American democracy “regresses” for the first time, new report says

For the first time, the United States was added to a list of “retreating democracies” in a global report by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an organization based in Sweden.

“The United States, the bastion of world democracy, has itself been the victim of authoritarian tendencies, and has been overthrown by a significant number of steps on the democratic ladder,” according to the “Report on the State of Democracy in the World 2021” from International IDEA published Monday.

I have reservations about the “bastion of world democracy” part given America’s history, but I take note: the United States is becoming an increasingly undemocratic country due to conservative attacks on free and fair elections. Specifically, the report highlighted former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his defeat in the 2020 election as a “historic turning point” in American democracy. The report said Trump’s actions were a sign of America’s “democratic retreat,” a term for the severe erosion of democratic principles.

“Unsubstantiated allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental confidence in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the United States Capitol in January 2021,” the report said.

He also pointed to the GOP’s response – voter restriction efforts that disproportionately impact non-white people – as an indicator that the United States is experiencing undemocratic inequality based on ethnicity.

Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

Trump’s baseless allegations have also had ripple effects, encouraging baseless electoral conspiracy theories and undemocratic crackdowns in the country. several countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar and Peru, according to the International IDEA. Alexander Hudson, co-author of the report, told the French news agency Agence France-Presse the United States saw a “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020”, when Trump used violent rhetoric in response to anti-racist activists protesting against police brutality.

And America’s undemocratic turn is reverberating around the world, according to the report.

“Since 2016, and for the fifth consecutive year, the number of countries moving towards authoritarianism is about three times higher than the number moving towards democracy,” write the authors.

About a quarter of the world’s population live in a backward democracy, according to the report, including geopolitical powers like the United States, Brazil and India. The organization said that these three great countries falling into democratic decline are a particularly worrying sign for global democracy.

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Amanda J. Marsh