Happy Thanksgiving! Catch up on what people are reading.

It turns out that yesterday was not the busiest air travel day of the year in the United States.  Neither is Sunday. (I know, I’m shocked too.)  Statistics don’t help you much, though, if you’re currently stuck in an airport, sandwiched between your fellow disgruntled passengers in an overcrowded waiting area, or on a train or bus just trying to get to a loved one’s home for Turkey Day.

Never fear, though, we here at the Democracy & Governance Program have got you covered.  While you’re in the air, on the rails, or on the road (assuming you’re not doing the driving), here are a few of the best democracy & governance reads from around the web the last few weeks.

-First up, for those of you in our international audience who may not be clear on what today’s Thanksgiving holiday is or how it came about, the good folks over at Newsweek have a helpful primer.  How Americans celebrate has changed over the years too, as this report from NPR outlines.  Among the stranger of American political traditions, the holiday now includes a presidential pardon for a turkey.  And while most Americans gather around a less-fortunate turkey (or tofurkey) and stuffing, we are otherwise united only in our inability to agree about what else is necessary at the Thanksgiving table.

-Worried that Thanksgiving dinner conversation will degrade into an argument about how democracy isn’t working and our institutions have all gone down the tubes?  Here’s some interactive advice for steering the conversation in a more constructive direction.  At the very least, you can at least take comfort that you’re not alone.  Check out this recent report from Georgetown University’s Baker Center, that finds that less than half of Americans are satisfied with how democracy is working in the United States.  And lest you think the United States is alone in this, the Latinobarómetro survey released its latest report last week, finding that only 24% of Latin Americans are satisfied with democracy in their country, the lowest level in the survey’s two decades of polling.

-The New York Times’ report on Facebook executives’ handling of other governments’ efforts to sway American voters and other issues of privacy and transparency is damning.  It’s also worth reading in full.

-It’s just over a year since Robert Mugabe was pushed out of power in Zimbabwe.  The country is still far from qualifying as a democracy. Mwita Chacha and Jonathan Powell explain why over at The Monkey Cage.  (If you want a refresher on what actually happened last year, check out our own Lexi Merrick Boiro’s analysis here at D&S Online.)

-On foreignpolicy.com earlier this month, Kate Cronin-Furman argued that the United States’ recent history of rewarding “progress” on human rights in Myanmar and Sri Lanka set the bar far too low.  The piece has been making the rounds and prompts much-needed reflection on walking the tightrope between incentivizing reform and having realistic expectations.

-How can corrupt and struggling democratic governments be moved to address the glaring levels of violence in their countries?  An interview with Rachel Kleinfeld explores the answers provided in her new book.

Good luck with your travels, and Happy Thanksgiving from all of us here at the DG program.  May your turkey be perfectly roasted, your dinner conversation civil, and your salad not made with romaine.

Jennifer Dresden, PhD, is Associate Director of the Democracy and Governance Program at Georgetown University. 

An Anatomy of Corruption: Haiti

By Georges A. Fauriol

The past decade has convincingly brought to a close a period of global democratic growth and consolidation underway since the late 1970s – Samuel Huntington’s “third wave.”  We have instead now witnessed twelve years of democratic decline. This is fueled by the resurgence of expansionist authoritarianism armed with a vision strategically eager to compete with the norms and institutions of democracy; worse, there is also a measurable decline by established democracies in their commitment to democratic governing principles – in the aggregate, this is Larry Diamond’s “democratic recession.”

Continue reading “An Anatomy of Corruption: Haiti”

The Highs and Lows of the Midterms for Democracy

Photo: Ilhan Omar, MN-05 Representative-Elect. (Photo credit: Lorie Shaull)

By Democracy & Society Editors

The Democratic party performed about as well as expected in the midterm elections, perhaps restoring confidence to the electoral prediction industry. Though the success of the Democratic party in the House of Representatives can be taken as a sign that Americans are rejecting some of the more authoritarian aspects of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, the conduct of candidates’ during the campaign and after the election should leave (small-d) democrats pessimistic. The Democratic party’s new majority in the House will place a check on President Donald Trump’s power, but the 2018 midterms served to highlight the profound problems of American democracy.

Continue reading “The Highs and Lows of the Midterms for Democracy”

The Rohingya Crisis: Is Aung San Suu Kyi Turning Back on Media Freedom and Human Rights?

By Han Wool Jung

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese (Myanmarese) Noble Peace prize winner who was under house arrest for pro-democracy activism, came to power as State Counsellor and leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in 2016 with a considerably free election. In the beginning, her victory was an auspicious win for the Myanmar democratization process. However, the prolonged ethnic conflict between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority, the Rohingya, has turned into a genocide. In addition, the media, responsible for promoting freedom of information and dispersing injustice done to the Rohingya, is still severely repressed. As shown by recent imprisonment of two Reuters journalists, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, who were investigating the brutal violence on the Rohingya, the military is controlling the coverage of the violence. All these have incited international outrage against the Myanmar military and the government, and especially Suu Kyi for not promoting media freedom and attempting to end the vicious cycle of violence and discrimination on the Rohingya.

