The ‘enemy within the gates’: the key to American politics

US political factions seem to have moved beyond seeing each other as legitimate competitors in a democratic marketplace of ideas. The other side is perceived as the holder of totally unacceptable moral, economic, and political ideas and values, and only their total overthrow will suffice. Each side sees the other as the “enemy inside the gates”. Can the divisions in America be resolved in a pluralistic compromise?

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What explains COVID’s east-west divide? (John Feffer)

COVID-19 has drawn a clear line between Asia and the rest of the world. What’s particularly striking about this latest divergence is the lack of significance in types of governance. The countries that have been successful in Asia have very different forms of government, as well as different histories, religious backgrounds, and relationships with the countries of the West. How can this be explained?

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An American theocracy: the advance of Christian nationalism

Ironically, Christian nationalist opposition to religious liberty has plagued American democracy since before the Revolution, and a strong authoritarian strain still runs through American religious thinking. The Trump Administration provided disturbing evidence of how Christian nationalists have penetrated key political institutions, with eclipse of constitutional liberal democracy by a competing virtual theocracy as their aim.

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This time it’s the end of democracy: Fukuyama and big-tech

How to Save Democracy From Technology: Ending Big Tech’s Information Monopoly puts forward a confused and inadequate set of arguments concerning the “gigantic Internet platforms Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter”. Its focus on yesterday’s technological challenges while tomorrow’s threats are almost upon us is disappointing, and misses where the real threat to democracy and individual freedom is beginning to take form.

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1776 Commission versus 1619 Project: will Trump’s rejection of history divide America?

The ‘1776 Commission’ is the denouement of all the bizarre notions that have populated Trump’s seemingly random and disjointed dialogue throughout the four years of his presidency. His speech announcing it was a not very well-disguised panegyric for an agenda that isn’t just a denial of history, but could see America remain deeply and passionately divided well beyond Trump’s presidency.

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Cancel culture and the Harper’s Letter: a moan from the Ivory Tower or call to the liberal battlements?

The Letter on Justice and Open Debate published on 7 July 2020 and signed by 150 noted authors, academics, and public intellectuals cuts straight to a key fault line in liberalism. A collection of privileged individuals are claiming an unfettered right to say or write whatever they wish on the grounds that this right is the “lifeblood of a liberal society”. If this highly contestable claim is correct, it can then be asked if a liberal society is justifiable.

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Confronting global warming and other looming crises: can democracies marshall the necessary expertise?

Confronting the dramatic trends taking place in the rates of global warming, destruction of the environment, extinction of biodiversity, and global social injustice urgently requires unprecedented societal and economic transformations. Can major democratic economies overcome the combination of disillusionment with government and distrust of experts, and position themselves to bring about the transformations these crises demand?

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Central Europe map

Voices of Central and Eastern Europe: Perceptions of democracy & governance in 10 EU countries (Globsec)

A survey of Central and Eastern European countries exposes the shallow roots of liberal democracy, with significant numbers indicating that they would trade off democratic freedoms for greater security, welfare, and preservation of traditional values. In only half of surveyed countries would a majority of the respondents choose liberal democracy over an autocratic leader.

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Who’s first wins? International crisis response to COVID-19 (EUISS)

Is the pandemic not just a test for healthcare systems around the world, but an international contest for which country has the best political system? Did democracies really respond to the Covid-19 pandemic less swiftly than authoritarian systems – and if the determining factor is not the political system, what are the key elements in crisis response?

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Inequality and repression undermine democracy and market economy worldwide

The latest BTI Transformation Index shows that the rule of law and political freedoms are being eroded in an increasing number of democracies, and the number of people who are governed poorly and less democratically is increasing worldwide. The BTI ratings for quality of democracy, market economy and governance have dropped to their lowest level.

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Securitisation – turning problems into threats (Allan Behm)

One of the more disturbing tendencies of modern governments is ‘securitisation’ – transforming policy problems into threats, thereby elevating them into the national security domain. In many western democracies security is accorded pre-eminent status among the various domains of public policy, creating the preconditions for securitisation to elevate the levels of state intervention in a way that displays, emphasises and enhances the power of the state and its control over its citizens.

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The strategic consequences of the coronavirus crisis

Bruno Tertrais proposes a provocative list of trends might be exacerbated or accelerated by the COVID-19 crisis. The list begs the tantalising question of how each of these trends might impact on the progress and direction of the others. How might the decline of globalisation affect the rise in authoritarianism and the risk of conflict? How might sovereignism and isolationism retard responses to the ecological and climate crises of the Anthropocene?

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Serbian democracy: a case of state capture?

The Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) has produced a disturbing report on what it describes as the “deliberate political undertaking in which political actors use the consequences (both real and imagined) of the previous government as justification for the complete capture of the state’s institutions” in Serbia. At a time when the EU is struggling to live up to its core political values, the Serbian government’s commitment to the rule of law and separation

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The Deep State conspiracy theory: Is Trump laying the groundwork for The Great Presidential Robbery?

Should US presidential hopeful Joe Biden prevail in November, the grounds will have been laid for Donald Trump to cry foul – with the potential for a crisis of political legitimacy. Australian policymakers, struggling with balancing the economic relationship with China and the security relationship with the US, should be following domestic trends in America with nervous apprehension.

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Historical amnesia: Great power behaviour and criticism of China

Positioning the adversarial relationship with China as one of morally superior western democratic nations in competition with a somehow illegitimate and malevolent China is an exercise in historical amnesia. The democratic United State’s 1890 – 1920 trajectory from western hemisphere state to global power has some economic, military and foreign policy parallels with authoritarian China’s growth in the twenty-first century.

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