Home » News » Thomas Homer-Dixon: The Political Scientist Who Warns of the Grim Future of Democracy in America

Thomas Homer-Dixon: The Political Scientist Who Warns of the Grim Future of Democracy in America

Two deadlines: “By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme internal instability, along with widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not before, the country could be ruled by a right-wing dictatorship ”. In these terms, Canadian professor Thomas Homer-Dixon, a researcher at the University of Waterloo and director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University, warned about what could happen to the North American power in the medium term.

“Let’s not discount these possibilities because they seem ridiculous or too horrible to imagine. In 2014, the idea of ​​Donald Trump becoming president seemed absurd to everyone, but we live in a world where the absurd often becomes real, “said the researcher at the opening of an opinion column published on 31 December. last December in The Globe and Mail, Toronto.

Protesters scale a wall at the United States Capitol, Jan.6, 2021, in Washington. Photo: AP

For more than 40 years, Homer-Dixon specialized in the study of violent conflicts, publishing articles on the causes of wars, social breakdowns, revolutions and ethnic violence, leading a center for studies on peace and conflict in the University of Toronto. With that experience in tow, the Canadian notes that the political landscape of the United States is sending alarming signals regarding its future.


To explain his forecast of an eventual dictatorship in the United States by 2030, Homer-Dixon starts by pointing to the deep political polarization that the country is experiencing, dividing it into Republicans and Democrats, and in which the political center vanishes. “The right and the left are isolated and increasingly despise each other. Both believe they are at the key moment, and that the other will destroy the country they love, “he writes. And that, in a population that owns more than 400 million firearms – in fact, more than one per person – puts political scientists on guard.

“Some would say that underlining this toxic polarization implies that both sides are equally responsible for the crisis. It is not like that: although both sides have inflamed the flames of polarization, the blame falls disproportionately on the political right, ”says the political scientist, pointing out the distrust in democracy that Trump’s followers have shown, after the former president himself spread the idea of ​​”The Big Lie”, the alleged electoral fraud that Joe Biden would have committed to win the 2020 elections.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks during a vigil on the steps of the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2022. Photo: AP

In this sense, Homer-Dixon points out that for a democracy to survive, “probably the most important thing is the recognition of the political equality of citizens to decide their future, which would translate into the willingness to grant power to your political opponents” .

Former President Jimmy Carter published on Wednesday in The New York Times, on account of the first anniversary of the assault on the Capitol, a column in which he points out “fear for the democracy of the United States,” and recalls that the four living ex-presidents of the United States, except for Trump, have already strongly condemned the January 6 episodes, and reaffirmed the legitimacy of the 2020 election. “However, in just one year, the promoters of the lie that the election was stolen took a political party – the Republican – and have installed mistrust in our electoral systems. These forces wield power and influence through disinformation, which continues to turn Americans against Americans. “

With a view to protecting American democracy, and incidentally preventing the dictatorship that he predicts, Homer-Dixon comments to Third that one of the first things that could be done would be for Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. With this project, the suppression of votes, partisan sabotage would be eliminated, the entry of unclear financing to the candidates would be limited and the gerrymandering, a way of manipulating the electoral districts, uniting or separating territories, in such a way that they produce an effect on the voting results.


From the ideological position, already present in the North American extreme right, the step to violence and weapons already occurred once last year: the assault on the Capitol on January 6, days before Biden assumed the presidency in Washington. “The Trump cult presents itself as the only patriotic party capable of defending North American values ​​and its history, against the ‘treacherous’ Democrats with their cosmopolitan elites and minorities (…); The people involved – in the taking of the Capitol – did not believe they were attacking democracy, although they undoubtedly were. Instead, they believed that their patriotic actions were necessary to save democracy, ”explains Homer-Dixon.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, a researcher at the University of Waterloo and director of the Cascade Institute at Royal Roads University.

In an interview with Third, the Canadian academic points out that things are unquestionably worse since the assault on the Capitol, in terms of the health of American democracy. “The key result of all this is that a large proportion of the voting population in the United States – about 40% – believe that the last election was stolen. And that belief is like poison in the veins of the North American body politic ”, comments Homer-Dixon.

Citing a study by the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington, Homer-Dixon indicates that nearly 70% of Republicans accept as true the theory that the election between Biden and Trump was “stolen.” Even more worrying, among those who believe this, between 20 and 30 million people believe that the violence is justified when it comes to returning the Republican leader to the presidency.

