NYT: Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

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fwiw
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NYT: Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

Post by fwiw » Sun Feb 10, 2019 5:26 pm

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/201 ... cracy.html


The warning signs are flashing red: Democracy is under threat. Across Europe and North America, candidates are more authoritarian, party systems are more volatile, and citizens are more hostile to the norms and institutions of liberal democracy.

These trends have prompted a major debate between those who view political discontent as economic, cultural or generational in origin. But all of these explanations share one basic assumption: The threat is coming from the political extremes.

On the right, ethno-nationalists and libertarians are accused of supporting fascist politics; on the left, campus radicals and the so-called antifa movement are accused of betraying liberal principles. Across the board, the assumption is that radical views go hand in hand with support for authoritarianism, while moderation suggests a more committed approach to the democratic process.

Is it true?

Maybe not. My research suggests that across Europe and North America, centrists are the least supportive of democracy, the least committed to its institutions and the most supportive of authoritarianism.
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What Does It Mean?

Across Europe and North America, support for democracy is in decline. To explain this trend, conventional wisdom points to the political extremes. Both the far left and the far right are, according to this view, willing to ride roughshod over democratic institutions to achieve radical change. Moderates, by contrast, are assumed to defend liberal democracy, its principles and institutions.

The numbers indicate that this isn’t the case. As Western democracies descend into dysfunction, no group is immune to the allure of authoritarianism — least of all centrists, who seem to prefer strong and efficient government over messy democratic politics.

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center: From Brazil and Argentina to Singapore and Indonesia, middle-class moderates have encouraged authoritarian transitions to bring stability and deliver growth. Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
... in my opinion

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: NYT: Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

Post by Kim O'Hara » Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:37 am

Strongmen in the developing world have historically found support in the center ... Could the same thing happen in mature democracies like Britain, France and the United States?
Well, yes.
In fact, if they don't find or manufacture support in the centre, they will never get enough support to gain power through (reasonably) legitimate means - from which point they can start deconstructing the sort-of-democratic processes which put them in power. The classic instance, to anyone who has studied 20th century European history, is Hitler.
And the Nazis' guidebooks on how to create totalitarian states are still, apparently, studied avidly by wannabe strongmen.
:toilet:

BUT I don't like or, really, believe the article. From all that I can see, the research is shoddy and the conclusions grow from the author's preconceived ideas. GIGO.

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Re: NYT: Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

Post by DNS » Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:35 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:37 am
BUT I don't like or, really, believe the article. From all that I can see, the research is shoddy and the conclusions grow from the author's preconceived ideas. GIGO.

:coffee:
Kim
I agree, how can centrists / moderates be the most supportive of authoritarianism? By definition a centrist / moderate is opposed to authoritarianism. See the political compass graph:

Image

A centrist would be someone near the center point, far from authoritarianism. Perhaps there are some who identified as centrists who supported authoritarianism, but then by definition, they are not really centrists.

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fwiw
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Re: NYT: Centrists Are the Most Hostile to Democracy, Not Extremists

Post by fwiw » Mon Feb 11, 2019 6:43 pm

DNS wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 4:35 pm
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon Feb 11, 2019 11:37 am
BUT I don't like or, really, believe the article. From all that I can see, the research is shoddy and the conclusions grow from the author's preconceived ideas. GIGO.

:coffee:
Kim
I agree, how can centrists / moderates be the most supportive of authoritarianism? By definition a centrist / moderate is opposed to authoritarianism. See the political compass graph:

Image

A centrist would be someone near the center point, far from authoritarianism. Perhaps there are some who identified as centrists who supported authoritarianism, but then by definition, they are not really centrists.

Well we could argue on what centrism means. I take it to designate the world view of people who describe themselves as centrists, whether or not they fit your preferred definition of the term. And in this light centrism is nothing but rebranded fascism, in my opinion.

We have a centrist as president in France. His administration mutilates peaceful protesters for life (blown up hands, lost eyes from rubber bullet impacts etc. see YV thread) and his supporters are all over twitter cheering on police brutality. Also protesters demand more democracy in the form of Citizens' initiative referendum and all the centrist goons on TV (including the prime minister who said it "ruffles" him) keep lecturing us about why more democracy is actually bad, if not outright fascist.

This kind of centrism is the den of neoliberals. Neoliberals are also fine with fascism (e.g. Milton Friedman / Augusto Pinochet). They will go with either solution as long as human solidarity, which takes its most efficient expression in the form of public services, is kept on a very short leash, if not destroyed altogether as is the case in so many African countries.

