their participation is balanced. “It’s not about how people elect their government,” Ivan Krastev, political scientist and president of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Bulgaria, told me. “It all depends on what kind of people the government wants to elect – who you give citizenship to, who you give the vote to, who you try to exclude from the vote.

Krastev’s theory, drawing on both European and American history, is that democratic states often have two types of majorities. One is the historic majority of the nation-state. In Europe, these majorities tend to be ethnic. In America, it is more closely related by race and religion. But then there’s the more literal definition of a democratic majority: the coalition of voters who can come together to win the election. Unlike the historical majority, the electoral majority can change, and does change every few years.

Often these two converge. The electoral majority reflects the historical majority. But in America, they are more and more in conflict. “It seemed like those majorities were in harmony, but now it’s a question of how much the electoral majorities can change the standing majority,” he told me. During the Yugoslav wars, Krastev said, 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 surprisingly self-explanatory, such as when Robin Vos, the Republican Speaker of the Assembly of Wisconsin, said, “If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state’s electoral formula, we would have a clear majority.” For Krastev, however, Vos’s commentary simply turns the current subtext into text. “The major power of the political community is the power to include and exclude,” he said. “Who decides who you are going to exclude?” “

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