“The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism” by Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way, perfectly depict how elections can be biased and corrupt for democracy. At a local political event, I attended at City Hall, the argument was over the construction of an apartment building, not once, was anything discussed over democratic rights for the property. Though not a very strong claim from my part, I felt as though something was missing. “Why is this relevant?” one might ask. At the start of the event, the open public, who is the audience, is asked to stand and say the “Pledge of Allegiance”. Though, one word stood out to me as curious, “indivisible”. The word indivisible means that anything shall not be separated, and even though this word is used, its meaning seems to dwindle with each passing year in democracy in America. With that, Levitsky and Way go to speak about the election process while going into explicit detail on how elections are biased. They say candidates are being harassed online and in real life in the form of riots and protests. However, aren’t we supposed to be revolting against the government to make our nation better? Are our rights being questioned by the public through these riots when we are supposed to support one another? Very much so. Therefore, in the age of the internet, there are many things that have evolved for the greater good, like Twitter and how it’s used for one of the biggest influencers of our time; the President. Whether we like it or not, the President has used Twitter as a base for his words, be them good or bad, and they can be used for or against him. This popularity on social media gains traction for candidates and incumbents for more elections in the future. One quote that stunned me was this, “Although even fully democratic regimes may at times violate one or more of these criteria, such violations are not broad or systematic enough to seriously impede democratic challenges to incumbent governments.” (Levitsky & Way 53). This strikes me as odd because fundamentally, this does not alter the playing field for the government and the opposition. This leads to even more questions; “Has this been going on recently, or has this been happening over the course of decades or even centuries?” “Is the government assessing this issue directly, or are they just going to sit back and let these things sort themselves out?” These questions are what democracy needs to hear. This is the time to be very cautious around our election period because of the countless stories about ballads being tampered with. Why would these things happen when we, as a nation, claim to become better at organizing these things that determine our future leader? It’s very nerve-racking to have our trust in a society that cannot seem to manage it. Another quote that puts into perspective a competitive authoritarianism rather than democracy, seems to truly question what we are capable of in our society, “Although the electoral process may be characterized by large-scale abuses of state power, biased media coverage; (often violent) harassment of opposition candidates and activists, and an overall lack of transparency, elections are regularly held, competitive (in that major opposition parties and candidates usually participate), and generally free of massive fraud.” (Levitsky & Way 55). There’s a questionable jealously that resides in this. This is what Levitsky and Way call the “Four Arenas of Democratic Contestation” meaning, the arenas exist through which “opposition forces may periodically challenge, weaken, and occasionally even defeat autocratic incumbents.” (Levitsky & Way 54). The difference between democracy and competitive authoritarianism is astounding to me. As Americans, we often become close-minded to democracy, even though some claim to be “lawful and faithful Americans” even though they do not go to vote nor partake in the democratic duties their rights support. Even if I may not be the perfect American, I still understand that there is more to learn about democracy, and I intend to understand my rights as a citizen. Be it, ask questions that foresee democracy as an untruthful band of citizens that cater to the uncertainty of Democratic Erosion, partake in protests that support my rights as a citizen under Due Process, call my governor to emphasize my rights, and contribute to my nation to help shape it.
- Levitsky, Steven, and Lucan A. Way. The Rise of Competitive Authoritarianism. 2002.