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Many Small Venezuelas: Subnational Authoritarianism in the United States and Argentina, A Comparative Historical Perspective

Sat, November 4, 4:00 to 5:30pm, Omni Parker Mezzanine, Brandeis


Subnational authoritarianism continues to handicap Argentina’s democracy with the result that democracy is incomplete and problematic. Subnational authoritarianism is also an ongoing problem in Mexico and the United States. This article uses comparative historical analysis to understand the problem more thoroughly and to consider federal intervention as a potential solution. The article scrutinizes subnational authoritarianism in the United States South more generally and compares it with subnational authoritarianism in Mexico and Argentina. The article then examines more closely the specific case of Louisiana. Federalisms differ in the latitude they enjoy for dramatic pro-democracy intervention. These comparisons illustrate that the United States federal government actually has less power to intervene subnational units in favor of democracy than do the federal governments of Argentina and Mexico. Nevertheless and despite the limits on federal power, authoritarianism has declined in the United States south and in Louisiana specifically. However, the United States South still has some considerable distance to go before it can be considered fully democratic. The struggle against subnational authoritarianism can be protracted and progress is incremental and imperfect rather than immediate, substantial and total. However, federal governments that are prepared to use more subtle forms of intervention rather than direct confrontation may succeed in helping subnational democracy grow when dramatic forms of intervention are not possible.