Why U.S. Republicans are now adopting Putin-style "managed" democracy

More evidence that Republicans are close soul mates of Russia’s President when it comes to restraining democracy

Published April 6, 2021 5:14PM (EDT)

Donald Trump; Vladimir Putin (Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)
Donald Trump; Vladimir Putin (Getty/Photo Montage by Salon)

This article originally appeared on The Globalist.

In the early years of the 21st century, Russian President Vladimir Putin, then a novice at his job, introduced the concept of "Managed Democracy."

The system he installed allowed him to claim that Russia featured regular elections, as well as three branches of government and a separation of powers. 

That was the (formal) "democracy" part. But what about the "managed" part? 

Putin, democracy "manager"

Putin would not be Putin if he didn't introduce special schemes to guarantee election outcomes that fit his political script and appetite for power. 

Thus, when it came to counting the popular vote, Putin kept the entire process under the control of his cronies and minions. 

That way, the man who has now ruled Russia for 20-plus years was always assured of two key goals for his Potemkin village democracy — a resounding victory for himself in presidential elections and a tame rubber-stamp Duma, or parliament, after each general election. 

Add to this the mass media that was controlled by his business owner-buddies and that was offering a daily diet of lies and propaganda – and you got the "Managed" part of his democracy as well.

As does Putin, so do the Republicans

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, and Donald Trump was both flattering Putin in words and imitating him in deeds. 

Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and Rupert Murdoch's other U.S. media assets, along with numerous other media outlets even further to the right, functioned as Trump's personal propaganda machine. They flattered the American "Dear Leader" and lied about his opponents every bit as much as Putin's Russia Today does.

When it came to counting votes, it should be noted that Trump is currently under investigation for pressuring Georgia election officials, including Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, to find enough votes for him to win the state in last year's presidential election.

The Republicans' devious anti-democratic schemes

But the sad part about the story concerning the Republicans is not even so much about Donald Trump. For now at least, he is yesterday's news, sort of.

The Republicans know that their hold over the electorate is shaky. They are adamant to turn this lemon into lemonade. 

The Republicans want to do so by massaging the vote — in other words, deciding who gets to vote and who doesn't. So far, their operatives have introduced legislation to limit access to voting in 43 U.S. states — or 86% of the total. At least 250 laws have been proposed to curb early voting and voting by mail, to impose voter ID requirements, to purge voter lists etc.

The U.S., a beacon of democracy?

Successive U.S. governments have been bragging for decades about the country's democratic system, singing the praises of a nation in which everyone has the right to vote and where every vote counts.

That global image has already been shaken considerably by two U.S. presidents since 2000 (George W. Bush and Donald Trump) being elected after losing the popular vote. 

Sliding closer to a Putin-style model of democracy

As things stand, the Republican Party is not satisfied with using outdated late 18th century mechanisms to its fullest advantage. 

It isn't satisfied either with saturating the judicial branch of the government, including the Supreme Court, where a highly unrepresentative six judges share its ideology.

None of that is enough. More than just being the Party of Trump ("POT"), the good old GOP is determined to build a Russian-style managed democracy in the United States. 

Marx as an inspiration?

In case you are wondering why this is happening in the U.S. of A., look no further than Karl Marx's works. Marxism claims that politics is a function of economics. 

This is exactly what we have seen in Russia and what is now happening in the United States.

The entire raison d'ètre of the Republican Party in the United States is looking after the interests of rich Americans. Hence the party's eternal drive to reduce taxes for the plutocrats, whether income taxes, inheritance taxes or allowing all sorts of tax shelters in quite a few U.S. states.

But all of that is not enough for the Republicans. To consolidate their successes and to ensure a long run for themselves, Republicans across the land are now actively subverting democracy.

Shame on the U.S. Republicans

Utilizing Putin's playbook, Republicans make a mockery of free and fair elections. Putin, for his part, falsified election results and "managed" the electoral process by limiting who – and which parties – could actually stand for elections. 

In contrast, U.S. Republicans do their "managing" a bit more obscurely, but even more harmfully for the whole idea of democracy. They are actively engaged in a campaign to disenfranchise voters from ethnicities and geographies that are not promising "hunting grounds" for the Republicans.

This article is republished from The Globalist: On a daily basis, we rethink globalization and how the world really hangs together.  Thought-provoking cross-country comparisons and insights from contributors from all continents. Exploring what unites and what divides us in politics and culture. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  And sign up for our highlights email here.

By Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist, the daily online magazine, and a columnist in newspapers around the world. He is also the presenter of the Marketplace Globalist Quiz, which is aired on public radio stations all across the United States. In addition, Mr. Richter is a keynote speaker at international conferences -- and the author of the 1992 book, “Clinton: What Europe and the United States Can Expect.” Follow him on Twitter @theglobalist.

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Democracy Elections Republicans Russia The Globalist Vladimir Putin