Like many others who pay some attention to the state of world affairs, I have become alarmed at the rise of authoritarianism throughout the world.
Populist leaders throughout the world have risen to prominence and are threatening democracy. Hence a recent headline in the Economist entitled How Democracy Dies.
In this article examinations of indices of the health of democracy show “alarming deterioration since the financial crisis of 2007-08.”
One study by the Economist Intelligent Unit (a sister firm of the Economist) showed 89 countries regressing in 2017 with only 27 improving.
There are several definitions of “Populism.”
One sees it as a political strategy in which a charismatic leader appeals to the masses while sweeping aside institutions.
The range of issues crosses the ideological spectrum from the extreme right wing to the far left.
Through the 1930s during and after the great depression, Adolf Hitler rose to power using the power of fear and rhetoric to push aside democratic norms.
In the United States, the president has unleashed vigorous attacks on the judiciary system, the press and the security system as well as the rhetoric of fear to debase and dehumanize minority groups.
President Trump’s outrageous hyperbole and trashing of world order is unprecedented and is very disturbing.
As far as some are concerned these are the first steps towards authoritarian rule.
I was shocked at the power of executive orders issued by the president, but article two of the U.S. constitution vests executive power in the president, which gives him the power to oversee and direct various aspects of the executive branch, but he must not act in opposition to the law.
The checks and balances built into the system should preserve the democratic system, but only if individuals and government bodies have the courage to address such overreach.
I believe that President Trump’s rhetoric, has lowered the bar to what now seems the norm for civility, misinformation and facts and what is accepted in the public realm.
This approach to discussion and communication has spread.
Anybody now uses social media to quickly and effectively spread misleading and false information to pressure larger community groups and elected officials.
Individuals and groups can feel intimidated from speaking their opinions, business groups feel threatened and will not speak out for fear of boycotts.
This is also called bullying on an individual and a community-wide basis.
These activities threaten democratic process and effective, honest open discussion.
When this occurs, the whole community loses.
Peter Waterman is the mayor of Summerland.