Forbearance is one of the two essentials for a functioning democracy described by Steven Levinsky and Daniel Ziblatt in their book “How Democracies Die.” Along with mutual toleration, forbearance enables more rounds of the electoral game to continue, as opposed to devolving into a civil war over the legitimacy of authority.
Forbearance essentially means, “self-control.” It means exercising discernment and restraint in matters of state, because of the dire consequences of allowing extremism to run rampant and destroy peace. Forbearance is also the avoiding of actions that violate the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law.
Political forbearance is a crucial element of healthy democratic systems, as it promotes a culture of restraint, tolerance, and cooperation among political actors. It helps nations avoid excessive partisanship, and respect the rights and interests of their opponents. Political forbearance is vital for the stability and functionality of democratic institutions, as it helps to maintain a balance between competing interests and prevents the escalation of conflicts.
The erosion of forbearance
In recent years, there has been a growing concern about the erosion of political forbearance and its potential impact on democratic stability. This phenomenon, often referred to as democratic backsliding, is characterized by a decline in the quality of democratic governance, as political actors increasingly abandon norms of restraint and respect for their opponents.
Democratic backsliding can manifest in various ways, such as the abuse of power, the erosion of civil liberties, and the undermining of democratic institutions. In some cases, this process can lead to the complete breakdown of democratic systems and a return to authoritarian rule.
Abandoning forbearance eventually draws blood.