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美国民主的溃烂非止一日

更新时间:2016-12-21 19:12:22 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How Republics End
美国民主的溃烂非止一日

Many people are reacting to the rise of Trumpism and nativist movements in Europe by reading history — specifically, the history of the 1930s. And they are right to do so. It takes willful blindness not to see the parallels between the rise of fascism and our current political nightmare.

很多人对特朗普主义和欧洲本土主义运动的兴起的反应是阅读历史,尤其是20世纪30年代的历史。他们这样做是对的。除非故意视而不见,否则不可能看不出法西斯主义的兴起与我们目前政治梦魇之间的相似之处。

But the ’30s isn’t the only era with lessons to teach us. Lately I’ve been reading a lot about the ancient world. Initially, I have to admit, I was doing it for entertainment and as a refuge from news that gets worse with each passing day. But I couldn’t help noticing the contemporary resonances of some Roman history — specifically, the tale of how the Roman Republic fell.

不过,30年代并不是唯一一个能给我们提供教训的年代。最近,我读了很多关于古代世界的书。我必须承认,我这样做最初只是为了娱乐,为了逃避日益糟糕的新闻。但我不禁发现,目前的情况有点像罗马的某些历史,具体说是罗马共和国崩溃的故事。

Here’s what I learned: Republican institutions don’t protect against tyranny when powerful people start defying political norms. And tyranny, when it comes, can flourish even while maintaining a republican facade.

我的体会是:当强大的人物开始违背政治规范时,共和体制并不能抵制专制。出现这种情况时,即使依然保留共和制的表象,专制依然会蓬勃发展。

On the first point: Roman politics involved fierce competition among ambitious men. But for centuries that competition was constrained by some seemingly unbreakable rules. Here’s what Adrian Goldsworthy’s “In the Name of Rome” says: “However important it was for an individual to win fame and add to his and his family’s reputation, this should always be subordinated to the good of the Republic … no disappointed Roman politician sought the aid of a foreign power.”

首先,罗马的政治是雄心勃勃的男人们之间的激烈竞争。但是,在几百年的时间里,那种竞争受到某种似乎不可打破的规则的约束。阿德里安·戈兹沃西(Adrian Goldsworthy)在《以罗马之名》(In the Name of Rome)一书中写道:“不管对个人来说,赢得名声以及为自己和家族的声誉增光添彩是多么重要,都必须永远服从于共和国的利益……没有哪个失望的罗马政治人士寻求过外部力量的帮助。”

America used to be like that, with prominent senators declaring that we must stop “partisan politics at the water’s edge.” But now we have a president-elect who openly asked Russia to help smear his opponent, and all indications are that the bulk of his party was and is just fine with that. (A new poll shows that Republican approval of Vladimir Putin has surged even though — or, more likely, precisely because — it has become clear that Russian intervention played an important role in the U.S. election.) Winning domestic political struggles is all that matters, the good of the republic be damned.

美国过去也是这样,多名著名参议员宣布,我们必须“把政治分歧留在国内”。但是现在,我们的候任总统公开要求俄罗斯帮助抹黑自己的对手,而且种种迹象表明,不管是过去还是现在,他的党派的大部分人都觉得这是可以接受的(一项新的民意调查表明,共和党对弗拉基米尔·普京[Vladimir Putin]的赞赏程度急剧上升,尽管——或者更可能的情况是,正是因为——俄罗斯的干预在美国大选中发挥了重要作用,这一点已经很清楚)。赢得国内政治斗争是唯一重要的事,共和国的利益可以被牺牲。

And what happens to the republic as a result? Famously, on paper the transformation of Rome from republic to empire never happened. Officially, imperial Rome was still ruled by a Senate that just happened to defer to the emperor, whose title originally just meant “commander,” on everything that mattered. We may not go down exactly the same route — although are we even sure of that? — but the process of destroying democratic substance while preserving forms is already underway.

