For American writer Anne Applebaum, former President Donald Trump is unlikely to lead Republicans in the future as he will face a series of lawsuits – which will take a lot of time and money.
The Trumpist style, more focused on culture wars than on real issues, must remain present and maintain its strength, she believes, since the American electoral system means that many members of Congress do not need to seek solutions. moderate voters to re-elect.
Applebaum, 56, launches in Brazil the book “The Twilight of Democracy” (Ed. Record), in which he reports the advance of right-wing radicalism in politics in several countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Poland and Spain.
Writer and journalist, she closely followed this movement. Married to a Polish politician, Applebaum recounts in the book how she saw many friends drastically change their position and use their intellectual capacity to strengthen authoritarian, lie-based governments in search of personal gain.
In a conversation with Folha, via videoconference, she also touched on the leadership of the Joe Biden government, the regulation of social networks and the effects of the pandemic on the crisis of democracies.
How do you see the future of Trump and Trumpism? Things can always change, but at this point I don’t think Trump should lead the party for years to come. He will have to devote himself to countless legal battles, due to the invasion of Congress and other problems. The republican leader [no Senado] Mitch McConnell, after voting to release him from impeachment, said the invasion was a criminal justice matter. It was practically an invitation for people to sue Trump.
The insistence on imposing false stories, linked to complaints about the false belief that the election was stolen, defended by his supporters, will continue, as it is an effective way of playing politics in some parts of the country. .
One of the strangest things about American democracy is that many members of Congress don’t need centrist or moderate support to be elected: only party support, because of the way citizens are divided into districts. So the more supporters they are and the angrier they are, the more votes they will get. So this way of acting will continue within the party [Republicano].
However, there will be an internal battle, not between left and right, but between reality and unreality. Are you in politics because you believe in solving real problems, like building roads and setting taxes, or because you want to wage this culture war? The party’s fight will be between these two groups.
Biden does not seem willing to wage this culture war. By trying to avoid it, could you have any problems in the future? Biden is better at something else: lowering the tone of Culture Warfare. In doing so, it will allow people on opposite sides of politics to talk about real things, like the economy and vaccines, even if they have opposing views. It’s your way of trying to release the tension created by deep polarization. Your goal is to change the subject. He hardly ever mentions Trump.
However, there is a risk that it will be seen as insufficient to generate voter engagement and enthusiasm. This risk is greater for your party [Democrata]. There are people on the left who find it boring, uninteresting and want something more dramatic and radical in politics.
How do you assess the start of the Biden government? I’m interested in what he’s doing internationally. Giving a central role to democracy and defending it abroad has a national impact, because it is at the heart of how we define ourselves as a nation.
It is no coincidence that the first president not to defend democracy and not to be interested in alliances with democracies abroad was also the first American president, at least since the Civil War. [1861-1865] to provoke an anti-state rebellion.
Biden seeks to present himself as the president of a democracy, which is allied with other democracies. I don’t know if he’ll be successful, but that’s what he’s trying to do.
In recent months, social media has taken steps to contain hate speech and fake news. Were these actions valid? Letting the platforms themselves do this is a big mistake, as we have no way of monitoring what they are actually doing.
I advocate regulation, but that doesn’t mean the government should censor things. There are other ways to create some kind of interesting social network, which people will find appealing and use appropriately for democratic debate.
It is necessary to regulate the algorithm and to have more transparency on what is promoted and why. This is something the government could step in, so independent groups can also monitor what social media is promoting and what engineering is affecting the issues we’re talking about.
We’re closer to doing it than most people think. But it will take a big political boost. I hope Biden, perhaps along with other democracies, will be able to do this.
Some politicians claim that the regulation of networks generates censorship of freedom of expression. How do you assess this questioning? I am not advocating censorship, but something different: the regulation of engineering [das redes]. Censorship depends on the context. It is very difficult for people to understand that the problem today is not the old style of censorship, that someone’s story is taken from a newspaper and cannot be published. The real problem is the question of what is amplified [nas redes] and what is not.
We are inundated with a lot of information, and the question is, what is amplified, what do we hear, what manages to break down the barriers and reach us. Therefore, regulation should not be about content, but about amplification algorithms.
What has been the effect of the pandemic on the crisis of democracy in the world? The real differences in the pandemic were not between autocracies and democracies, but between countries where there is a lot of public trust and where governments, scientists and bureaucrats are respected, and between those where it is not. is not the case.
The United States and Brazil are democracies and have performed very poorly in the pandemic. Taiwan, South Korea and Germany are democracies and fare much better. Comparatively, fewer people died, less disruption, and more social cohesion.
The same can be said of autocracies. Some were very bad and some were better. It was not just the way political leaders are elected, but the integrity of the whole system. In a public health emergency, when you have to regulate people’s behavior in some way, convincing them to do things they don’t want to do, like staying home and wearing masks, degree of trust in government is very important.
The United States and Brazil are similar in this regard. Both were led by people who saw the pandemic as a political issue and believed they could profit from it by defying it. It would be better to say the pandemic was a sham, not to wear masks, because they thought their supporters would like it. And that is why we have had such chaotic reactions in these two countries.
I think we can really attribute that to Trump and Bolsonaro. Neither was to blame for the onset of the crisis, but both were responsible for making the problem worse, in two very sophisticated countries, where it was not supposed to be.
Do you think they could be convicted for these actions in the future? They are two leaders who grow up in mistrust. They encourage mistrust, come to power because of it, use it to stay in power, that is why they manage to escape and not be punished for lying, because part of the population of both country no longer knows what is true and what is not. , then stopped caring.
I don’t know if anyone will be held responsible for it. Sometimes it takes too long. Take the example of Brexit, in which all kinds of things the government said would not happen, like an efficient border between Ireland, failed businesses and people heard that would never happen, that Brexit would be a huge success, but it’s still a lie. And most of the people who told them knew it was a lie.
If they will pay for it, I don’t know. Maybe it was a long time ago. Brexit was passed five years ago, and maybe no one else cares.
In the book, you point out that government institutions were created for another time and do not correspond to the reality of the digital world. Where could they start to adapt? Brazil has a good example of online auctions, which helps reduce corruption. Increasing the efficiency of local governments also helps to increase trust. In many democracies, many institutions are old and need to be updated. In the United States, there are a number of reasons why Congress has become unrepresentative.
Governments could use the digital space more efficiently. In Taiwan, the government holds large public debates through software, which seek to build consensus. People can post things, like on Twitter, but instead of creating discussions, the tool puts you with people you agree with, at least partially. And it can be used to create solutions and find answers.
With more digital consultations like this, the government would receive more constructive feedback, and not just people crying out against the state.
Anne Applebaum, 56 years old
Born in Washington, she has been a columnist and editor for major American and British newspapers, such as the Washington Post, Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph. He has written three books on the severe repression of the government of Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union. One of them, “Gulag”, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. Currently, he writes for The Atlantic magazine and is a senior researcher at the Agora Institute, Johns Hopkins University, whose mission is to ‘encourage the strengthening of democracy.