Perhaps the source data of the OP's study is bad, I am not expert enough in polling to tell. But the finding does resonate a lot with overwhelming facts about France, which a growing number of intellectuals are warning is descending into a "centrist" authoritarian state that criminalizes dissent to further the superwealthy's agenda at the expense of worsening common people's lives in all sectors of the work force.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfr ... owen-jones

The French president is hailed as a centrist saviour, a bulwark against extremes – even as he cuts taxes for the wealthy, attacks workers’ rights and demonises refugees

The world has gone mad, the fanatics of left and right are on the march, the voices of reason have been sidelined. This is the view of the self-styled “moderates” or “centrists” of the political world and the commentariat. There has been little reflection about how the broken economic model they defended unleashed so much anger and disillusionment.

Rather than debating ideas and policies, they longingly gaze after allegedly charismatic men who might act as saviours. David Miliband is the eternal prince over the water. But their international icon, France’s Emmanuel Macron, provides an instructive lesson in what “centrist” politics means in practice.

Macron is far more popular internationally than in France, where dissatisfaction with his presidency has surged to 58% less than a year after his election. Here is a man who owes his power to good luck rather than any vindication of his political philosophy. In the first round of the French presidential election, he scored less than a quarter of the vote, and not dramatically more than three other candidates including the far-right Marine Le Pen and radical left Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Macron’s thumping second-round victory was less an endorsement and more a rejection of fascism.

French scepticism towards Macron contrasts sharply with his own lack of self-doubt. He refused to be questioned by journalists because his “complex thought processes” were ill-suited for such a setting. His denunciations of his opponents would not be out of place on Donald Trump’s Twitter feed: they are “slackers” and “do-nothings”, while workers protesting over job losses should stop “wreaking havoc” and look for a job elsewhere. Macron is a pound-shop Margaret Thatcher, redistributing wealth to those with too much of it, while assaulting workers’ rights and France’s hard-won social model. His tax changes have gifted the hundred wealthiest households more than half a million euros a year: the top 1% captured 44% of his new tax breaks.

For the less affluent, it’s a different story. This former investment banker has slashed housing benefit, and hiked taxes on pensioners – in a country where the average monthly pension is just €1,300 (£1,100). His policies have shifted the workplace balance of power from workers to bosses. French students are staging occupations and protests against more selective entry requirements for universities, derided as an attack on free universal education and France’s social model.

Another pillar of his agenda is privatisation, including of France’s airports and part of the national energy utility. His confrontation with rail workers is seen as an attempt to lay the foundations for a catastrophic British-style privatisation of the railway industry. EU-mandated deregulation will mean foreign companies can soon compete with the state rail company SNCF, and Macron is transforming it from a state enterprise into a limited company; exactly what happened with the formerly state-owned France Télécom.

So-called centrists are supposed to be socially liberal. Macron exposes this pernicious myth for what it is. A man who courted left-leaning voters by promising a humane policy towards migrants and refugees now has them firmly in his sights. The number of days a person without papers can be imprisoned in a detention centre is to be doubled; the consideration time period for asylum has been halved, meaning fewer refugees will be accepted. Charities warn that refugees fleeing war will be deported. Macron’s interior minister, Gérard Collomb, claims that communities are “breaking up because they are overwhelmed by the inflow of asylum seekers”. No wonder the far-right Front National has described his policies as a “political victory”.

Macron offers no future for France, let alone any other western society. There is hope, however. For years after François Hollande betrayed his 2012 election pledge to break with austerity, the French left was in the doldrums. Polls showed that the far right was strongest among the disillusioned, insecure younger generation. The rise of radical left politician Mélenchon changed that: he won nearly a fifth of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, partly by prising some of the disaffected from the jaws of the far right.

Macron is presented as an oasis of moderation, a bulwark against the extremes. But there is nothing moderate about slashing taxes on the wealthy, attacking workers’ rights or demonising refugees. He represents a doubling down on an economic model that bred mass insecurity and proved an essential ingredient in the revival of French fascism.

It is the same across the west. An unjust economic model long defended by parties of the centre right and centre left – one that brought an economic crash that led to austerity and attacks on living standards – is squarely responsible for the polarisation of politics. If the left fails to provide an inspiring, coherent alternative, it will be the radical right that will triumph.
... in my opinion

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