Saturday, January 23, 2021

Nothing Boosts Trust In Government Like A CFR Panel Of Pasty CIA Alumni Talking About Trust...,

thehill |   In October, Thomas Weiss and I urged all of us to keep calm in the face of what might be a violent election and transition season. We foresaw the need to say, among other things, that the military should affirm the rule of law and their oath to the Constitution. Sadly, the Joint Chiefs felt the need to do just that last week.  

When President Trump extolled “strength” to a nascent mob in Washington on Jan. 6, he wasn’t talking about moral force. In militarized societies, the model of political change is often military.  War is the assertion of “might makes right,” the negation of the rule of law. 

Political scientists worry these days about democratic erosion, when the norms and institutions of previously stable representative democracies decline. We usually ponder the causes of erosion in other countries. 

Democracy is, on one hand, democratic elections where the people decide who will govern them, and processes for horizontal and vertical oversight and accountability. There is also a deeper conception of democracy — the norms of citizen deliberation, and human and civil rights that guarantee expression, inclusion and collective action. Democratic legitimacy depends on the ability of citizens to engage in public reason. The more democratic a society is, the greater the limits it has on the use of force both at home and abroad. We don’t take out weapons to resolve our disputes.

Democratic erosion or backsliding occurs when democratic institutions, norms and values are gradually — and sometimes almost imperceptibly — reduced. Democratic erosion includes the decline of competitive elections, the reduction in forums where citizens can deliberate and form policy preferences, and the diminished ability for accountability. The indicators of erosion also include constraints on freedom of the press, which reduces transparency and accountability, the unchecked accretion of power in the executive branch, and the loss of civil rights, including the right of assembly.

Democratic erosion has various causes. Some blame power-hungry executives who don’t want to give up power. The question, here, is why democratic institutions aren’t able to stop power-hungry elites who would concentrate power and economic resources.  

Suzanne Mettler and Robert Lieberman, in their book “Four Threats,” also highlight excessive executive power but then add political polarization, racism and nativism, and economic inequality that prompts the wealthy to mobilize to protect their position.  

War and militarism exacerbate all those things. But more than that, war and militarism are antipodal and undermining of democratic norms, institutions and practices.