Friday, December 27, 2019

Holidaze: Destruction Modi Engaged

The Atlantic's Yascha Mounk argues that if you want to see the horrific autocratic fascism of a second Trump term, take a look at where India's Narendra Modi is now with his violent hypernationalism.

When I spent a month on a research trip to India in December 2014, half a year after Narendra Modi swept to power, the writers, academics, and intellectuals I met were engrossed in a debate that may now feel oddly familiar to Americans. They all disliked Modi, an ardent Hindu nationalist, because of his disdain for India’s secular constitution. But they were divided on the impact that his rule was likely to have on the basic freedoms they enjoyed.

Some people feared that Modi would quickly move to quash dissent; one even worried that he might soon land in prison for criticizing the government. Others waved such fears away as hyperbolic.

In his first five years in office, Modi did considerable damage, both to the freedoms his critics enjoyed and to the security of the country’s religious minorities. Social-media mobs intimidated anybody who dared to criticize his government. Media outlets allied with Modi stoked fears about Muslim men waging “love jihad” by marrying Hindu women. Mainstream newspapers that were once highly critical of Modi started to praise him with surprising regularity, and to criticize him with notable rarity. And in episodes of what Indians euphemistically call “communal violence,” Muslims were lynched by angry mobs.

The worst, however, was yet to come. After Modi won reelection with an even larger majority in the spring of this year, his government began to take radical action to unwind the secularism of India’s constitution, arguably doing more damage in the first months of its second term than it had in the previous five years. Some of the concerns about Modi that seemed exaggerated at the conclusion of his first term in office are now starting to look prescient.

During his reelection campaign, Modi vowed to introduce a national register of citizens, which would allow the government to keep better records and to expel unauthorized immigrants. This plan raised fears both among Hindu immigrants who came to the country decades ago after being expelled from neighboring countries such as Bangladesh and among Muslims who lack the necessary documentation to prove that they are in fact citizens. Once reelected, Modi proposed to help the former group by granting unauthorized immigrants from Muslim-majority countries—including Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Afghanistan—an express path to naturalization if they belonged to a persecuted religious minority in their country of origin. In other words, Hindus who have no legal right to be in India would likely be able to stay, while many Muslims who have been in India for generations would face the threat of deportation—bringing India one step closer to the Hindu nation that Modi desires.

Over the past weeks, a large protest movement has formed to oppose these radical changes. In cities and universities across the country, citizens of every faith have rallied to defend the country’s secular constitution. The government’s response has been brutal: In some states, it has invoked colonial-era statutes to ban the assembly of more than five people. In other states, it has shut down the internet. Harrowing videos that quickly went viral show policemen roughing up Muslim students whom they suspect of having protested the government.

As Pratap Bhanu Mehta, the country’s preeminent political scientist, told me, in his first term, Modi focused on economic initiatives without ever distancing himself from Hindu nationalism. “In the second term, he has taken a more aggressive stand to enshrine Hindu majoritarianism in law and polarize public discourse,” Mehta said. “Even more worryingly, the use of the state apparatus to quell dissent and protest has increased markedly. In states like Uttar Pradesh, the police is cracking down on protesters from the minority community with unprecedented ferocity.”

Many observers of India have been surprised that Modi has grown so much more extreme in his second term in office. But a comparison of populist governments around the world suggests that India is following a predictable pattern of what would-be authoritarians do when they win reelection.

As we’ve seen in countries including Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela, populist leaders are at first hamstrung in their ability to concentrate power in their own hands. Many key institutions, including courts and electoral commissions, are still dominated by independent-minded professionals who do not owe their appointment to the new regime. Media outlets are still able and willing to report on scandals, forcing the government to tread somewhat carefully.

Once these governments win reelection, these constraints begin to fall away. As the independent-minded judges and civil servants depart, populist leaders feel emboldened to pursue their illiberal dreams.

Replace "Hindu" with "Christian" and you already have the Trump regime's deportation plan under Stephen Miller.  Give them a second term with Mitch still in charge of the Senate and god help us the House, and another Supreme Court pick or two, and all bets are off as to whether the Civil rights era survives into 2024.

Or free and fair elections, for that matter.

Holidaze: Das Trumpenfuhrer

When polling outfit YouGov asked Germans which world leader they thought was the largest threat to world peace, the results weren't even close.

41% of Germans believe President Trump is more of a threat to world peace than North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping or Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, according to a YouGov survey reported by DW.

Why it matters: The results show the degree to which trust in U.S. leadership has eroded under Trump, even among countries like Germany that are traditionally viewed as close allies.

Details: 2,000 Germans participated in the survey, which was conducted between Dec. 16 and 18. Kim Jong-un came in second at 17%, followed by Putin and Khamenei at 8% and Xi at 7%.

Hey, at least he won something.

Holidaze: Impeachment Reached

Public support for removing Trump from office is now up to 55% in a new Yahoo News/MSN poll conducted this week.

Fifty-five per cent of those asked said they were in favour of the US president’s conviction by the Senate, a figure which has shot up from 48 per cent the week before.

Meanwhile, the number of people against Mr Trump’s removal has dropped to an all-time low, according to the MSN poll.

On Christmas Day, 40 per cent were opposed to the Senate voting to convict the president, who has been impeached over his dealings with Ukraine and an alleged subsequent attempt to obstruct congress.

The gap between the two views has become much wider since last week, when there was little to divide them (48 per cent in favour of Mr Trump's removal, 47 per cent against).

The percentage of respondents who neither supported nor opposed conviction also grew.

David Rothschild, an economist at Microsoft Research, said the numbers of people shifting from opposition to removal to "don't know" was significant. “When you follow polling daily, you learn people rarely make big jumps from Opposition to Support,” he said.

“This polling is a clear sign that [the] Republican policy of complete obstruction is not selling well to [the] voting public.

I'll believe that when I see Republican Senators actually voting to have a real trial, but for now at least Pelosi's delay strategy to put pressure on the Senate is definitely working.
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