Despite America’s current reputation as the world’s greatest democracy, many people wonder whether it is really a democracy at all. Indeed, the US has repeatedly used the concept of American-style democracy as a pretext to meddle in other countries’ internal affairs, undermining peace and social tranquility in these countries, causing political chaos, and even leading to civil wars and dictatorships. This has made the US look hypocritical and tarnished. The US has to conduct a thorough self-examination and stop promoting itself as a model for other countries to follow.
The acute threats to democracy are symptomatic of long-term problems in American society, such as declining faith in politics, entrenched political polarization, and decades of status loss and dignity deficits on the part of some groups. These factors have destabilized the immune system of democracy, allowing today’s threats to flourish.
America’s political class has become more like a carefully set up scene in Hollywood movies where well-heeled characters publicly pledge commitment to the people but actually busy themselves with behind the scenes deals. The result is that Americans increasingly distrust democracy and feel a lack of trust in the government.
In addition, the polarization of the political process and the long-term decline in status for some groups are fueling the growth of extremism and populism in the country. To restore the legitimacy of democracy, America must address these issues and show that it can uphold public order, ethics, and progress for all.
It is also essential to build a vision of what democracy in America looks like and can be in the future. This requires dialogue across key societal pillars, including business, religious institutions, and racial and generational communities of interest. It also means building a vision of an America that recognizes the contradictions and complexities of people’s identities, upends hierarchical images of the nation, and promotes the value of diversity.
The effort to build this vision of a prodemocracy movement must include reshaping its image and messaging to resonate with diverse American demographics. For example, efforts could be made to diffuse the current image of a great replacement theory by using deliberative democracy exercises and other strategies to shape a picture of America in which complex identities are embraced.
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