Snyder explained that it's easy to see the decline in a democracy when it's something like Russia invading Ukraine, because there it's an "autocracy trying to take over a democracy by force." But Velshi noted that when it comes to things like Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's attempt to eliminate the independent judiciary or threats to the rule of law with Donald Trump ginning up violence against those investigating potential crimes, it's more of an abstract idea. It isn't as openly understood as the same kind of attack on democracy as Russia's.
Snyder explained that the interesting thing seen in the 21st Century is that everyone is trying to claim to be a democracy. Russia claims have claimed in the past it's a democracy. Their use of the word is an attempt to erode the understanding of it, he said. It's part of their design.
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Looking at Ukraine's success, he explained it's about the cooperation of a unified country intent on fighting a potential oppressor.
"It's the habit of resistance," Snyder said. "It's the habit of cooperation that allows the army to do so well. That's a lesson for other societies. Why did Netanyahu have to pull back in Israel? Because Israelis are finally getting on the streets in large numbers and they are making their voices known as a society. Democracy is about muscle. It's about movement. It's about people taking a stand together. If you wait for the institutions to save you, then it's already too late."
Velshi brought up Judge Luttig again and noted that he's not a "hair on fire" kind of guy. He's a conservative Republican, and he's very concerned about the American democracy at risk. The concern he has, and it's something Snyder shares, is in convincing people that the risk is real.
Velshi cited Donald Trump's claim, for the second time in a month, "I am your retribution." As Velshi explained, "It's the language of autocracy."
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"It's also the language of fascism," said Snyder. "Living in a 'Big Lie' is being a fascist. Saying that I have an alternative truth for you, an alternative reality where you can live, saying that politics is all about naming the enemy and taking revenge, that is basically a fascist reality that we're talking about."
He said that those who care about democracy should remember the 20th Century.
"When I look at Florida, I have to say, what I think about is Communism," Snyder said. "The book bans, and the public gatherings, and the singling out of authors, and the denunciations — like it's funny, all of this stuff is supposed to be anti-Communist, but as a historian of Communism, that reminds me of some of the basic things that were wrong about Communism. Those denunciations and book bannings and getting people all rallied up about authors that are supposedly contaminating other people. So, I think we have to be ready to name some names and describe some practices. And we also have to say positively that in a democracy we don't do those things, but we do other things, and those other things are actually better and make for a better sort of life."
See the full interview with Snyder below or at the link here.
Yale tyranny expert compares today’s Republicans to communist book bans of the past