Here are 5 disturbing trends to watch at the start of 2020

Here are 5 disturbing trends to watch at the start of 2020
President Donald J. Trump shakes hands with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he is introduced to the podium Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019, at a rally in honor of Prime Minister Modi at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

At the start of 2020, the news is as troubling in other countries as it is in the United States. Freedom House, an organization that measures how democratic countries are, has reported that “political rights and civil liberties” suffered a 13-year decline from 2006-2018 — and 2020 isn’t shaping up to be any better. From white nationalism in the U.S. to Hindu nationalism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, democracy has been under attack all around the world.

Here are some disturbing trends to watch out for at the start of 2020.

1. The anti-immigrant climate in the US

According to research by the Brookings Institution, immigration to the U.S. has seriously declined under President Donald Trump: between 2017 and 2018, immigration decreased by more than 70%. Randy Capps, director of U.S. research for the Migration Policy Institute, told the New York Times that the decrease in immigration to the U.S. can, in part, be attributed to “the general effect of Trump being president.” Trump has been promoting an anti-immigrant climate in the U.S., and the result is less immigration.

Acts of white nationalist terrorism are hardly a welcoming sign for would-be immigrants: on August 3, a gunman in El Paso — determined to kill Latinos — opened fire on a crowd and murdered 22 people. And violent anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise.

2. Islamophobia in India and China

Two of the worst countries for Muslims minority groups have been China and India, where Prime Minister Modi has been pushing an intense Hindu nationalism — and there are some troubling parallels between the two countries when it comes to the treatment of Muslims. The Indian parliament recently passed a bill offering amnesty to illegal immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, but only if they aren’t Muslim. The Modi government’s anti-Muslim outlook has inspired angry protests in Kashmir, where broadband internet service was suspended for over four months last year — a move that mirrors the Chinese government’s suspension of internet service in the heavily Muslim Xinjiang region in 2009.

Last year, James Millward, a history professor at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told The Nation, “The current Kashmir shutdown, and in particular the turning off of the Internet and communications, is awfully similar to the one in Xinjiang post-2009 riots. One wonders if Modi is taking a page from the Chinese book there.”

3. Authoritarians are winning elections around the world

Authoritarian leaders don’t necessarily come to power via a violent coup: in many cases, they are voted into office — and that has happened in a long list of countries, including Brazil with Jair Bolsonaro, Turkey with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Philippines with Rodrigo Duterte and Hungary with Viktor Orbán. Once in power, they undermine a country’s checks and balances and pursue authoritarian measures. Turkey used to be the most democratic and progressive country in the Islamic world; under Erdogan, new prisons have been built to clamp down on dissent. And the thing Bolsonaro, Erdogan, Duterte and Orbán have in common is a far-right nationalism that voters found appealing; voters in their countries have chosen authoritarianism.

4. Voter suppression efforts around the US

When Republicans hold office in a state, one of the things they do to stay in power is enact voter suppression measures. Georgia recently struck almost 100,000 voters from its rolls; in Wisconsin, around 200,000 voters are set to be purged. And Republicans aren’t doing that to keep Republicans from voting — they are making a concerted effort to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters to maintain the GOP grip on power. 

5.  Reproductive freedom under attack in many parts of the US

With Justice Brett Kavanaugh having replaced the more libertarian Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, it’s entirely possible that 1973’s Roe v. Wade decision will be essentially overturned — in which case, individual states would be free to ban abortion at the state level. And draconian abortion restrictions (some worse than others) can be found in Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and many other states. In Alabama, the Human Life Protection Act calls for an almost total ban on abortion, although in October, District Judge Myron Thompson blocked the law.


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