Democracy in America and Global Challenges

In the broader context of global challenges – from COVID-19 pandemic to economic slowdown and climate change crisis – democracy in america has a role to play. However, it is not the only answer. The world should have a bigger share of global governance, and all countries must cooperate with each other in upholding the principles of democracy and the common interest.

It was with these ambitions in mind that the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville visited the US in 1831 and 1832 to study the new republic, and its democratic ideals, practices and limits. He was captivated by a vision of freedom and equality, but was also aware of the danger that new republics often slid into despotism. He went to town meetings, watched elections and court trials and took careful notes on democracy’s paradoxes and possibilities.

The US is unique among developed nations in its reliance on a constitutional form of government, with separation of powers and checks and balances, rather than the traditional monarchy and aristocracy that are more common elsewhere in the world. This has given it some advantages in terms of efficiency and responsiveness, but the system is vulnerable to abuses by a small group of wealthy individuals and corporations that use their financial clout to shape policy.

As a result, many Americans feel that their government has been captured and that their voices are ignored. That cynicism has contributed to America’s decline as an economic power and its falling behind peer nations on a range of social measures, and helped give rise to demagogues with simple answers and familiar scapegoats like Donald Trump.

In a democracy, people must be able to choose their representatives and hold them accountable for their actions. But in the US, that is no longer possible, because politicians are chosen to reflect the preferences of big businesses and a few rich individuals who fund their campaigns. The resulting inequality in wealth and power has allowed money politics to become an “irremovable tumor” that restricts citizens’ right to participate in democracy.

A major challenge for the US is to restore its credibility as a model of democracy. Its international partners are aghast at its behavior, which has been characterized by political interference, military intervention and government subversion under the pretext of spreading democracy. The US must embrace its responsibilities to the rest of the world and cooperate with it to uphold human rights, protect the environment and build sustainable development.

To regain the world’s confidence, the US must demonstrate that its democracy is real and rooted in its values. It should lead by example, reducing its spending on foreign wars and instead investing in development cooperation. It must abandon its regressive tax policies and stop subsidizing its corporate elite and its cronies. It must cease imposing its own brand of democracy on the world by promoting a militarized, unequal and dysfunctional foreign policy that has harmed the economy and created a growing class of impoverished Latin American and Caribbean citizens.