It used to be that autocrats came to power through coups or by enacting states of emergency, according to Aziz Huq, a University of Chicago law professor and co-author of the book “How to Save a Constitutional Democracy.”
Now, though, autocrats are much more likely to pretend to operate within the democratic system. Rather than seizing power, he said, many times, leaders will keep the trappings of a republic, while incrementally eliminating the institutions that enable competition. It’s the “dismantling of democracy from the inside,” Huq said.
Huq is not comparing what’s happening in Wisconsin to Venezuela or Russia. But he does caution that the Republican maneuvers weaken the ability of our democracy to function. It could be the start, he argues, of a worrying trend.
“Changing the rules of the game after you’ve lost one round is a way of showing you’re skeptical of the democratic game,” Huq said. And it’s hard to have a functional democracy when “one party just doesn’t believe in democracy unless they win,” he said.
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