“In fact, far-right parties have been slowly but steadily increasing their electoral support and political power in Europe since the early 1980s. Over that time, they have moved from the political margins into the political mainstream. As a consequence, far-right parties currently constitute the biggest threat to liberal democracy in Europe.
Five European countries in particular (but not exclusively) deserve attention on this front. Going from the most to the least acute level of threat, the world should keep an eye on Hungary, Poland, Italy, Sweden, and France. In all these countries, far-right parties are electorally successful and politically powerful, though their ability to weaken liberal democracy varies.”
“It was only in the third wave, 1980-2000, that far-right parties started to break into national parliaments in various European countries, such as the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the misleadingly named Center Party (CP) in the Netherlands. These populist radical right parties shared a core ideology of nativism, authoritarianism, and populism. Although not strictly single-issue parties, they mostly profited from a growing political dissatisfaction that centered in particular on immigration.
That paved the way for the fourth wave at the beginning of the century, in which far-right parties moved from the political margins into the political mainstream and increased their electoral support, from an average of just 1 percent of the vote in EU member states in the 1980s to close to 10 percent in the 2010s.”
“Most of the relevant parties in this fourth wave are part of the same populist radical right subgroup, focusing primarily on issues like crime, corruption, and immigration. Unlike the extreme right, which consists of a broad variety of small, neo-fascist parties — parties that, in terms of ideology and symbols, hark back to the fascist movements of the early 20th century — the radical right supports democracy per se. That is, they support popular sovereignty and majority rule, while opposing key institutions and values of liberal democracy, such as an independent judiciary and media, minority rights, pluralism, and the separation of powers.”
“the main impact is indirect, through the co-optation of the far-right agenda or the collaboration with far-right parties — by, mostly but not exclusively, mainstream right-wing parties — as is happening in France and Sweden, for example. What makes this process particularly problematic is that it is often not perceived as far-right or threatening; within the political establishment, many might deny or minimize cries of authoritarianism or nativism among insiders.”
“People in China have been living under extreme anti-Covid lockdowns as part of the country’s “zero-Covid” policy for the past three years. But after a wave of protests, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) appears ready to loosen some of those restrictions.
In late November, protests broke out in Urumqi, a city in the Xinjiang province, after an apartment fire there killed 10 people. Residents believe that fire trucks were obstructed by fences, tents, and other barriers normally used for Covid-19 precautions, leading to a multi-hour delay in extinguishing the blazes. The region had been under strict lockdown for more than 100 days at that point, and the fire proved to be a breaking point for many people who live there — and alongside other Covid-related incidents, helped galvanize protests in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Beijing, and elsewhere across China.”
“hile the protests were overwhelmingly about ending the lockdowns, we also heard some calls for an end to President Xi Jinping’s surveillance state. One of the most striking images of the protests has been one of demonstrators holding up blank pieces of paper, a symbol of Chinese censorship.
But it’s not likely to spell the end of surveillance in China. The government is already leveraging the vast amounts of information it’s collected on its citizens — including cell phone location data — to crack down on those who participated in the protests.”
“Should Trump win, it would be a mistake to assume a second Trump term would roughly resemble the first. In that first term, Trump heavily relied for his appointments on the “Republican establishment,” including many officials who did try at least somewhat to rein in his most extreme or corrupt impulses. Since, he’s become more reliant on extreme advisers who have little interest in the norms of liberal democracy. That means a second-term Trump could well be far more successful at actually doing the corrupt things he always wanted to do.”
“He’d also return to power with a different party. Since Trump’s initial rise to power, the GOP has gradually been remaking itself in his image. Many of his most outspoken critics have since retired, lost primary challenges, or even become his staunch supporters. Most Republicans who were appalled at Trump’s disrespect for the norms of liberal democracy are either no longer in the party or no longer so outspoken.”
“So Trump and his team may well become more skilled at identifying, appointing, and empowering officials who would act in Trump’s personal interests, even if it means defying law or tradition. Indeed, his recent legal peril will make that of paramount personal importance to him.
There’s every reason, then, to expect a second Trump term would be far more tumultuous than the first — and that it could lead the country, and our democracy, to some totally unprecedented places. The stakes are high, and the battle for America’s future has begun.”
“Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.
The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.”
“election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.
“This is completely unprecedented in the history of American elections that a political party would be working at this granular level to put a network together,” said Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election watchdog group. “It looks like now the Trump forces are going directly after the legal system itself and that should concern everyone.”
Penniman also expressed concern about the quick-strike networks of lawyers and DAs being created, suggesting that politically motivated poll workers could simply initiate a legal conflict at the polling place that disrupts voting and then use it as a vehicle for rejecting vote counts from that precinct.”
“On the tapes, some of the would-be poll workers lamented that fraud was committed in 2020 and that the election was “corrupt.” Installing party loyalists on the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for certifying the election, also appears to be part of the GOP strategy. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, Republicans nominated to their board a man who said he would not have certified the 2020 election.
Both Penniman and Rick Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said they see a domino effect that could sow doubts about the election even when there was no original infraction: A politically motivated poll worker connecting with a zealous local lawyer to disrupt voting, followed by a challenge to the Board of Canvassers that may have nothing to do with the underlying dispute but merely the level of disruption at the polling place.
“You shouldn’t have poll workers who are reporting to political organizations what they see,” Hasen said. “It creates the potential for mucking things up at polling places and potentially leading to delays or disenfranchisement of voters,” especially “if [the poll workers] come in with the attitude that something is crooked with how elections are run.””
“Penniman, the election watchdog, believes the strategy is designed to create enough disputes to justify intervention by GOP-controlled state legislatures, who declined to take such steps in 2020.”
