Stoking the Fire of Democracy: Our Generations Introduction to Grassroots Organizing

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Stoking the Fire of Democracy: Our Generation's Introduction to Grassroots Organizing

Zakaria claims that the correlation held for nineteenth-century Europe as well. In this sense, he asserted, the United States and the Soviet Union had much in common. Order plus liberty. According to Zakaria, before moving to democracy, they must first put in place all the attributes of an ordered, liberal society. When democracy is adopted in countries that are not ready for it, then democracy itself becomes pernicious, and not only for the people of the nation in which it is unwisely planted.

It is his principal contribution to the present discussion of political development. For there have indeed been setbacks in democracies, and perhaps permanent failures to promote democracy in many parts of the world. Political scientists such as Diamond and democracy experts such as Thomas Carothers have long catalogued and ruminated over these failures. But they, like almost everyone else, have asked why democracy has failed. In his view, the problem in many countries is not that democracy fails, but that it succeeds.

The evils that we see in the world, he insists, represent the product of democratization, not the failure of democratization. This is not just a question of semantics. Declaring a democracy failed and declaring it an illiberal democracy lead to entirely different prescriptions. If a democracy fails, then democracy itself is not implicated in the disasters that follow, and the remedy might be more democracy. But if the disasters are the product of the success of democracy, then the remedy is, as Zakaria insists, more dictatorship.

Zakaria claims that it is rampant. Consider the example of Belarus. Immediately after winning, however, Lukashenko began ruling as an authoritarian dictator. It is a dictatorship. The history books are filled with democratically elected leaders entrenching themselves in power by undemocratic means. The Somozas held repeated elections and referenda, too, and they won them all.

So let us return to Belarus. But Zakaria is playing a somewhat slippery game. There are equally peculiar inclusions at the other end of the spectrum. It would seem strange to list Argentina in the same category as Belarus. Freedom House more correctly categorized Argentina as both democratic and liberal throughout the Menem years.

The military dictatorships that preceded Menem in Argentina did not have to issue decrees; they issued disappearances. A category that includes Argentina and Belarus, the Philippines and Kazakhstan, and many other equally dissimilar polities is an imprecise category indeed. Calling Belarus a democracy smears all democracies.

Throwing Argentina into the same cell with Belarus makes Argentina look guiltier than it is. Zakaria also employs other means of smearing democracy. Often he blames democracies for problems for which they bear no responsibility. In order to demonstrate that democracies are incompetent at stimulating economic growth, he cites the case of Indonesia.

But does Zakaria believe that ethnic conflict would have been avoided after the breakup of Yugoslavia had Serbia been in the hands of an unelected dictator? No, he shies away from making such an absurd claim. Indeed they are not. Nor would any sensible person hold democratization responsible for ethnic conflict in parts of Africa, where tribal warfare has thrived in all political climates. It is true that in the first decades after independence, secularism was part of the Indonesian social compact. In an offhanded remark Zakaria even claims that democracy was responsible for the perpetuation of slavery in the United States.

Southern Senators employed those same practices to block civil rights legislation during the century that followed the Civil War. In the end, of course, the autocrats were overthrown by an angry populace, despite their benevolent rule. For it implies not only that dictatorships objectively create the conditions for democracy, but also that such is their intent. Please enter 5 or 9 numbers for the ZIP Code.

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