Continue reading “The Rohingya Crisis: Is Aung San Suu Kyi Turning Back on Media Freedom and Human Rights?”

Has Saudi Arabia Become a Monarchy of Fear?

This article was originally published by Arab Centre Washington DC and is republished with their permission from http://arabcenterdc.org/policy_analyses/has-saudi-arabia-become-a-monarchy-of-fear/ 

By Daniel Brumberg

The murder of prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi reminded Americans that the United States remains aligned with Arab leaders who regularly repress, imprison, and kill opponents for expressing their political views. Khashoggi’s killing in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2 was an especially gruesome crime. To be sure, Washington has often backed regimes that employ lethal violence on a far grander scale. Egypt’s current president, General Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, took power in a July 2013 military coup that ended the country’s brief and tumultuous democratic experiment. Less than a month later, Egyptian security forces slaughtered some 800 civilian protesters in Rabaa Square. Sisi’s government, backed by the judiciary, then proceeded to jail tens of thousands of Egyptians on vague or trumped-up charges. Yet President Barack Obama’s secretary of state, John Kerry, did not protest and even praised Sisi and his allies for “restoring democracy.” From a strictly moral point of view, then, was Kerry’s statement worse than President Donald Trump’s assertion that Khashoggi’s killing was probably the work of “rogue killers”? This assertion was taken up by Saudi leaders who proceeded to dismissalleged conspirators from their positions and imprison other collaborators—acts that are nevertheless seen by the world as only a cover-up for perfidious behavior by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Continue reading “Has Saudi Arabia Become a Monarchy of Fear?”

Contemporary Geopolitical Changes and Democratic Transitions

Photo: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (via Kremlin)

By Avram Reisman

At a time when democracy is in recession and facing new challenges, it is worth looking back on essential literature written when democratic change was similarly challenged by authoritarian powers. Transitions from Authoritarian Rule, by Guillermo O’Donnell and Phillippe Schmitter, was a paradigmatic publication that set parameters and expectations for democratic transitions in U.S. policy and for democratic opposition groups in many parts of the world. Looking with a contemporary critical lens, it’s clear the sands of time have eroded the model’s validity. However, with some adaptation, the model provides some direction for new international landscape.

Continue reading “Contemporary Geopolitical Changes and Democratic Transitions”

US Midterm Election: Call for Contributors

Are you anticipating the 2018 Blue Wave? Do you expect the midterms to exceed, meet, or fail to live up to expectations? Do you see important consequences for US democracy on the horizon? Democracy & Society is seeking up to two writers who are able to commit to writing reaction blog articles to the 2018 US election the day after the election. Proposals for reaction articles will be considered until October 26th. Please include in your email an aspect of the election you plan to highlight. Those interested in writing prediction articles are also welcome to submit an article or proposal no later than Friday, November 2nd. Please direct all submissions or inquiries to democracyandsociety@gmail.com.

As always, Democracy & Society welcomes submissions on other comparative and international politics topics as well. If you have an idea for a blog, please feel free to reach out to our editors as well at the email address above. We are happy to assist in the development of an article and answer any questions.

Disorder in the Court: Confirming a New Supreme Court Justice amidst Bitter Partisanship

By Matison Hearn-Desautels

Bret Kavanaugh’s confirmation process has provoked a nationwide dispute over the state of American democracy, partisanship, and the lack of accountability for men in power accused of sexual assault. His confirmation on Saturday solidified a conservative majority in the Supreme Court for years to come. The 5-4 majority could determine the outcomes of key juridical matters ranging from a possible indictment of the President, to a potential repeal of Roe versus Wade.

The Senate Judiciary Committee moved to confirm Kavanaugh on Friday following a week-long FBI investigation into the allegations made by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her while the two were in high school.

Continue reading “Disorder in the Court: Confirming a New Supreme Court Justice amidst Bitter Partisanship”

The Devastating Humanitarian Toll of Corruption: The Declaration of Human Rights Reaches 70

By Frank Vogl

Corruption – the abuse of public office for private gain – rages across most countries and for every crime of corruption there is a victim – now the number of victims is multiplying.

This should not have been the case – following World War Two we were promised a better world. After the suffering of tens of millions of people in two world wars, the leaders of the new United Nations felt compelled on December 10, 1948, to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is the most important public statement made in my lifetime. It is an aspirational document that calls on the governments of all to do good.

As we approach the 70thanniversary of that U.N. action we need to be still bolder in recognizing that Its objectives have been insufficiently attained. Yes, more people have been lifted out of poverty in these last 70 years than in all of history. Yes, more people in more countries than ever before participate in elections, enjoy freedom of speech and assembly. And, it is also true that more people currently enjoy greater wealth than could previously have been imagined. Continue reading “The Devastating Humanitarian Toll of Corruption: The Declaration of Human Rights Reaches 70”

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