Will democracy survive the popular Trump revolution?

Fragile Democracies - This is why many of us tend to be authoritarian leaders

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President Trump is history. At least for the time being. But the rise of such figures is neither a coincidence nor an isolated incident.

In one of his last campaign appearances, ex-US President Donald Trump once again gave full throttle against democracy: "Lock up Joe Biden and his family, including Hillary Clinton - lock everyone up!" And although in the USA a president is only allowed two terms in a row, he raved about staying for twelve or even 16 years.

But Trump is not a historic accident: Trump can happen again in the USA - and anywhere else. Especially in young democracies, from Poland to Hungary to Turkey, from Malaysia to Indonesia, from Brazil to Venezuela, and from Senegal to Uganda rulers are increasingly showing authoritarian tendencies. Even traditional democracies are not immune.

"Around a third of all people tend to be authoritarian leaders," says political psychologist Karen Stenner. She taught as a professor at Princeton University, USA, until recently and now at Griffith University in Australia. She also says: "Authoritarian preferences are only slightly more widespread on the political right than on the left."

Stenner and Jessica Stern from Boston University published a much discussed text entitled “Living with Autocrats”. The link will open in a new window. Many people do not care whether the politicians they have elected rule in accordance with the rule of law or in an authoritarian manner, the main thing is that their goals are enforced.

Noteworthy: Authoritarian tendencies are to a large extent hereditary and often not immediately recognizable. Stenner: “People appear to be pleasant neighbors for a long time and even get involved in social or church projects. But suddenly the authoritarian tendencies penetrate. What's the trigger? Often it is a loss of confidence in the democratic leadership. "

It is true that the better educated are less prone to authoritarianism. But not thanks to better training, but the other way round: Those who are more mentally active, more tolerant, more flexible are more likely to achieve higher education.
Author: Karen StennerPolitical psychologist

In addition, there is a lack of common values. More and more people are unable to cope with economic globalization, the complexity of today's life, the growing religious and ethnic diversity in modern societies and - currently - the restrictions due to the corona pandemic. And then tend to be authoritarian and their solutions.

The cause, according to Stenner, is often "a lack of openness inherent in the personality, combined with what I sometimes politely call cognitive limitations." Or a little less polite: intellectual deficits. However, they cannot be remedied with education: “It is true that the better educated are less susceptible to authoritarianism. But not thanks to better training, but the other way round: Those who are more mentally active, more tolerant, more flexible are more likely to achieve higher education. "

Democracy as an export hit?

According to Stenner, people are not “vessels that you just have to fill with democratic ideas in order to turn them into model democrats”. Therefore: "Those who live in a democracy are not automatically more democratic."

The conclusions are sobering: the West has distributed air-conditioning systems around the world, but democracy will not succeed. It is not even permanently secured in previously democratic countries.

Is there nothing that can be done about authoritarian tendencies? Indeed: little. People with a penchant for autocrats with a new sense of community and belonging were most likely to be involved. But that is extremely difficult in times of individualization and conflicting interests.

Rendez-vous on March 11th, 2021, 12:30 pm

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  • Comment from Riitta Bislimi (ribi)
    Alex12. Exactly. That is why ethics is a compulsory subject at all levels, taught according to age.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Alex Avner Herzfeld (Alex12)
    Democracy has a lot to do with enlightenment, i.e. with the famous Kantian "liberation from self-inflicted immaturity" or with the willingness to accept the "sullen business of thinking". We just have to continue this slow process indefatigably.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Commentary from Nunzio DiResta (Nunzio)
    The accumulation of more and more capital and resources in fewer and fewer hands already bears the seeds of an autocracy.
    Agree agree to the comment

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