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Sure Hitler and Stalin come on in

Oh no, Mark Steyn comes to Hillary Clinton's defense. He writes at National Review's The corner-

Mark (Hemingway), I take your point, and undoubtedly it's not what the Continentals want to hear, and it may not even be what Secretary Clinton meant, but America's sustained continuous democracy is older than Europe's:

Central and Eastern Europe were dictatorships 20 years ago;

Greece, Spain, and Portugal a little over 30 years ago;

Italy, France, and Germany a little over 60 years ago.

France was a dictatorship a little over 60 years ago? Only because Germany conquered them and the Vichy government took over from the democratically elected Third Republic. They collaborated with the Nazis. French citizens died trying to preserve the Third Republic from the Third Reich.

As for Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union imposed Communist rule. Do dictatorships forced on a country by other countries mean a country has less of a democratic history? People like Franco and the Nazis or Soviets are two totally different stories. Steyn is right that the US has a longer sustained democracy than most of Europe, but we haven't faced a meaningful invasion of our territory in almost 200 years.(The War of 1812, Japan taking a couple of Aleutian Islands in WWII was a pin prick) On the other hand most of Europe's citizens have had to deal with dictators from Napoleon to Hitler to Stalin deciding what type of governments they can have.

I really think Mark Steyn should re-think what he said.


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Comments (8)

Europe's history is one of ... (Below threshold)
joh:

Europe's history is one of almost continuous despotism, only interrupted by brief and infrequent periods of democracy. But I still think it's funny she got their names wrong! So much for Smart Power.

OK, make that 160 years ago... (Below threshold)
kbiel Author Profile Page:

OK, make that 160 years ago for France or are you contending that Napoleon's reign began and ended before 1787?

This is an excellent post -... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

This is an excellent post -- Poland, for example, was a democracy after World War I. It's true the US has been a democracy longer than any of the European states except Britain (and Iceland, if you count them European) but he has his dates wrong.

As regards France, democracy starts in 1871 or so, with the end of the Franco-Prussian war.

Actually, yes - Vichy Franc... (Below threshold)
Lysander:

Actually, yes - Vichy France should not count as "democratic" due to the context in which it arose, as well as the procedures used to create it. Marshal Pétain came to power after a vote, yes, but that vote has been contested by even French historians after the war.

I would like to see what Steyn was responding to, so his comments can be taken in context.

Arguably the US has a longe... (Below threshold)
Occam's Beard:

Arguably the US has a longer democratic history than even Britain, which gradually evolved from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one, so it's difficult to choose a date. Certainly any era in which a monarch could order summary executions would fall on the pre-democratic side.

For Britain, one could defensibly draw the line marking the change to democracy at the Reform Act of 1832, forty-three years after ratification of the Constitution.

Switzerland has a somewhat similar history of evolution, but modern Swiss democracy dates to its constitution of 1849.

Also, the answer to the question depends on what one means by "continuous." Does the French Fifth Republic (1958) count as a continuation of French democracy, or as a Ctrl-Alt-Del reboot?

it goes beyond being the ol... (Below threshold)
JSchuler:

it goes beyond being the oldest democracy (depending on how you classify Britain), the US also has the world's oldest government (again, depending on how you classify Britain).

Interesting idea on "world'... (Below threshold)
Edward Sisson Author Profile Page:

Interesting idea on "world's" oldest government, depending on Britain -- I thought you'd have to put Sweden as the oldest, but a little research showed that Sweden has has several constitutions and switches between royal despotism and parliamentary systems, more recent than the US.

As regards Britain, I suppose you can qualify it with a "depending" -- the 1800 Act of Union with Ireland (effective 1/1/1801) set up the current Parliament and it post-dates the US constitution. Doesn't seem right, though -- 1689 is a better date for England, with the 'Glorious Revolution' and the Bill of Rights Act.

Also, I was mistaken above about Iceland -- while its own government has been democratic, it has not been sovereign -- Iceland was under Denmark until December 1918.

Hitler and stalin were both... (Below threshold)
Spurwing Plover:

Hitler and stalin were both liberals




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