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The world’s democracies are backsliding — including the United States

A report found that the number of countries undergoing “democratic backsliding” over the past decade is at its highest point ever.

American flag
REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), in its latest report on the Global State of Democracy, acknowledged that progress toward democracy suffered many blows from the pandemic and other issues, concluding that the number of countries undergoing “democratic backsliding” over the past decade is at its highest point ever, and included our poor, dear nation as one of those in which democracy lost ground. The report’s authors summarized its findings thus:

The number of countries undergoing ‘democratic backsliding’ (a more severe and deliberate kind of democratic erosion) has never been as high as in the last decade, and includes regional geopolitical and economic powers such as Brazil, India and the United States.

The overview of the backsliding was expressed thus:

Some of the most worrying examples of backsliding are found in some of the world’s largest countries (Brazil, India). The United States and three members of the European Union (EU) (Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, which holds the chair of the EU in 2021) have also seen concerning democratic declines.

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What the authors referred to as “the credibility-sapping blunders performed by leading democratic powers over the past two decades” ranged:

…from the invasion of Iraq to the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 to the violently contested elections in the United States—and the simultaneous emergence of credible alternative models of governance, and we have the equivalent of a witches’ brew for the global health of democracy. The pandemic has simply made that brew thicker and more poisonous.

With particular reference to the most recent U.S. contribution to the backsliding, the report states, for example that:

Politically engaged consumers have driven multinational private companies to protest against restrictions on voting rights in the United States, promote voting among their staff and support the Black Lives Matter movement.

The United States was listed in the report as among those nations suffering from what it terms “democratic erosion.” It made specific reference to events after the 2020 election and during the 2021 transition when:

Former President Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States. Baseless allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol building in January 2021.

It’s a long report covering established democracies like ours to fledgling systems seeking to take root in other nations. The report is certainly not obsessed with Trump or America. I highlighted those references to indicate how one group sees the events of 2020-21 in the global picture of democracy.

The full global democracy overview can be accessed here.