Max Fisher

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Max Fisher is an American journalist and columnist based in Washington, D.C. in the field of political science and social science. He writes for The Washington Post, The New York Times, and Vox.


  • So why is Japan different? Why do its top officials – and this trend extends across senior government posts – resign office, seemingly at the drop of a hat? The theories are endless, most of them relying on oft-repeated but simplistic stereotypes about the supposed centrality of honor, saving face, and respect in Japanese culture... Japan's problems are too vast, and its strengths too great, to be ruled by something as capricious and frivolous as the whims of the majority.
  • Americans are intimately familiar with the image of a federal government paralyzed by the chief executive's unpopularity. Presidents Ronald Reagan in the early 1980s, Bill Clinton in the early 1990s, George W. Bush after the 2006 midterm election, and perhaps even Barack Obama in the first months after the 2010 midterm election. In one case in late 1995 and early 1996, the American government was literally shut down as Republicans attempted to overpower the unpopular Clinton in a federal budget dispute. But in none of these cases did the president, though his unpopularity had clearly incumbered the functioning of the state, offer to resign. And few Americans honestly expected resignation, even at the president's least popular moment.
  • South Korea, not very tolerant, is an outlier. Although the country is rich, well-educated, peaceful and ethnically homogenous – all trends that appear to coincide with racial tolerance – more than one in three South Koreans said they do not want a neighbor of a different race. This may have to do with Korea's particular view of its own racial-national identity as unique – studied by scholars such as B.R. Myers – and with the influx of Southeast Asian neighbors and the nation's long-held tensions with Japan.
  • The way that Russia seized Crimea by force from Ukraine this March was hostile and extremely illegal... A poll found that 41 percent of Crimeans wanted the region to become part of Russia. That's an awful lot; but it's still not a majority. Crimea's March referendum on leaving Ukraine for Russia ostensibly garnered 97 percent support, but it occurred in a rush, without international monitors, and under Russian military occupation. A draft U.N. investigative report found that critics of secession within Crimea were detained and tortured in the days before the vote; it also found 'many reports of vote-rigging'. Had the referendum been held in a transparent and legal manner, it's not clear which way the vote would have gone.
  • Russian leaders and regular citizens have felt increasingly insecure... They have a sense that Russia is under siege from without and has been robbed of its rightful status as a world power... Europeans at least have recourse at the ballot box; they can angrily vote in or out whoever they like. Russians do not enjoy the luxury of democracy. Russians do not enjoy the luxury of democracy... The U.S. is many times more powerful and influential than Russia.
  • Americans have come to accept, even embrace, divided government. But it is exceedingly uncommon. While Americans may see Canada’s legislative efficiency as unusual, to the rest of the world it is American-style gridlock that looks odd.
  • It’s telling that when American diplomats and technocrats help to set up new democracies abroad, they almost always model them on European-style parliaments.
  • Populism is a path that, at its outset, can look and feel democratic. But, followed to its logical conclusion, it can lead to democratic backsliding or even outright authoritarianism.
    • Max Fisher and Amanda Taub, “How can Populism Erode Democracy? Ask Venezuela,” The New York Times, (April 2, 2017)

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