Will the ‘Trump effect’ boost world’s authoritarians?


Donald Trump’s emergence as the Republican presidential candidate has already dealt an enormous blow to the reputation of the American political system, and indeed to the reputation of democracy itself, argues Anne Applebaum (left). Trump’s rise fits very well into Chinese, Russian and other narratives about the benefits of authoritarianism, she writes for The Washington Post:

The Chinese have long argued, in defiance of both internal and external critics, that their undemocratic system produces more-qualified leaders and reduces the threat of instability. … A Chinese democracy activist told the Guardian that the regime would be “relishing this moment,” because Trump’s candidacy proves exactly what it has been saying all along: Democracy is too risky for China because it unleashes violent emotions……

In Russia, the argument against democracy has often had a slightly different tone. The regime long ago gave up trying to justify itself ideologically, resorting instead to cynicism about other political systems. Over and over again, the Russian public has been told that democracy is no different from dictatorship. The argument goes something like this: “We have oligarchs, they have oligarchs; our politics are really about money, and so are theirs; American talk of ideas and ideals, tolerance and democracy — that’s all fake.” Already, the triumph of Trump is being used to validate this argument.

“Echoes of these arguments will also appear in Iran, Venezuela, Turkey and everywhere else that repressive politics are hailed as superior to liberal democracy. Perhaps they will also have appeal in a few places, such as Brazil, where nostalgia for an authoritarian past is growing,” notes Applebaum, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy. “In a narrow sense, this is nothing new: Anything that makes the United States look bad has always been used to make authoritarians look good.”


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