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Professor David Driesen's New Book Analyzes "The Specter of Dictatorship"

Posted on Friday 7/2/2021
The Specter of Dictatorship
The Specter of Dictatorship: Judicial Enabling of Presidential Power (Stanford UP, 2021) 

In The Specter of Dictatorship, University Professor David Driesen analyzes the chief executive's role in the democratic decline of Hungary, Poland, and Turkey and argues that an insufficiently constrained presidency is one of the most important systemic threats to democracy. 

Driesen urges the United States to learn from the mistakes of these failing democracies. Their experiences suggest, Driesen shows, that the US Supreme Court must eschew its reliance on and expansion of the "unitary executive theory" and apply a less deferential approach to presidential authority, invoked to protect national security and combat emergencies, than it has in recent years. 

Ultimately, Driesen argues that concern about loss of democracy should play a major role in jurisprudence, because loss of democracy can prove irreversible. As autocracy spreads throughout the world, maintaining our democracy has become an urgent matter.

Abstract: Chapter 5—The Specter of Dictatorship: Poland, Hungary and Turkey

This chapter, the heart of the book, examines the role of executive power in undermining democracy in Poland, Hungary, and Turkey. 

In all three cases, creation of centralized control over the executive branch of government paved the way for autocracy, leading to politicized use of prosecution to undermine political opponents, shrinking of the media available to dissenters, and tilting the electoral playing field. 

This analysis focuses primarily on centralization of control over prosecution, media authorities, and electoral commissions. In Hungary and Turkey, abuse of emergency powers accelerated the establishment of autocracy.

These countries' autocrats eroded democracy with the support of a political party enjoying the support of at least a substantial minority of voters. Party members in Parliament helped destroy democracy by voting in lockstep fashion to support "reforms" undermining independent agencies and prosecutorial independence.