Mussolini and Hitler came to power through elections, China's Global Times reminded readers Monday. Now an "abusively racist and extremist" candidate is on the rise in the United States, it says. Maybe democracy isn't such a good idea after all. In an editorial Monday, China's state-owned Global Times newspaper used Donald Trump's rise to gloat about the fault lines in U.S. society and to argue that democracy was both a waste of time -- and downright scary. From the rise of a "narcissistic and inflammatory candidate" to the violence that surrounded his planned rally in Chicago, the paper said it was shocking this could happen in a country that "boasts one of the most developed and mature democratic election systems" in the world.
The Chinese government does its best to limit the free exchange of ideas in its country, but there's no doubt that the Chinese people are aware of democracy's existence. Officials occasionally like to remind China, however, that the rival form of government is far more trouble than it's worth.
And occasionally, Republicans in the United States offer convenient fodder that makes China's job easier. When GOP members of Congress shut down the federal government a few years ago, for example, state-owned Chinese media ran reports that said, in effect, "See? Democracy leads to chaos and instability." When Republicans launched their debt-ceiling hostage crisis in 2011, and threatened to crash the economy on purpose, China once again was only too pleased to tell its people about the tumult democracy brings.
As the Washington Post reported this week, with Donald Trump faring well in the GOP presidential race, China has brand new evidence to bolster their anti-democratic pitch.
The point wasn't subtle: Trump's rise is powerful proof, the argument goes, that democratic systems aren't all they're cracked up to be. The Global Times' report added that Trump may yet lose, but the fact that he's already done so well has "left a dent" in the American political process.
In case this isn't obvious, the Chinese newspaper's perspective is self-serving and incomplete, and the idea that democracy is flawed because buffoons sometimes win primaries is hard to take seriously. Yes, when free people are allowed to choose their leaders in free elections, sometimes the process is messy, but that's hardly an argument in support of one-party rule and an abandonment of civil liberties.
That said, it's nevertheless discouraging when the Republican Party's antics become exhibits for those making the case against democracy itself.
On the show last night, Dan Rather told Rachel, "I don't want to be preachy about it, but Abraham Lincoln described America as the last best hope of Earth. Well, can you imagine what people overseas, who understand that the stability in our country is the key to world order. And when they see those television images [of Trump events], what can they be thinking?"