• Shawn
    12.1k
    Why or why not if you care to explain?
    1. Is the United States becoming more authoritarian? (23 votes)
        Yes
        65%
        No
        35%
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    664
    I voted no. The US is becoming more polarized and partisans are more vocal in embracing authoritarianism on both sides, but this polarization itself undermines actual attempts at authoritarianism.

    The extreme partisans have, to date, come nowhere close to having legislative majorities to get much done policy wise. For example, despite the portrayal of Trump as a fascist on immigration I believe his total deportations never matched Obama's, while illegal border crossings hit a 13 year high in 2019. Being an authoritarian means actually having the attention span to administer and get things done, something Trump lacked.

    The Republicans could have removed the filibuster and redone election laws, overhauled immigration, even challenged birth right citizenship given their historic victory in 2016. in reality, they didn't even hold a vote on token legislation vis-a-vis immigration. They lacked the discipline and real support from within the party's center wing to touch the issue at all. To be sure, this also has to do with the fact that the upper class benefits from migration, which keeps wages lower and rents higher, but there is every indication Trump did have this issue in his focus more than any other issue, and still got fuck all done on it aside from alienating rhetoric, which we can all be thankful for since you can assume any policy overhaul led by the man would be a trainwreck.

    The people who want to be authoritarian, the extremists, don't command the loyalty or respect of the institutions they'd have to wield to do so. The military leadership absolutely hated Trump and the officer corps were not fans either. The judiciary was also overwhelmingly not fans. If Ilhan Omar became President magically tomorrow she'd face a similar problem of resistance if she tried to advance policies without the weight of the legislature behind her, something neither party can achieve electorally.

    The state was actually more authoritarian circa the mid-20th century. Things like COINTEL Pro could happen without leaking right away. Censorship and black listing of communists was supported by the state and huge swaths of the entertainment media and private sector. Orthodoxy was more rigidly commanded.

    What we have now is a problem of polarization and lack of any semblance of professionalism in elected officials; we have the age of the reality TV official. It's a lack of discipline that leads to radical policy swings, but on the up side (depending on how you look at it) the policies also don't stay. Say what you will about Obamacare, it was crafted to last due to its incentives, which is why the GOP never mustered a repeal vote despite having both chambers.

    Things like Federal prison staff snatching people off the street in Portland would be a counterpoint to my argument. Here would be my rejoinder: that lasted about two weeks, and the fact that the policy died a quick death shows the inability for the President to be authoritarian even when he wants to. Given America's developed civil society, a certain level of competence is required for successful authoritarianism, something the Orange Augustus lacked.

    The risk of this breaking down going forward is that the radicals are:

    A. Trying to enshrine new antidemocratic authorities in laws and norms (mostly the Right, vis challenges to elections)
    B. Trying to tear down civil society and any faith (mostly the Left by claiming essentially every institution, including the ones keeping authoritarianism at bay are White Supremecist and must bend the knee to them)

    Still, I'd diagnose the problem more as too little order and too much chaos, rather than an authoritarian surfeit of order. America is in need of a Solon (reformer and champion of order) far more than it is in need of a Bolivar (a revolutionary, or God forbid, a competent reactionary). Or frankly, 8 more years of Obama if he'd take the job.
  • TheMadFool
    13.9k
    Is the United States becoming more authoritarian?Shawn

    When you're on a train, one sometimes feels the train on another track is moving while the truth is the train you're on is actually moving. It's relative.

    Are we becoming more liberal?
  • Apollodorus
    3.4k


    I would ask "authoritarian" in what sense? More in the direction of a benevolent dictatorship or communism/fascism?
  • Apollodorus
    3.4k
    The extreme partisans have, to date, come nowhere close to having legislative majorities to get much done policy wise.Count Timothy von Icarus

    True. But lack of success by democratic means may lead to greater radicalization and authoritarianism.
    The Left may use right-wing authoritarianism to push their own version and the other way around, and the situation can quickly spiral in the direction of authoritarianism.

    Also, as the demographic situation changes, so does political culture. Hispanic influence, for example, may well lead to a more authoritarian climate in the future. This process may be accelerated if there is economic decline, economic and military conflict with other powers, etc.
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    4.9k
    Is the United States becoming more authoritarian?Shawn

    Becoming? :sad:
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Good point, Tiff.

    I would make the same point too.

    A vast security system has been already in place for long time. The security oriented approach to everything has also been apparent in the US and has grown since 9/11, although one might argue that it has been there since the "Red Scare" from the 20th Century. And 9/11 happened 20 years ago.

    What I think is happening that Americans are getting even more disaffected with politics and the political system, but unfortunately this will create only further disunity among the people.

