The Continuing Decline of American Democracy

In October 2020, I wrote Save American Democracy, in which I said that American democracy has been in decline for decades, with Trump accelerating this process. The gap between citizens and politicians is significant, with citizens having little influence on policy. Causes include the electoral system, the Senate, money in politics, the Electoral College, and gerrymandering, making the U.S. vulnerable to tyranny. Has it gotten better or worse? 

Further deterioration

Now in February 2024, how do things stand? Despite Trump losing the elections, the overall condition of American democracy has deteriorated rather than improved.

  • Increasing pressure on democracy: Experts warn that American democracy is under significant stress, especially leading up to the 2024 elections, indicating ongoing and possibly worsening challenges for democratic institutions.
  • Growing division and polarization: Deep political division and polarization, exacerbated by misinformation and distrust in the electoral process, continue to pose a significant challenge to American democracy.
  • Attacks on the voting process: Despite efforts to improve election processes and ensure election integrity, concerns remain about attempts to undermine voting rights, election misinformation, and the safety of election officials.
  • Structural problems persist: Many structural issues mentioned in your article, such as the influence of big money in politics, the Electoral College, and the first-past-the-post electoral system, have not been fundamentally addressed and continue to impact the representativeness and effectiveness of American democracy.
  • Decline of the Republican Party: A particularly worrying development within the United States' two-party system is that one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, is significantly influenced by Donald Trump, who is subject to various charges, including election fraud and an attempted coup. The Republican Party is in the grip of autocrat Trump, undermining the diversity of political viewpoints within the party system, as only one party functions within traditional democratic frameworks.

Why save and restore democracy anyway?

Saving and rebuilding American democracy is crucial because democracies offer citizens more prosperity, better health, and greater happiness than autocracies. Democracies encourage peace and provide freedoms that autocracies suppress by escalating conflicts and limiting public freedoms to maintain power. Democracies thrive on diversity of opinion and protect individual rights, leading to more stable and prosperous societies. Prioritizing democracy helps prevent the decline into governance that stifles progress and cooperation on the global stage.

What to do?

American democracy is severely eroded and in a precarious stage. The 2024 elections will be a critical moment. It is essential that citizens become aware of the dangers and commit to protecting democracy. To restore and strengthen American democracy, structural reforms are needed:

  • Electoral system reform: Addressing gerrymandering and revising the Electoral College are crucial steps to improve representativeness.
  • Transparency in funding: Stricter rules for political financing and transparency can reduce the influence of big money in politics.
  • Protection of voting rights: Legislation that protects and expands voting rights is necessary to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in the democratic process.

What can individuals do? 

Individuals can contribute to the restoration of American democracy by:

  • Staying informed: Actively seeking reliable information and being aware of misinformation.
  • Participating actively: Voting in every election and getting involved in local and national political initiatives.
  • Education and dialogue: Promoting democratic values and engaging in constructive dialogues with others to increase understanding and respect for different viewpoints.

By taking these steps, individuals can make a significant difference in strengthening the foundations of American democracy for future generations.

The choice is yours

I end by repeating what I said in 2020: There are no good reasons not to start improving American democracy. All of the factors corrupting it now can be dealt with. They are all human-built systems, and all of them can be redesigned. 

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Who am I to speak about this? I am not an expert in democracy nor am I even an American. So why write about the state of democracy in America? The answer is that the discourse on democracy is a conversation that everyone should partake in, not just for the sake of Americans but for the global community. America's wealth and power position it as a nation whose democratic health is the concern of the world at large. I believe that it is not only the right but also the responsibility of every global citizen to discuss, debate, and contribute to this dialogue. I welcome individuals with expertise in this area to correct any inaccuracies or misinterpretations I may have presented. Democracy thrives on collective wisdom and informed debate, and I invite such interaction to enhance the understanding shared in this article.