Opinion | The Rest of the World Is Worried About America – The New York Times

Opinion | The Rest of the World Is Worried About America – The New York Times

This is evident in our institutions. A society that valued democracy and political participation would not design the system we have. “For instance, the Electoral College,” Altman said. “From my perspective, this is a neolithic institution. It surprises every scholar of democracy worldwide.” Or the scheduling of American elections. “Why do you vote on Tuesday?” Altman asked me. “You don’t give people space to vote. You have to ask your employer to have the time to go out and vote. It’s weird.” Then there’s the role of money. “It looks much more like a plutocratic regime of democracy,” he told me.

From this perspective, the Republican Party’s ongoing efforts to silence certain voters and politicize electoral administration are not aberrations from a glittering past of fair and competitive contests. They are reversions to our mean. And that makes them all the likelier to succeed.

“Younger democracies tend to be weaker,” Lindberg said. “It’s much more common that young democracies fail than older ones. If America became so bad that it could no longer be considered a democracy, it would be a return to America’s historical norm: Some liberal rights for some people, but not to the extent that it is a true democracy.”

This is less a fight over the idea of democracy than over who gets to participate in it, and how their participation is weighted. “This isn’t about how people are electing their government,” Ivan Krastev, a political scientist who is the chairman of the Center for Liberal Strategies in Bulgaria, told me. “Everything is about what kind of people the government wants to elect — who you’ll give citizenship, who you’ll give the vote to, who you’ll try to exclude from voting.”

Krastev’s theory, drawing on both European and American history, is that democratic states often have two kinds of majorities. One is the historical majority of the nation-state. In Europe, those majorities tend to be ethnic. In America, it’s bound more tightly by race and religion. But then there’s the more literal definition of a democratic majority: the coalition of voters that can come together to win elections. Unlike the historical majority, the electoral majority can, and does, change every few years.

Often, those two converge. The electoral majority reflects the historical majority. But in America, they increasingly conflict. “It used to seem these majorities were in harmony, but now it’s about how much the electoral majorities can change the permanent majority,” he told me. During the Yugoslav wars, Krastev said, there was a famous saying. “Why should I be in a minority in your country when you can be a minority in mine?”

At times, this is startlingly explicit, as when Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly, said, “If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority.” To Krastev, though, Vos’s comment simply makes the subtext of the moment into text. “The major power of the political community is the power to include and exclude,” he said. “Who decides who you are going to exclude?”

This content was originally published here.

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