    The US could get even more "authoritarian", if the economy collapses. We already have seen the rioting and large scale looting can happen in the country, which the security apparatus has to respond to. That response can also be like the response in Washington DC, but it also can be a response like in Portland (or earlier in Seattle). That likely will make people insecure and want harsh measures.
  • Shawn
    12.1k



    Does anyone remember the liberalism of Bill Clinton? Those were good times.
  • frank
    11.1k
    I think people are starting to accept that a dictatorship is probably the only way forward, tho they probably wouldn't use that word.

    The system is too subverted by monied interests to work for the people.
  • Shawn
    12.1k
    And 9/11 happened 20 years ago.ssu

    Yet, terrorism is still such a prominent topic, with there being 12 intelligence agencies in the United States doing different tasks along with the same thing.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Yet, terrorism is still such a prominent topic, with there being 12 intelligence agencies in the United States doing different tasks along with the same thing.Shawn
    As I said earlier, the intelligence establishment has been there well before the current terrorism scare.

    Does anyone remember the liberalism of Bill Clinton? Those were good times.Shawn
    Yes, the NAFTA deal. The time when the Democrats didn't care anymore about their classic supporters like the trade unions. And the first Presidential Impeachment that I remember.
  • Keith W
    3
    authoritarian in comparison to what? past America? or the rest of the world? in relation to the rest of the world it wouldn't be close to the most authoritarian by comparison. It certainly does have its share of problems these days though. But name somewhere that isn't having problems America just makes its problems more public.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    in relation to the rest of the world it wouldn't be close to the most authoritarian by comparison.Keith W
    How about against the backdrop of Western industrialized democracies?

    But name somewhere that isn't having problems...Keith W

    The Swiss don't seem to have much problems. (Having difficulties with the EU shouldn't even considered to be a problem, but the normal)

    ...America just makes its problems more public.Keith W
    And how many countries have had the military in such numbers inside their Parliament this year?

    ?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia.beam.usnews.com%2F4a%2Fc4%2Ffe5ead764fbda1265ea72533de1f%2F210113newsguard2-editorial.jpg

    Sorry, but the train wreck in what the Trump Presidency ended was truly not something that happens in other stable democracies. Riots, protests, yes... but pictures like the above?
  • Foghorn
    331
    Western democracies have evolved past the simplistic authoritarian schemes of the past.

    Here in America the top 1% own 40% of the nation's wealth. The aristocracy is alive and well. But they are smarter than they used to be. They don't dominate the culture in the primitive old blunt force method. We can't overthrow the king these days, because few of us really know who the king is.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    I voted yes, but the entire government apparatus, corporate establishment, and social patterns is by no means uniformly authoritarian. Further, it is not a straight-forward authoritarianism of the sort that Franco or Pinochet, Hitler, Tojo, Stalin, Mussolini, et al exhibited. The people who attempted to disrupt Congress and state legislatures strike me as authoritarians, even if their affect was more anarchistic. Police are generally authoritarian in the US, more so in some states than others; more so in some cities than others. Business management is often authoritarian. Twisted social service agencies can be authoritarian too.

    Example: I once attended a training on a therapeutic technique that was to be used in the agency. We were told at the beginning that we were expected to accept the technique as presented without question or doubt. I became persona non gratis by announcing that I was not inclined to believe things just because somebody told me to. Oops. Bad move. Nearly got fired for saying that. It wasn't the technique per se that I refused to swallow--it was the requirement to "accept it or else".

    Authoritarianism has more than one definition. Like fascism or anarchism, socialism or democracy, there needs to be an agreed definition. For me, authoritarianism is characterized by punitive responses to resistance or disagreement; willingness to employ violence (under some circumstances); rigidity; non-negotiable policies; unwillingness to be questioned publicly; indifference to harm caused by authoritarian actions.
  • ssu
    6.3k
    Authoritarianism has more than one definition. Like fascism or anarchism, socialism or democracy, there needs to be an agreed definition.Bitter Crank
    Good luck with that, BC. That will be hard even here.

    Of course there are various levels of authoritarianism, yet we know that authoritarianism, just like fascism, socialism, communism and the most loved term now, racism, are by many used just as a derogatory insult that has barely anything to do with the actual classic definition of the term.

    Just think how many various kind of people are depicted as nazis or commies?
  • Hanover
    8.8k
    Let's get a working definition of authoritarianism:

    "Favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom."

    In the US, there are two competing authoritarian ideologies. One asks for allegiance in wearing masks and the other wants us to take an oath to stop stealing elections. These are loosely interpreted as two competing principles: The right of protection against oppression versus the right of protection of the traditional status quo. Or, put another way, let's fix our inherent problems versus let's protect the goose that has laid us this golden egg.

    Our government, despite the rhetoric, handles these competing interests with significant tolerance. The left burns the streets and the right storms the Capitol, but there's no real authoritarian crack down like you might see in China, Russia, and certainly not like in N. Korea. There are some charges brought, but my guess is within a few years, all the sentences and probation will be served and those folks will go back to whatever they did before they got caught up in the frenzy of the moment.

