The U.S. State Department last week convened its first Summit for Democracy, addressing a very serious decline of democratic institutions and practices around the globe.
As President Joe Biden noted in his address to the summit, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. And we have to renew it with each generation.” From 1989 through the 1990s, following the demise of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, the number of democracies around the world increased dramatically. However, over the past decade, a record number of democracies are facing serious threats, from the coup in Myanmar to significant backsliding in Hungary, Brazil, India, and Poland. The State Department quite notably did not include Russia or China among its invitees.
But it was hard for participants and observers to fail to notice the very significant threats to democracy in the host country. Long considered a leader and a fervent advocate for democracy around the globe, the United States has seen a decline in faith in democracy at home and suffered a very public coup attempt in early 2021.
Indeed, further details on the threats to American democracy came to light as the summit got underway last week. New revelations about Jan. 6 showed, among other things:
- White House officials and Republican House leaders pressuring House members to vote against certifying the presidential election results in an effort to keep Donald Trump in office.
- Then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows working with Republicans in Congress on a plan to appoint alternate electors for states that had already certified their elections for Biden, in an attempt to have those states flipped to Trump or disqualified.
- A PowerPoint presentation prepared by lawyers working for then-President Trump explaining to White House officials and congressional Republicans a plan for overturning the election.
- Members of Congress, Fox News personalities, and even members of Trump’s own family texting Meadows to implore him to have rioters stand down on January 6th.
Of possibly greater importance than the details of Jan. 6 is the fact that the United States faces ongoing threats for further and possibly more successful democratic erosion. For one thing, despite Trump’s very obvious role in encouraging political violence to overturn an election, he remains not terribly unpopular. A recent survey suggested that he and Joe Biden are roughly tied in a 2024 rematch (although we shouldn’t place too much confidence in a survey three years away from an election).
Tellingly, the idea that the 2020 election results were fraudulent and that Trump was the true winner remains a very powerful stance among Republican officeholders today, and Trump is using his political influence to harm the careers of those Republicans who don’t support it.
Trump recently, for example, criticized Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on the sole issue of voting to certify Biden’s victory in that state in 2020. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022. Trump has since endorsed former U.S. Senator David Perdue to run against Kemp in the Republican primary next year. That endorsement has essentially tied up the race according to early polls. And Perdue has said that he wouldn’t have certified Georgia’s election results and might not in the future facing a similar election.
Additionally, the New York Times described a Republican running for secretary of state in Michigan as “a community college adjunct professor who has claimed that the 2020 elections were fraudulent, advocated for removing ‘traitors’ from the Republican Party and accused Democrats of pursuing a ‘satanic agenda.’ Since Mr. Trump endorsed her in September, she has considerably out-raised her rivals for the Republican nomination.”
The idea that Democratic election victories are inherently illegitimate and that Republican victories are more important than public trust in election results is increasingly becoming a unifying principle for Republican officials. And Republicans are increasingly seeking to recruit candidates and election officials who hold these viewpoints and seek to make election administration less professional and more partisan.
To the administration’s credit, Vice President Kamala Harris concluded the summit with a speech directly addressing America’s democratic deficit. While noting a number of things the administration is doing to protect U.S. elections, she said that wasn’t enough, and called upon Congress to swiftly pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Voting Rights Advancement Act. “These bills would help to ensure that every eligible American can vote and have their vote counted in a free, fair and transparent election,” she said.
Clearly, there’s a lot more to address when it comes to democratic decline. This is the subject of another upcoming conference — the Denver Democracy Summit, hosted by the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. This summit, to be held February 10th and 11th next year, will address such modern democratic dilemmas as how to confront misinformation and polarization in the exchange of ideas, the challenges of maintaining free and fair elections, and the ongoing crisis of climate change.
As is clear, this will not be the final word on the matter of democratic erosion, either within the U.S. or elsewhere. But the idea that democracy is in crisis no longer seems to be a matter of debate; we are now at the point of discussing remedies.
Seth Masket is a professor of political science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver. He is the author of “Learning from Loss: The Democrats 2016-2020.”
To send a letter to the editor about this article, submit online or check out our guidelines for how to submit by email or mail.
Source: Read Full Article