A prescient op-ed in January quotes Crane Brinton’s view that “revolutions replace moderates with radicals, who then fall to authoritarians.”
What is to be done with the to different sides in Ukraine? We can start by trying to understand what is really happening–as well as the limits on American power:
Despite hopes to the contrary, the ability of the US to influence current political developments in Ukraine is considerably less that our diplomats might think. Refusing to play the game the same way while hoping for a different outcome could be a good first step. It may lead politicians across the Ukrainian political spectrum to recognize that they can’t rely on help from the outside, and that they need a new approach to hold the country together. The West should recognize that reality, too. Paradoxically, it may be best able to unite Ukraine under democratic principles by toning down the rhetoric and seeing democracy as a process, not just a victory for one side.
via The Weekly Wonk | The Two Ukraines
We see similar trends in Europe, but what do we make of calls in the U.S. to secede?
The domestic program of the Scottish nationalist movement is broadly liberal; it will seek to join the European Union and its leaders often insist that the Scottish people will remain culturally British.
In Europe’s case, the motor for secession is ethnicity. In America, however, it’s a politics turned toxic. The 2012 election encouraged the idea that the U.S. is split into two camps that are politically and culturally alien and with opposing economic needs. Mitt Romney’s infamous formula of the 47% (reiterated in his equally ugly post-election remarks about “gifts”) played upon an old idea that one half of the country feeds off the taxes paid by the other half.
Secessionists are likely to be those who see themselves as disadvantaged by the redistributive federal state: as taxpayers bled dry by freeloaders, and businesspeople penalized by liberal regulation. WKRG-TV found an eccentric example of that when it interviewed the founder of the Alabama petition and discovered that he was furious at the government for shutting down his topless car wash: “He said he was arrested and charged with obscenity by city officials in 2001. ‘The government ripped my business away, and now they’re choking America to death with rules and regulations,’ he said.”
via Is secession bid more than a cry of rage? – CNN.com.
Elections can be emotional, driven by issues, or even the weather (i.e., turnout). But another aspect of voting behavior is purely for the quants and game theory geeks. Here is a great NYT game day infographic you can use to follow the action tonight. Predictions?
Paths to the White House – Election 2012 – NYTimes.com.
What is the most persuasive argument you can find for not voting?
Voting is a leap of faith. Calling it a civic duty is not enough. Either you believe that the system is both changeable and worth changing, or you don’t — and most new voters are not convinced.
The arguments against voting have been persuasive to many Americans. But what about the flip side? Why bother? Here I think the arguments are better. War and peace. Equal rights for women and same-sex couples. My personal favorite, the balance of the Supreme Court. The prospect of meeting the love of your life at the polling place. Several people argued that if you don’t vote, you lose your right to complain about the results of an election. But I respectfully disagree. In our society, the right to complain is even more fundamental than the right to vote.
I don’t know what, in the end, forces me to vote. It could be fear; it could be guilt. Although my mother died over 10 years ago, I feel that she is watching me, and I don’t want to disappoint her.
via ‘11 Excellent Reasons Not to Vote?’ – NYTimes.com.
We witness different types of elections—including some noncompetitive or useful to prop up dictators and ideologues–but the Republic of Georgia seems to have gained a statesman in Saakashvili’s electoral loss:
As the election approached, American officials and other interlocutors shuttled between Mr. Ivanishvili and Mr. Saakashvili, hoping to defuse tensions in the event of a disputed vote. Representative David Dreier, Republican of California, said he quoted Winston Churchill’s directive, “In victory, magnanimity.”
“This is clearly the most competitive election in the history of the country,” said Mr. Dreier, who led a delegation from the International Republican Institute, an American democracy-building organization. “Let’s hope that brings about a different outcome than the ones we’ve seen in the past — where, basically, you grind your heel into the opposition.”
via Georgia’s President Concedes Defeat in Parliamentary Election – NYTimes.com.
The beauty of democracy is that you get to change things up. Maybe we can call it Teahouse Party Politics in Japan?
“Mr. Hashimoto has appeared at a time when discontent at Japan’s collusive politics is building” toward an eruption, said Katsuhito Yokokume, a lawmaker from Tokyo who quit the governing Democratic Party last year and wants to join Mr. Hashimoto. “The people feel betrayed by established political parties.”
The changes Mr. Hashimoto proposes would be nothing short of radical: to dismantle Japan’s heavily centralized government, once seen as its strength but now viewed as thwarting reform. His party aims to replace what exists with an American-style federalism in which newly created states would hold greater control over their regions. The party also wants voters to directly choose the prime minister, who is now selected by Parliament.
via Osaka Mayor’s Radical Message Has Broad Appeal With Japanese – NYTimes.com.
A majority–including among Muslims–decry the violence. But when different laws and cultural norms about free speech clash, the outcome can be tragic.
In a context where insults to religion are crimes and the state has tightly controlled almost all media, many in Egypt, like other Arab countries, sometimes find it hard to understand that the American government feels limited by its free speech rules from silencing even the most noxious religious bigot.
via Cultural Clash Fuels Muslims Raging at Film – NYTimes.com.
And now for something completely different, as they say…compare and contrast the Arab Street to the Mormon Pew, via Bret Stephens in WSJ:
And, finally, this: That the most “progressive” administration in recent U.S. history will make no principled defense of free speech to a Muslim world that could stand hearing such a defense. After the debut of “The Book of Mormon” musical, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints responded with this statement: “The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.”
That was it. The People’s Front for the Liberation of Provo will not be gunning for a theater near you. Is it asking too much of religious and political leaders in Muslim communities to adopt a similar attitude?
It needn’t be. A principled defense of free speech could start by quoting the Quran: “And it has already come down to you in the Book that when you hear the verses of Allah [recited], they are denied [by them] and ridiculed; so do not sit with them until they enter into another conversation.” In this light, the true test of religious conviction is indifference, not susceptibility, to mockery.
via Stephens: Muslims, Mormons and Liberals – WSJ.com.