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On Wednesday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published a column promoting an upcoming book by Harvard professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt arguing that President Trump shows the “four warning signs” of being a “dangerous authoritarian.”
The piece opened by outlining their four criteria:
Leader - Commitment - Rules
1. The leader shows only a weak commitment to democratic rules.
2. He or she denies the legitimacy of opponents.
3. He or she tolerates violence.
4. He or she shows some willingness to curb civil liberties or the media.
Kristof - Levitsky - Ziblatt - Criteria - Cause
According to Kristof, Levitsky and Ziblatt believe that adhering to “even one of these criteria is cause for concern” and a potential harbinger of authoritarian backsliding in a country. Based on their criteria, the authors came to the conclusion that, apart from Richard Nixon, the only other “major-party presidential candidate [...] over the last century” that displays any of their warning signs of authoritarianism is, of course, Trump.
Kristof did not explain exactly how the professors came to the conclusion that only Trump and Nixon met their criteria. More thorough definitions outlining what precise types of behavior fall under their four-sign system surely exist within Levitsky and Ziblatt’s book. However, just from a cursory glance at their points (as re-told by Kristof), it seems a bit inexplicable how none of President Obama’s many scandals involving executive overreach qualified him for exhibiting authoritarian behavior.
Example - Americans - Spectrum - Revelations - Obama
To borrow one example, Americans across the political spectrum were extremely concerned by revelations in the early 2010s that the Obama administration not only had an explicit policy justifying targeted killings of American citizens living abroad, but had acted upon a “hit-list” of named targets. As many liberals and libertarians argued, this was particularly egregious because American civilians had effectively been executed without any basic provision of due process in a court of law, but rather by an obscure and...
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