After the 2020 election, Jack Goldstone, a political sociologist at George Mason University, commented on the profound changes in perception that Trump’s four years in the White House had brought: “We have learned that the reasonable majority can be silenced and scared away. , when it is put in the middle of two extremes (…); some more moderate leaders of the Republican Party have been forced to leave the store or accept positions that endorse lies and undemocratic actions ”.


In his column, Homer-Dixon also speculates against the worst possible scenario: a civil war. “The most possible start for this would be a hotly contested election in 2024. Perhaps the Democrats will get a hard-fought victory, and the Republican states will refuse to acknowledge the outcome. Or, instead, the Republicans may win, but only through the nullification of certain results in states governed by them, which would provoke protests against these states by the Democrats. In each of these circumstances, everything will depend on whether the Army is divided into partisan factions ”, sums up the Canadian professor.

A person holds a sign that reads “Save America Trump 2024” during a vigil in New York on January 6, 2022. Photo: AP

In the same vein, three retired US Army generals wrote a column stating that the military should already prepare for an insurrection in 2024. The article, published on December 17 in The Washington Post and signed by Paul D. Eaton, Antonio M Taguba and Steven M. Anderson, recalled that a significant number of veterans and active officers took part in the attack on the Capitol: “More than one in 10 of those convicted in the assault had a record of service. A group of 124 retired officers, under the name Flag Officers 4 America, published a letter echoing Trump’s lies about the legitimacy of the elections. “

Likewise, the generals note that there have already been problems with the chain of command during the Biden administration: “Recently, and what is more worrying, Brig. Gen. Thomas Mancino, commanding general of the Oklahoma National Guard, refused to follow an order from President Biden, commanding all officers of the National Guards to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. ” On that occasion, Mancino alleged that, since the Oklahoma National Guard was not mobilized at the federal level, its commander-in-chief was not the president, but the governor of the state, which in Oklahoma is a Republican.

Against this background, the trio of authors warn: “The potential for a collapse in the chain of command between partisan factions – from the top of the chain to the squad level – is significant, should another insurrection occur. We cannot rule out the idea of ​​rebel units organizing among themselves to support a ‘legitimate’ commander-in-chief. “


One of the key moments in the Homer-Dixon narrative occurs this year, with the mid-term elections in the United States, in which a third of the Senate is renewed. “Even without the concerted efforts they have made to adjust the machinery of the electoral system, it is likely that Republicans will take control of both chambers in November, because it is normal for the party in power to do poorly in midterm elections,” the political scientist stated in his column.

People hold signs at a vigil to mark the first anniversary of the attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, in New York City. Photo: AFP

Homer-Dixon comments on Third the key of that date: “Many things depend on these mid-term elections. If the Republicans control both houses, they will control the national political dialogue, and the dynamics for the next two years, making Trump’s return to the presidency much easier. “

Regarding a return of the magnate to the White House, the political scientist indicates having discussed the possible scenarios with experts, and assures that the results could lead to cases such as the Hungarian, “with their illiberal democracy”; that of Brazil, “with its chronic social malaise and administrative dysfunction”, or Putin’s Russia, “with its hyper-nationalist one-man autocracy”. All this, supported by right-wing Christian groups and paramilitaries rising up in arms, as already happened in the Capitol with the Oath Keepers.

Members of the Oath Keepers militia occupy the steps of the Capitol in Washington on January 6, 2021. Photo: Reuters

Homer-Dixon warns, however, that it could be someone else and not Donald Trump who will take the last step to the dictatorship in the United States. “Trump would be more of an act of entry, someone ideal for the first stage, but not the second. If he returns to the White House, he will be the concrete ball that demolishes democracy, but that process will bring political and social chaos (…). From there, the stage would be set for a more competent ruler from the administrative point of view, who would order the chaos that Trump would create, ”the Canadian ends predicting, stating that between the two moments the government would break the rule of law, harassing and throwing out officials in public institutions.

On what this would imply for the international scene, the political scientist points out to Third that the risks are practically unfathomable: “They range from the rupture with what remains of the international commercial and security order, the evisceration of the United Nations, the paralysis of global efforts to stop climate change, even to nuclear war. As I indicate in my column, dictatorships tend to go to war ”.

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