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  • Richard Farr

Comeback Joe vs Mitch McVader

Liberal Democracy in 1900:

Liberal Democracy in 2017 (though let's recolor India and Hungary, shall we?):

Assuming the Republicans still control the Senate, in all its unmatched glory and dignity - and assuming muscular Federal security personnel finally grab the Great Orange Toad by the ears and drag him mewling and whining onto Pennsylvania Avenue, where I think that the nation, in a gesture of magnanimity, should pay for his cab - what can President Biden expect to get done?

This wonky but interesting report from Prospect is a small ray of hope, detailing 277 major changes he could make without legislation. To read at random ("Reinstate Federal flood protection standards" / "End denial of protection to asylum seekers" / "Reinstate the National Commission on Forensic Science" ... 274 to go ...) is a reminder of how much damage has been done, and can easily be undone.

Two things happened to "the US is the world's greatest democracy" during this election cycle. The Putins and Orbans of the world rejoiced to see exposed what Americans are trained not to think possible: that it's actually a fragile, clunky, badly-designed mess and in many ways spectacularly undemocratic. But also - and this is the good part: people around the world who responded with horrified laughter to see this zombie system in action were mostly viewing from within better-functioning democracies that, unlike Russia and Hungary, show the way forward.

In that context, it's also wonky, but fascinating, to see the work of the Swedish think-tank V-Dem on the q "What is democracy anyway, and who has more of it?" (So good to see people rising above the simplicity of "We're a democracy and they're not"!) Click on "Access the report here." Or look at this country ranking: Click on Table, where you can see the US nestled at #31, between Slovakia and Jamaica. Then go back to Map and use the historical slider, which suggests that the arc of history, though long, has since about 1950 bent very strongly towards liberal democracy. Let's hope recent developments are a mere kink.

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