“John Lee is the new chief executive of Hong Kong. The 64-year-old ran the only approved campaign to succeed Carrie Lam, the embattled head of the Chinese territory who oversaw a dramatic degradation to democratic institutions throughout 2019’s pro-democracy protests. Lee’s tenure will likely bring more of the same: a former deputy chief of Hong Kong’s police force, he was instrumental in the brutal crackdowns on pro-democracy activists.
As the sole Beijing-approved candidate to replace Lam, Lee’s victory was all but assured as soon as he announced his candidacy. While Hong Kong doesn’t have what Americans would recognize as a democratic electoral system, previous elections have seen multiple candidates vie for Hong Kong’s top job. But this year, Lee was the only person Beijing apparently deemed sufficiently loyal to China’s Communist Party under its new electoral policies for Hong Kong, unveiled last March. He won handily with 99 percent of the votes from the 1,500-member electoral commission.”
“By December 2020, as President Donald Trump was trying feverishly to overturn Joe Biden’s election win, his closest remaining advisers had broken into two warring camps.
Both factions, at this point, supported and encouraged Trump’s strategy to retain power: pressuring state legislatures, state officials, and members of Congress to throw out results in key states, claiming they were tainted by fraud. Both were even interested in using the federal government’s power to seize voting machines in key states.
But one camp, led by Sidney Powell and Michael Flynn, wanted to go even further and use the military to seize those machines — while the other, led by Rudy Giuliani, thought that was a bridge too far.
Think of it as a divide between the dangerously unhinged and the totally batshit.”
“The story makes clear just how dire things were for democracy at this point. Everyone around Trump was recommending extreme measures that, if successful, would have amounted to stealing the election.
Yet even some of Trump’s unhinged, irresponsible, and conspiratorial advisers, like Giuliani, were still trying to steer him away from the even worse actions counseled by Powell and Flynn, who seem to have been totally unmoored from factual and political reality at this point.”
“while some officials might have refused to go along with Trump’s whims, he did have the option to replace them but simply chose not to — due to his own calculations that this would be too far, or because other advisers talked him out of it. But there was no guarantee that Trump, who had been willing to push so far already, would back off here. If he were just a bit more stubborn and willing to stretch the boundaries of his power, the election 2020 crisis could have grown far worse.”
““Mike Pence did have the right to change the outcome,” Trump said in a statement…“Unfortunately, he didn’t exercise that power, he could have overturned the Election!” That same day, he mused at a rally about pardoning January 6 rioters. In a battle between the unhinged and the batshit for Trump’s favor, the latter camp may be gaining strength.”
“Flynn had recently appeared on the far-right outlet Newsmax suggesting that Trump could order “military capabilities” to “rerun an election” in swing states, and that “[m]artial law has been instituted 64 times.” Meanwhile, Arizona GOP Chair Kelli Ward urged Trump to “Cross the Rubicon” and impose martial law to claim an election that the Electoral College, not to mention several dozen court rulings, has now certified he lost.
Public reaction to Flynn’s “coup” proposal — which he’d shared previously through a press release on Twitter from the right-wing group “We The People” (tagline: “Freedom never kneels except for God”) — have been furious and damning.”
“There’s a buffet of sedition statutes (18 U.S.C., sections 2383 through 2385) which have some potential relevance here. Section 2383 makes it a crime to incite or assist in a rebellion against the United States or give comfort to those who incite an insurrection. Section 2384 carries a 20-year jail term for seditious conspiracy, which requires an agreement between two or more people to “overthrow, put down, or to destroy by force the Government of the United States … or to oppose by force the authority thereof, or by force to prevent, hinder, or delay the execution of any law of the United States.” The third provision, 2385, makes it a crime to “knowingly or willfully advocate, abet, advise, or teach the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States.” The statute goes on to criminalize the intentional publication or circulation of any printed matter advocating the desirability of overthrowing the U.S. government. (Thirteen states also have their own laws banning “criminal anarchy.”)
Historically, sedition laws have been used to target critics of the government, and some of those prosecutions have run afoul of First Amendment protections. But the First Amendment does not uniformly protect speech if it incites violence.
Was Flynn inciting violence by proposing the military be used to seize voting machines? During the now-infamous Oval Office meeting, chief of staff Mark Meadows and White House counsel Pat Cipollone protested vehemently, but were there two or more people in agreement to overthrow the government? Was Flynn’s social media campaign a violation of the rule against circulating any printed matter advocating the overthrow of the government?
This is where the current sedition laws begin to seem inadequate to the task of responding to Flynn’s unprecedented proposal.
First, there is the problem of “sedition against what?” Usually, it’s the sitting government, which means that one could make a strong argument that it’s impossible for Trump to be involved in a seditious conspiracy so long as he’s the sitting President. Second, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted under the sedition statutes for exhorting a sitting president to perform an illegal act, with or without the president’s connivance.”
“The First Amendment protects free speech, but in 1969 the Supreme Court held in Brandenburg v. Ohio that “the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.” (Emphasis mine.)
Martial law is not mentioned in the Constitution. Nor is it authorized by any act of Congress. The Supreme Court has never directly held that the federal government has the power to impose martial law. Although the Insurrection Act allows the president to use armed forces to “suppress” an insurrection and restore immediate law and order upon the request of a state legislature or governor, an 1878 law called the Posse Comitatus Act otherwise forbids the use of the military for domestic law enforcement. A criminal statute puts members of the military who prevent or attempt to interfere with voters “exercising the right of suffrage” at risk of going to prison for up to five years.”