Jeff Mason is a White House Correspondent for Reuters and the 2016-2017 president of the White House Correspondents’ Association. He was the lead Reuters correspondent for President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign and interviewed the president at the White House in 2015. Jeff has been based in Washington since 2008, when he covered the historic race between Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain. Jeff started his career in Frankfurt, Germany, where he covered the airline industry before moving to Brussels, Belgium, where he covered the European Union. He is a Colorado native, proud graduate of Northwestern University and former Fulbright scholar.
Twitter handle: @jeffmason1
Vladimir Putin won big on Sunday. According to the central election commission, the Russian president glides into his fourth term after winning his biggest ever election victory, with nearly 77 percent favoring him. His nearest rival was an affluent multi-millionaire communist who got more than 11 percent by presenting himself as a Putin-plus, with a program of nationalizing the oligarchs’ property instead of merely controlling it.
Those who feel left behind by the enrichment of the minority and the stagnation of the many are choosing to be represented by political forces that cannot give them what they need, and will likely make their lives worse.
First and clearest. The two parties that supported democracy’s conventional division – left v. right – failed in Sunday’s inconclusive election in the euro zone’s third-largest economy.
We know by now what illiberal democracies are. They are countries like Russia, Hungary and Poland, where the formal rules of democratic elections are preserved – though at times with credible claims of vote-rigging, especially in Russia – but where an authoritarian government so dominates the political and social space, so weakens the institutions of civil society, the news media, and the academy, and so plays on popular fears of foreigners and internal minorities, that choice is effectively skewed in one direction.
In China, women calling themselves the “silence breakers” have demanded investigations into allegations of sexual harassment. In doing so, they pit themselves against a macho culture, a Communist Party deeply allergic to independent citizens’ initiatives, and an exaggerated and assiduously-cultivated respect for hierarchies, themselves male-dominated.
It’s puzzling that President Vladimir Putin of Russia is held in high regard by democratic leaders of every shade of politics. Alex Salmond, the nationalist former first minister of Scotland – who called for the impeachment of Britain’s Tony Blair for crimes against humanity in Iraq – regards Putin as having restored Russian national pride. Gerhard Schroeder, former Social Democrat chancellor of Germany, celebrated his 70th birthday with the Russian president at a costly banquet in St Petersburg in April 2014.
“South Africa’s Zuma is out” was the Washington Post’s headline on Thursday morning. “Will things actually get better?” The question signifies more than journalistic skepticism. It points to a shift in the liberal worldview.
“When people are forgotten the world becomes fractured,” President Donald Trump observed to the Davos forum in his breathlessly-awaited speech Friday. That he himself was the fracturer-in-chief must have entered the minds of more than a few in the crowded hall.
Citizens in authoritarian states know what they can read or publish, see or hear. In places such as China, Russia, Iran, Turkey and Egypt, semi-free private discussion and small-circulation publishing is permitted. But the dissident talk can’t become opposition action. That is cut off, either at the root or when it appears on the streets.
Two men of the right were pulled from pedestals this past week: one, American, for being a source; the other, British, for having been a columnist. Their rationalizations and attempts at exculpation raise the question: does journalism operate in a space increasingly divorced from sober fact and judgment? Is most of it being enfolded, ever more completely, into entertainment or political intolerance?