Even though the United States avoided the worst last year by failing to reelect an authoritarian and demagogic president, the prospects for American democracy remain bleak. When he addresses the participants at his summit, Joe Biden would do well to go beyond the clichés and explain how he intends to reverse the democratic plunge in his own country.
In a recent report, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) first identified the United States as a retreating democracy. It’s worrying. Liberal democracy depends in particular on the holding of free and fair elections, respect for rights and the rule of law, as well as a firm commitment to truth and tolerance in public discourse and debate.
On all these fronts, we see profound deterioration in the United States, many of which are the result of the radicalization of the Republican Party.
The Slippery Slope
The Republicans’ propensity for fiddling with electoral cards and suppressing the vote of opposing groups is not new, but their recent efforts to facilitate the challenge and overturning of unfavorable election results constitute an unprecedented assault on the democracy.
All of this, of course, stems from Donald Trump’s Big Lie, who persists in peddling – without any proof – the myth of a stolen election in 2020. Worse, his militants dislodge numerous electoral officers with threats and replace them with Trumpists who will not hesitate to tamper with the results in 2024.
One would have thought that after a mandate marked by a torrent of falsehood and innumerable manifestations of intolerance, the Republicans would have sought to rekindle the commitment they once showed to truth and tolerance, but they persist invalidate Trump’s lies, demonize their opponents and ignore civility.
As for respect for the law, we can no longer count the illegal acts committed openly and with impunity by Trump or his acolytes, including those who mock the commission’s formal notices on the events of January 6.
Democracy Is Bad
Meanwhile, Democrats look like they’ve stepped into a slingshot artillery fight. It would suffice for them to come to an agreement among themselves to pass a law protecting the integrity of the elections, but no one seems in a hurry to act.
The events of January 6 should have been enough to demonstrate the urgency of defending democratic institutions, but the commission responsible for studying them was slow to get started and its work seems to be stalling.
In short, American democracy is in bad shape.
At home, our leaders do not hesitate to express their concern at the setbacks in democracy everywhere else in the world. Perhaps it is time to do the same for our nearest neighbor.