On Opposition

04 Jan 2021

(Moscow-on-Thames) I spend most of my time studying how people fight back against autocratic regimes in places like Russia (and, increasingly, Belarus). But as my fellow Americans worry about the potential of an authoritarian coup in Washington, I’m seeing a different set of parallels – and it worries me.

If you believe you live in a democracy, elections are a wonderful thing. Sure, the campaign can be nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day the votes are cast, someone wins, someone else loses, and attention gradually shifts to the next opportunity to do it all over again.

If you live in an autocracy, however, elections are nothing more than another opportunity for the regime to retrench its power – and your powerlessness. Autocratic elections are an exercise in voicelessness, and the first rule of opposition is to understand just how heavily the system is stacked against you. [...]

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