Scholars warn of collapse of democracy as Trump v Biden election looms

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Dozens of experts on fascism warn of global danger, calling for action from ordinary people: ‘It is not too late’

Lois Beckett  – The Guardian

Donald Trump waves before departing Trenton-Mercer airport in Ewing Township, New Jersey, on Saturday. Photograph: Alex Brandon/AP

Dozens of historians of fascism and authoritarianism have signed a letter warning that democracy “is either withering or in full-scale collapse globally”, and urging ordinary people to take action.

“Democracy is extremely fragile and potentially temporary, requiring vigilance and protection,” the scholars wrote in the letter released on Sunday. “It is not too late to turn the tide.”

More than 80 signatories, including professors and other scholars at universities in the US, Canada, and Europe, do not agree on whether to label Donald Trump a “fascist”. The fragility of democracy worldwide, they write, will continue to be an issue “irrespective of who wins the American presidency”.

“Whether Donald J Trump is a fascist, a post-fascist populist, an autocrat or just a bumbling opportunist, the danger to democracy did not arrive with his presidency and goes well beyond 3 November 2020,” the scholars write, referring to election day on Tuesday, when Trump will face Joe Biden at the polls.

However, the historians warn, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, “the temptation to take refuge in a figure of arrogant strength is now greater than ever”. They suggest citizens must be ready not only to defend democracy at the ballot box, but “if necessary, also through non-violent protests in the streets”.

“That’s the lesson, to not be complacent in moments like this,” said Jennifer Evans, a professor of German history at Carleton University in Canada and one of the lead organizers of the open letter. “This is a very dangerous time, and we all have a responsibility to prop up democracy.”

Among the many warning signs that democracy is at risk, the historians argue, are the spread of disinformation, inequality, the “politics of internal enemies” and politically motivated violence.

“We need to reveal and denounce any and all connections between those in power and those vigilante and militia forces using political violence to destabilize our democracies,” the letter urges.

Evans said she was particularly disturbed by the evidence of “the infiltration of the far right” in police and military organizations around the world, including in the US, Germany, and Canada.

Signatories to the letter include several authors who have commented on authoritarianism and fascism during Trump’s presidency, including Ruth Ben-Ghiat, a professor at New York University, and Jason Stanley, the author of How Fascism Works.

 

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