Be very afraid

Dear Friends,

I have now returned from my 9 months in Hong Kong, where my plans to start a new program in public policy — what would have been HK’s first School of Public Policy — came apart in the face of mainland Chinese actions to suppress political engagement in Hong Kong’s universities.  As we have since seen, China has eroded the rule of law and government autonomy in Hong Kong.  But this is just part of a global trend, what I would call the growth of the global “strong man’s club” of leaders who put their personal programs above the law, trading on a strong nationalist and xenophobic ideology to win popular support for extreme actions against minorities and opponents.

The club now includes Xi Jinping in China, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Viktor Orban in Hungary — and in the latest development, Donald Trump in the U.S.

There is good reason to be concerned about what this means for democracy; I stand by my warning published three weeks ago in Canada: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/how-trump-would-reshape-america/article32374019/

Whatever one thinks of specific policies voiced by the Trump camp, the real danger is to the very institutions that undergird our democracy — rule of law (including innocent until proven guilty), a free and accurate media, checks and balances within government, and an independent and non-ideological Supreme Court.  We should all work to preserve these elements after election of a president who has never known checks and balances, never had to work within a system that he did not control and dominate, and never — even in winning the highest office in the land — had to make the compromises typically required for effective policy-making.

I do hope that President Trump will govern in a different spirit than candidate Trump campaigned.  He may well do so.  But while hoping for the best, it would be sensible to prepare for a difficult time for democracy both at home and abroad.

 

 

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About jackgoldstone

Hazel Professor of Public Policy at George Mason University
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