The Future of Democracy: How Can We Protect Our Democracy From Authoritarian Regimes? - Seeker's Thoughts

Recent Posts

Seeker's Thoughts

A blog for the curious and the creative.

The Future of Democracy: How Can We Protect Our Democracy From Authoritarian Regimes?


The Future of Democracy: How Can We Protect Our Democracy From Authoritarian Regimes?


World democracy seems to be slowing, and not just due to an acute threat from right-wing groups who undermining democracy. There are multiple threats threatening its existence.


Pro-democracy movements must address the social forces that drive people away from democracy. That means addressing perceptions that our system favors Christianity, men, and whites within an unspoken hierarchy.


1. Defend the Right to Freedom of Speech


The right to freedom of speech is one of the fundamental tenets of democracy. Enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international law alike, this fundamental right must be protected at all times in any context; any restrictions placed upon this fundamental right must only come about through democratic debate and election processes.


Domestic containment strategies against anti-democratic forces are integral to efforts to promote global democracy, and their implementation requires those committed to liberal democratic principles be willing to forgo their personal programmatic agendas for the greater goal of defeating domestic authoritarianism. This includes ensuring electoral and political outcomes reflect the will of the majority; minimizing gerrymandering; eliminating voter suppression and reforming (if not eliminating) Senate filibuster rules to provide transparency regarding campaign finance.


Aspiring modern authoritarians rely on a set of tactics to gain and keep power. Our new report, The Authoritarian Playbook, details these seven fundamental strategies and provides journalists with guidance for covering these threats as distinct from politics-as-usual.


Healthy democracies generally abstain from violence, while autocrats frequently turn a blind eye or foment politically useful civil unrest to advance their agendas. This practice not only compromises public safety standards and undermines civility norms but also reinforces authoritarian strategies such as restricting civil liberties or increasing coercive security measures.


Politicians all use propaganda, with authoritarians especially adept at employing it ruthlessly to cripple opponents while strengthening core constituencies through created grievances and manufactured grievances. To accomplish this goal, authoritarian leaders coordinate an elaborate network of channels and ecosystems including political-aligned or state-owned media to spread their lies effectively.


2. Defend the Right to Assembly


Democracy relies on citizens' right to assembly, enabling them to actively engage in public debate and elections and voting processes. Furthermore, democracy provides space for minority groups - be they religious minorities, sexual orientation or gender identity differences -- to share their perspectives with each other and the larger community. Social bonds help mitigate against repression's effectiveness; hence it is essential that democracy uphold dissent while also celebrating diversity.


Democracies don't agree on exactly when and how to give power back to their people, but all agree on one guiding principle - rule of law and accountability are integral parts of democratic governance. Yet in many countries today, these core democratic values are under attack by domestic illiberals seeking to manipulate political systems for personal gain - risking an authoritarian transformation of global order in doing so.

This shift would imperil global economic and security interests by undermining the international system of norms that supports an equitable world. Autocratic leaders have developed an alternative world order rooted not in shared values or populations' well-being but instead in mutualizing abuses against each other to maintain control.


But unlike in the past, when dictators intent on overthrowing democracy would often rise violently through military coups, modern threats to democracy are more subtle and difficult to spot among politics-as-usual. Indeed, democratic systems are currently being dismantled through "salami tactics", in which institutional, legal, and political constraints on democracy are chipped away gradually over time. Recognizing such tactics enables journalists to better identify threats to democracy; enhance coverage about them; and help readers see danger when it is within plain view.


3. Defend the Right to Information


A strong democracy requires informed citizens who can function independently and with freedom. This requires free flows of information, fact-based public debates on policy options and voluntary self-organization of civil society groups capable of exposing government abuses; without these elements functioning democracy cannot exist.


Modern authoritarians seek to undermine this fundamental structure of democracy by exploiting divisions among democratic supporters, or winning over those who know better but see where the wind blows. Furthermore, these authoritarians seek to undermine media outlets that serve as voices of democratic resistance by portraying them as anti-government partisanship or trying to gain control through financially loyal business ties or politically connected connections.


These tactics differ across countries, yet their results remain similar: democracies everywhere are under siege by similar "salami tactics," gradually chipping away at democratic institutions piecemeal. Sometimes it can appear subtle; often due to politics or jockeying for power rather than any deliberate plans to dismantle democracy.


As the Protect Democracy project's Authoritarian Playbook outlines, we must first establish what risks our democracy currently faces. The Authoritarian Playbook helps distinguish clear and present dangers to democracy from noise such as partisan outrage, political hyperbole, or sensational spin. As part of this effort, it is also essential that we remember there are no pure democracies; but fundamental elements such as majority rule coupled with individual rights protections for minority groups as well as rule of law exist across societies even with tremendous differences across nations and economies.


4. Defend the Right to Privacy


Democracy has come under threat since World War II and must now face serious threats worldwide. Authoritarianism has become dominant, leaving democracy with uncertain prospects in some places around the globe. While each country may not be ready for democracy yet and there may be multiple forms of democratic systems worldwide, a universal consensus on its principles should exist as an essential basis of democratic rule.


These principles include universal suffrage, the rule of law and protecting and realizing human rights as fundamental elements for sustainable global development. Democracies around the globe bear responsibility to uphold these basic values by working to advance democratic principles both domestically and abroad.


Democracy's defenders must recognize new threats to democracy that may be more subtle than in previous decades. Authoritarians today often use "salami tactics," gradually chipping away at democratic institutions, laws and norms bit by bit. Journalism plays an essential role in providing reporters with tools to identify these dangers in real time and contextualize them for their audien#ces.


Protect Democracy's Authoritarian Playbook provides reporters with expert guidance for identifying, understanding, and covering tactics regularly used by would-be autocrats to secure power. Its fundamentals help reporters detect clear threats to democracy amidst partisan outrage, political hyperbole, or sensationalized spin.


To do this effectively, the public needs to be educated on what a democracy is and isn't. Unfortunately, the term has often been misapplied or misused from North Korea to Scandinavia - leading to confusion and making illiberal forces claim legitimacy more easily.


5. Defend the Right to Vote


Democracy is a system of government founded upon the will and consent of its constituents, adherence to law, respect for human rights and mutually reinforcing structures that hold government accountable through independent courts, free press and civic society. Democracy requires elected officials make decisions for the good of all, rather than only their narrowest interests; that is why it is not enough for democratic forces just to stand united against authoritarian threats - they must recognize any illiberal trends within themselves or within society that threaten democracy, so as to maintain its ideals.


Reversing the erosion of democratic norms by authoritarian powers and others may still be possible, but will require an aggressive response from all democracies that places support for democracy and countering authoritarianism at the forefront of foreign policy, national security strategy, and domestic reform agenda. It will also require protecting minority voices and safeguarding vulnerable individuals - particularly those disadvantaged at election polls as well as those different than dominant demographic identities used by modern autocrats to sow division and create divisiveness.


Vigilance will also be required in identifying and responding to gradual decline, which often masquerades as politics-as-usual or jockeying for power and can be difficult to spot. Our report, The Authoritarian Playbook, offers guidance for journalists so they can better cover these tactics so they can be distinguished from politics-as-usual.


No comments:

Post a Comment