那么,共和国的结果是什么呢?众所周知,罗马从共和国到帝国的转变从未体现在文件上。按照官方的说法,罗马帝国依然由元老院统治,只不过,它在所有重要事项上都碰巧服从皇帝,而这个称号最初的意思只是“指挥官”。我们可能不会走上同样的道路——虽然我们甚至无法确定这一点,不对吗?——但是,保留民主形式、摧毁民主实体的进程已经开始了。

Consider what just happened in North Carolina. The voters made a clear choice, electing a Democratic governor. The Republican legislature didn’t openly overturn the result — not this time, anyway — but it effectively stripped the governor’s office of power, ensuring that the will of the voters wouldn’t actually matter.

想想北卡罗来纳州刚发生的事吧。那里的选民明确地选择了一位民主党州长。共和党的立法机构没有公开推翻这个结果——反正这次没有——但是,实际上剥夺了州长办公室的权力,确保选民的意志实际上无关紧要。

Combine this sort of thing with continuing efforts to disenfranchise or at least discourage voting by minority groups, and you have the potential making of a de facto one-party state: one that maintains the fiction of democracy, but has rigged the game so that the other side can never win.

把这种事与剥夺或者至少是不鼓励少数族裔投票的持续努力结合在一起,可能会制造出实际上的一党制国家:保持民主假象,实际上操纵选举,让对方永远无法获胜。

Why is this happening? I’m not asking why white working-class voters support politicians whose policies will hurt them — I’ll be coming back to that issue in future columns. My question, instead, is why one party’s politicians and officials no longer seem to care about what we used to think were essential American values. And let’s be clear: This is a Republican story, not a case of “both sides do it.”

为什么会发生这种事?我问的不是为什么白人工薪阶层选民会支持那些会采取伤害他们的政策的政客——我会在以后的专栏里谈论这个话题。我现在的问题是,为什么一个政党的政治人士和官员们似乎不再关心我们过去所认定的美国的核心价值观。让我说得清楚一点:这是共和党的问题,并不是什么“两边都在做”的事。

So what’s driving this story? I don’t think it’s truly ideological. Supposedly free-market politicians are already discovering that crony capitalism is fine as long as it involves the right cronies. It does have to do with class warfare — redistribution from the poor and the middle class to the wealthy is a consistent theme of all modern Republican policies. But what directly drives the attack on democracy, I’d argue, is simple careerism on the part of people who are apparatchiks within a system insulated from outside pressures by gerrymandered districts, unshakable partisan loyalty, and lots and lots of plutocratic financial support.

所以,背后的动力是什么?我认为,并不真的与意识形态有关。据说,主张自由市场的政治人士已经发现,只要找到合适的权贵,权贵资本主义就没有问题。它的确跟阶级斗争有关——在穷人、中产阶级和富人之间重新分配财富一直是共和党所有现代政策的一个主题。但是,我认为,攻击民主制度的直接动力是简单的事业至上主义,来自那些党政官僚,他们身处的体系由于不公正的选区划分、不可动摇的党派忠诚以及大量的富豪财政支持而不受外界压力影响。

For such people, toeing the party line and defending the party’s rule are all that matters. And if they sometimes seem consumed with rage at anyone who challenges their actions, well, that’s how hacks always respond when called on their hackery.

对这些人来说,服从党的路线、维护党的统治是唯一重要的事。如果说有时他们似乎对任何质疑他们行为的人充满愤怒,呃,那是奴仆被人指责奴颜婢膝时的通常反应。

One thing all of this makes clear is that the sickness of American politics didn’t begin with Donald Trump, any more than the sickness of the Roman Republic began with Caesar. The erosion of democratic foundations has been underway for decades, and there’s no guarantee that we will ever be able to recover.

所有这些澄清了一点:美国政治的弊病并非始于唐纳德·特朗普(Donald Trump),就像罗马共和国的弊病也并非始于恺撒(Caesar)。民主根基已经腐烂了几十年,而且我们不一定能恢复过来。

But if there is any hope of redemption, it will have to begin with a clear recognition of how bad things are. American democracy is very much on the edge.

但是,如果还有任何拯救的希望的话,那就必须先从清晰地认识到现在的情况是多么糟糕开始。美国民主正处于危急关头。

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