America on the road to dictatorship (10.6 2008)

The redoubtable Juan Linz on crisis democracies

One of the central characteristics of a crisis democracy is that even the parties that created the system tend to deviate from the ideals of a loyal system party when they encounter hostility among extremists on either side of the spectrum. The constraints of the situation push everyone toward some form of semiloyalty to the democratic system [1978, p. 35, emphasis added].

Linz continues

It is, however, the semiloyal opposition, with its relatively high, or at least mixed, compliance, rather than the disloyal opposition, that pushes regimes into the partially legitimate and divided authority situation. …It is our contention that the conditions leading to semiloyalty, or even suspicion of semiloyalty, by leading participants in the political game, opposition and government parties alike, account for the breakdown [of democracy] process almost as much as the rule of the disloyal opposition [1978, p. 38].

Where are the nationally effective extremists in America today? They can be found on the rightwing of the Republican Party. Can one now find a semiloyal party in the United States? Yes! It has two: the Republican and Democratic Parties! In fact, a skeptical observer of American politics may rightly suspect the Republican Party to be a disloyal opponent of the American democratic republic given the antisystem actions of the Bush administration and the legally dubious manner in which it first came to power!

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