    All of this is to say, we have always placed a premium on law and order, but we've also always had a rebellious undercurrent that we've tolerated in varying degrees, likely with more tolerance as time has marched on. It's really not possible to be a democracy with a diverse population and demand homogenous behavior.
  • NOS4A2
    6.2k
    Yes, it is. With each day more power is conferred to the state. Laws are created and enforced more than they are repealed. The government increases, never decreases. This progressive growth of state power represents a diminution of freedom.

    I can’t get a general taste for the sentiment from living there, but from what I can see I think there is a corresponding, psychological effect among the citizens, and that is authoritarianism. Note the ease with which many allowed the politicians and bureaucrats to control them during the current theft of power. That is to be expected in European countries or Canada, but not in the US.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    "Favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, especially that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom."Hanover

    Governments are often enough the purveyors of authoritarian enforcement, but I would include employers as a category. The workplace is where most people have to negotiate authority and the power to compel compliance. Employers can't jail employees but they have the very great leverage of wage withdrawal--firing. Depending on one's circumstance, the rate of unemployment, the condition of the economy, and so on losing a job can range from inconvenient to catastrophic.



    I am arguing to include employers as agents who can and do enforce strict obedience to their authority. In a different thread I'd argue that workers need more power to resist employers.
  • Bitter Crank
    11.1k
    Good luck with that, BC. That will be hard even here.ssu

    Yes, indeed. @Hanover's definition applies to governmental behavior. I'd add application to employer behavior. The balance between the prerogatives of government and employers vs. personal freedom is a point on the scales that will be hard to agree upon, even among people who are philosophically similar. I want more personal freedom, of course, but I desire more limitation of the predations of private agents than @NOS4A2 would accept. Limiting the power of employers requires cooperation from government. Workers can form powerful labor unions, but labor unions can be frustrated by law--as they have been by both federal and state law. So... whose fleece is going to get shaved?
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    664


    The problem with peaceful redistribution from the top is that the people on the bottom don't see themselves as part of the same culture or nation, and really don't like or trust each other.

    America was never quite as strong of a nation as places like Germany or France, although people overstate how cohesive those cultures were before the 19th century. That is, they both relied on a strong, intentional nation building projects and language standardization from above to merge many peoples into one, French as a uniform culture in 1750 is an anachronism. The US is now the first to experience becoming a post-nation globalized state, and it is unclear how that works. Europe will follow, whole Japan seems like it will be the first to try major demographic decline in lieu of the globalization of its populace.
  • NOS4A2
    6.2k


    I am arguing to include employers as agents who can and do enforce strict obedience to their authority. In a different thread I'd argue that workers need more power to resist employers.

    That’s very true, though I think it is much easier to change employers than it is to change state authority.
  • Athena
    2.2k
    There are two ways to have social order, culture, or authority over the people. In 1958 the US stopped transmitting its culture and that leaves only authority over the people for social control.
  • Athena
    2.2k
    ↪Bitter Crank

    I am arguing to include employers as agents who can and do enforce strict obedience to their authority. In a different thread I'd argue that workers need more power to resist employers.

    That’s very true, though I think it is much easier to change employers than it is to change state authority.
    NOS4A2

    Yes, the US modeled its industry after Britain's autocratic order and it follows that the US is more autocratic than democratic.
  • Prishon
    984


    Absolutely no. The constitution is as it ever was. Equal chances and opportunities for all. If Im not mistaken as an outsider Dutch guy. The US is an abstract entity, like the constitution. And which anti-authoritarian is against equal for all? It are the people who authoritarian. They fill in the abstract constitution. But the US itself, about which the question is asked, is not. In practice, freedom for all cultures, seems still farawy, though a new Hitlerian I don't see as having a chance.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    the current theft of power.NOS4A2
    I have noticed that repeatedly, nos4, you ignore questions about your assertions. Kindly, then, as consequence, allow me to be brief and blunt. On this notion of "theft of power": put up or stf up.

    I won't bother holding my breath for your reply. And don't waste our time with one non-responsive.
  • tim wood
    8.4k
    I don't see as having a chance.Prishon
    Watch the film "Loving" and reconsider. We're just slow at some things, but inertial and inexorable once moving. Those victims crushed under history's wheels may solace themselves - if possible - with, "They also serve...". Not much, but something.
  • Prishon
    984
    I don't see as having a chance.Prishon

    The native Americans see the invaders as Hitlerian. They were slaughtered and put in concentration camps. There hunting fields were taken from them. Compare with the treatment of jews. That attitude is still there.
  • Prishon
    984
    Watch the film "Loving" and reconsider.tim wood

    What's the film about?
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