Given the recent turmoil facing American politics, it would seem like the United States is the laughing stock of the world. It’s not like U.S. leadership under President Donald Trump hit a historical low of 30 percent approval in 2017 — wait a second. Though this approval rating might have dropped 18 points from Obama’s presidency during 2016, democracy isn’t doing much better in other corners of the world. Just look at recent news from Israel, Italy and China.
Israel was formed in 1948 as a democratic state. It has held elections ever since in a parliamentary system similar to those in Western Europe. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has challenged the democratic characteristics of Israel (not to say it’s a perfectly liberal democracy) through his various scandals, which must be numbered for comprehension.
- Netanyahu received $300,000 in gifts from Arnon Milchan and James Packer allegedly in exchange for striving to attain generous tax breaks for Milchan among other things.
- Netanyahu allegedly bargained with a newspaper publisher for better coverage in exchange for his influence in limiting a competitor’s circulation.
- Netanyahu pushed for the purchase of submarines against the military’s advisement where his personal attorney (and cousin) represented a firm involved to gain profit.
- Netanyahu’s former media adviser is suspected of attempting to bribe a judge in exchange for dropping a corruption case against Netanyahu’s wife.
In case you were wondering, Netanyahu has taken a somewhat sophisticated Trumpian approach. He has dismissed the news as biased and ludicrous, refusing to give up his power.
If you were to ask Americans what politics are like in Italy, I would assume more than 90 percent would have little to no idea. Can you name the prime minister? I can’t without googling it, so don’t worry. I knew little of the democratic crisis in Italy until John Oliver dedicated an entire segment to the turmoil there.
There are three main candidates in the Italian election: Luigi Di Maio of the far-right (code for racist) Five Star Movement, Matteo Renzi, the former centrist prime minister and Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian Donald Trump. Berlusconi, another former prime minister, was convicted of tax fraud in 2013 and was banned from seeking office for six years. But the Italian election is next month, so unless six years has been calculated through some bizarre mathematical operations, it seems Italian democracy has some issues.
John Oliver noted these issues and even threw his British-American hat into the Italian prime minister race. Technically, the Italian Parliament could appoint him prime minister, and given the potential candidates, Italy could do worse.
Italy, like the United States, has its own fake news problem. This has contributed to an extremely divided public in a country with high debt, high taxes and an inclination for fascist-like leaders.
Since Mao and his fellow communists established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, China has swayed from varying levels of authoritarianism. Mao held a cult of personality, which allowed him to maintain the chairmanship of the communist party to his death in 1976. Deng Xiaoping also held a strong grip of power during his reign from the late 1970s to 1997. Now, it seems like President Xi Jinping is following in the footsteps of these leaders.
The communist party in China recently abolished term limits on presidential elections, effectively allowing President Xi to lead China indefinitely. During the party congress last year, President Xi ensured steps to achieve Mao-like status. His name and ideas were written into the party constitution, making it heresy to question to question him. President Xi is leading China into a new age of global leadership. Through its One Belt One Road initiative, China is aiding international development. Therefore, Chinese-style governance (also known as authoritarianism) is supporting developing economies, rather than spreading economic liberalism like the United States has been doing for the last 70 or so years.
China does not nearly entertain the same level of public discourse as in the United States. So news — “fake” or otherwise — is only disseminated through the government. This even extends to the censorship of “Winnie the Pooh.” Winnie the Pooh has been used as a satirical point against President Xi because of the likeness of their figures. In other words, President Xi somewhat resembles a chubby bear.
Whether you are an Israeli with a corrupt prime minister, an Italian choosing between three terrible parties or a Chinese citizen with an authoritarian megalomaniac, I wish you luck. American democracy isn’t in the best of shape, so I hope the current conditions of the above countries urge us to fight for freedoms and transparency. I never want to live in a country where “Winnie the Pooh” is censored, where news organizations can be bribed or where John Oliver is the best choice for prime minister.