Read of the Week: Authoritarianism infects democracy

Would-be dictators use democratic means to take power around the globe

Read of the Week: Authoritarianism infects democracy
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

It’s probably the most urgent issue facing us today: Authoritarianism spreading around the globe, with far-right leaders in several democratic countries openly mimicking the fascist style of Russia’s Vladimir Putin.

“In a flurry of elections, some of the world’s major democracies have been leaning toward or outright embracing far-right authoritarian leaders, who have echoed one another by promising to crack down on loose morals, open borders and power-hungry elites,” writes Marc Fisher of The Washington Post in a piece headlined “Leaders of democracy increasingly echo Putin in authoritarian tilt.”

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This is easily the most important story you will read this week. It charts how far-right “strongman” style leaders have begun to gain power in major countries.

“Thirty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of Soviet communism heralded a new era of democratic governance and a huge expansion of global trade, that democratic wave has been replaced in many countries by a tide of authoritarianism,” writes Fisher.

From Brazil to Italy, from the Philippines to the United States, authoritarian figures have risen to promise easy solutions to complex modern problems. They are playing to the “strict father” moral ideology that relies on dictatorial hierarchy to enforce order and define what is morally right.

As democratic institutions falter and lose trust (often with their help), these authoritarians have used these turbulent times as an opportunity to seize power. While they may win some elections, the goal of the authoritarian is always to dismantle democratic means after using them to their own advantage — and to lash out at scapegoated enemies.

A rising authoritarian era will prevent us from solving other emergencies — like the global warming and climate disruption catastrophe. Authoritarians will amplify and expand these problems, using chaos to strengthen their grip on power.

The far-right’s authoritarian tendencies are nothing new in the United States, and the roots of this problem were planted long before Trump ascent to the presidency. The question is whether those of us who support democracy — and the leaders we elect to high office — can muster the necessary response.

Please give the story a read and tell us what you think.

Further reading/listening:

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