LFC links to this piece which essentially says that on the basis of a big multi-part cross-national measure of how democratic a nation is, designed to assist us in evaluating the political character of various dictatorships, monarchies, failed states, and such, my very own state of North Carolina ranks so far down the list that it no longer qualifies as a democracy. This is not a joke or a snarky bit of political commentary but a sober, serious social scientific judgment.
Well. Not exactly news to those of us condemned to live here, but it does raise a number of interesting questions, doesn't it? We are all accustomed to assuming that if we were so unfortunate as to find ourselves in, say, 1936 Germany or 1940 Italy, we would take one sniff of the air and say, unhesitatingly, "This is not a democracy." But here I am in Chapel Hill, which seems to my naked eye not noticeably different from, let us say, Massachusetts or California or New York, save for the weather, the vegetation, and the unnerving tendency of everyone to smile and be friendly.
I am reminded that pre-liberation South Africa was the same way, if one were White. Indeed, on the South African campuses I visited in 1986 and '87 and '88, everyone seemed to have read Marx and to be reading New German Critique. Everything was so carefully laid out in South Africa that you could spend a month there and never actually encounter face to face the fact that five-sixths of the population was essentially enslaved. That was the whole point of apartheid, which, after all, means "apartness." But then, the same was true of the Old South. A lovely place to visit, if you were White.
Why does this matter, other than as one more way to snark at the Republicans? Because once Trump is president, there is going to be enormous pressure in the media to normalize his rule, and so long as you are not Muslim or a dissenting reporter or someone who actually needs Medicare and Social Security to live, so long in short as life for you personally goes on much as before, it will be harder and harder to recognize fascism until the police come for you.
Those of us in the comfortable upper middle classes [i.e., people like me] don't in fact actually use on a daily basis the rights and protections that, taken as a whole, constitute a society a democracy. We count on them to be available should they be necessary, but like automobile insurance or the safety overload switch on the circuit breaker panel in the laundry room, they come into play rarely.
It is going to require a special kind of vigilance for those of us who are safe to remember daily what harm Trump is doing to America. [It wouldn't hurt for us also to recall what harm Obama and all previous presidents have already done, needless to say.] This is not going to be fun.