In a world of populist tyrants, this still was a good week for democracy

Democracy goes through ups and downs, even experiencing recessions like the stock market. This is a particularly tough time for democracies around the world, with some places once judged to have turned the corner on their authoritarian past coming back as bigger, badder, anti-democratic governments. Hungary, Poland, Italy, Russia, the Philippines and several other countries are riding on the edge of populist electoral sentiment.

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This week, however, was a particularly good one for people yearning to be free. It was an especially good week for those wanting to keep or to take back their government. Three nations showed us the way: Turkey, Ethiopia and the Czech Republic.

Let’s face it, democracies around the world are getting challenged by dictators and demagogues. My Hoover Institution colleague Larry Diamond’s new book, “Ill Winds,” assesses this abysmal global state of democracy, finding that these ill winds are whipping up “Russian rage, Chinese ambition, and American complacency.” READ MORE

Cut the charade and crown the president

Wow! Did the Supreme Court just give the president the power of decree? Finally, a branch of the United States government that recognizes its junior status and accedes to the supreme authority of the executive branch. The travel ban ruling is a parsed argument that effectively states the president of the United States has the authority to proclaim that his national security policies are overarching and that his being is infallible.

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A malleable, rubber-stamping Congress and a freshly quiescent Judiciary have now fully abdicated their roles as a check on presidential power and collectively put a bow around a now fully-evolved imperial presidency. They just packaged and presented this generous gift to President Donald J. Trump.

Yes, the travel ban ruling is a reasoned and narrow decision that focuses on the executive’s authority over immigration. But the effect of the ruling ignores the express intention of the president’s ban. It also fails to acknowledge that the current Oval Office occupant defies reason, while, ignores previously limiting checks, and takes every opportunity to expand the powers of his office. Justice may be blind, but it is not supposed to be deaf and dumb, too.  READ MORE

Christmas comes early for Vladimir Putin

Christmas came a little early for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin this year. Russia usually celebrates the holiday on January 7th, but President Putin’s present arrived a month early when he announced his intention to remain in office via a national voting process. He has unofficially already won.

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“Election” formalities are scheduled for March 18, 2018 and the legitimizing process will cost $300 million. The leading opposition candidates are already dead or disqualified. The handful of colorful and credible also-ran candidates will do their best, but be left in the dust. Putin losing the Russian presidential election is as likely as Siberian palm trees and banana plantations. Merry Christmas, Vlad.

If there is one global leader who has been winning so much he should be sick and tired of winning, it is Putin. He will enter his next term as the longest serving Russian head of state, winning his fourth non-consecutive six-year presidential term. Putin has already surpassed previous record holder Leonid Brezhnev’s 6,602 days in office, but unlike Brezhnev seems fit and in fighting form.  READ MORE