Decline of Democracy

I’m alarmed that one of civilization’s greatest achievements, democracy, is in decline around the world. According to Freedom House, from Poland to Britain to the U.S., antidemocratic political movements are enjoying the support of the conservative elite. That’s also the judgment of Anne Applebaum in her new book, Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism (Doubleday, 2022). We now have authoritarian regimes in Philippines, Turkey, and Venezuela. The governments in Hungary and Poland are reducing democratic freedoms in their countries. The share of countries designated as “Not Free” has reached its highest level since the deterioration of democracy began in 2006. Countries with declines in political rights and civil liberties now outnumber those with gains by the largest margin recorded during the 15-year period. Recent reports downgrade the freedom scores of 73 countries, representing 75 percent of the global population.

Democracy is also on the downturn in the U.S., thanks primarily to Donald Trump. In the aftermath of his defeat in the 2020 election, his Republican supporters in 19 states enacted 33 laws that will make it harder for Americans to vote. Worse, Trump attempted a coup d’etat on January 6, 2021, by inciting mobs to storm the Capitol and overturn the election, thereby restoring him to the presidency even though he unmistakably lost the election. The Republican National Committee labelled that violence, which resulted in the death of as many as ten people, as “legitimate political discourse.”

Have we really sunk so low? Democracy is waning around the world. Worst, from my perspective, is its decay within the U.S. We Americans must bond together to restore our democracy and defeat the efforts of Trump and his followers to undercut our freedom.

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