As I indicated in my previous post about self-driving vehicles, I’m trying to think more about where I’ve gone wrong in my analysis of current issues and trends, hoping to improve. I got some useful comments on that issue, though nothing directly applicable to my bigger predictive failures
The most important such failure has concerned the future of democracy, where my views were characterized by clearly unjustifiable optimism (see here and here). I’ve now shifted to extreme pessimism, but I would love to be convinced I’ve overcorrected, as I have done in the past.
Starting with the optimism, it was a mixture of wishful thinking and excessive faith in rationality. Democracy seemed to be advancing nearly everywhere, and this could be explained by the fact that democratic governments generally did a better job than military juntas, one-party states and charismatic dictators or demagogues.
Looking to the future, I’d still have some optimism if it weren’t for the situation in the US. Far-right parties have mostly stayed marginal in Europe, and those that have managed to gain power in Hungary and Poland are looking shaky. Putin and Xi look secure in power, but both have made big mistakes. Elsewhere, the demagogues and would-be dictators (Bolsonaro, Duterte, Erdogan, Modi) have generally shown themselves to be incompetents.
But all of this relatively good news is cancelled out by what’s happening in the US. As President, Trump handled the pandemic worse than any leader except perhaps Bolsonaro, but still came close to re-election. And he has paid no political price for attempting to overturn the result.
The Republican Party is now openly committed to overturning US democracy, and retains the support of close to half of voters. With a rickety and politicised electoral system and a partisan Supreme Court that’s sufficient to ensure control of the outcomes.
As far as I can see, Trump is virtually certain to be the next President, (whether by winning under the current Electoral College rules or by overturning the results in key states) and, once he is in, certain to establish some kind of dynastic rule. Even if Trump is somehow removed from the picture, the Republican party he has created has already committed itself to seizing and holding power by whatever means necessary. That includes violent insurrection, as we have seen, but it seems unlikely that anything so drastic will be necessary.
Republican state governments can entrench themselves forever, and guarantee that their electoral votes and the overwhelming majority of their congressional delegations will be Republican, whatever the voters (and disenfranchised non-voters) might think about it. That’s more than enough to entrench national Republican rule for the indefinite future.
In view of my past errors, I recognise that I sometimes over-correct and then argue too strongly for my new position. I’d love to be wrong in the analysis above, so if anyone can point out where I’ve gone wrong, I’d be most grateful.