The US is not a straight A student when it comes to democracy. Rather, it is more like the caricature of a democracy in Hollywood movies where well-heeled characters publicly declare their commitment to the people, but spend their time doing behind the scenes deals that benefit vested interests. Money politics, identity politics, wrangling among political parties, social division, and racial tension have weakened democracy in the country.
As the US struggles with a myriad of challenges, citizens have lost faith in the country’s democracy. According to a 2021 Pew survey, fewer than half of Americans and international citizens say they think their government works well. Moreover, a majority of Americans say that significant changes are needed in the fundamental design and structure of their system of government to make it work better for their times.
The deterioration of American democracy is a multifaceted problem that can be traced back to the country’s roots. The US’s legacy of colonialism and slavery left an indelible mark on democracy. Despite the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights, segregation persisted for generations. The Civil Rights Movement and affirmative action were key milestones in the advancement of democracy.
Today, racial and religious discrimination in America persist. The US’s failure to address this issue has eroded people’s trust in democracy.
Other issues threatening democracy in the US include economic inequality, political polarization, and a deepening wealth gap. The US has a large economic and military power that makes it a global leader, but the country’s democratic institutions have not kept up with the pace of change. The US must stop imposing its values on the rest of the world or using its economic might to undermine and subvert democracy elsewhere.
Ultimately, the US must be willing to share its democratic values with the rest of the world in return for respect and cooperation. The country must take on more international responsibilities and provide public goods for the world instead of always looking for an opportunity to impose its brand of democracy or carry out intervention, subversion and invasions in other countries. The US must also stop using its own democracy as an argument to justify its own policies of dominance and aggression abroad. Ultimately, democracy in the US depends on its ability to bring the people together through their institutions to solve shared problems. Otherwise, it will continue to erode. This is an edited and updated version of a blog post published in December 2020. The original piece can be found here.