Democracy has recently been facing clear and growing challenges in most democratic countries, including ancient democracies. The storming of the US Capitol last year was certainly a clear symbol of this decline and deterioration that democracy is witnessing across the globe.
It is also surprising and contemplative that most of these challenges that are faced by all democratic countries today are also found in the US. It seems that just as the US used to be a model for democracy, it will also be a model of the factors behind the failure of a democratic system.
One of the biggest challenges facing any democratic system is the refusal of political leaders to respect the results of elections and to hand over power peacefully. This is what we have seen at its worst in Trump’s refusal to hand over power and his public incitement of his supporters to storm the Capitol.
Falsification of election results, destabilisation of trust in party institutions and established political parties, and conflicts between major parties are also some of the challenges that are more evident today in the US than in any other country.
The Republican Party today is making undisputed efforts to undermine confidence in the Democratic Party and to win the upcoming elections by any means, legal or illegal. This is confirmed by the Guardian in one of its political analyses under the title ‘Assault on American democracy has gained pace since US Capitol attack.
In this report, the newspaper asserts that efforts to disrupt and undermine American democracy did not end on 6 January. In fact, it has accelerated over the following year. The newspaper also added that by operating in state legislatures across the US, Republicans have launched a systematic effort to undermine post-election processing of votes and the people who count them.
One year after efforts by former President Donald Trump to steal the 2020 election failed, Republicans have put in place mechanisms to ensure the success of future attempts. The analysis concluded that the likelihood of a stolen election in the United States is higher than ever before.
Populism is another common challenge we see clearly in the US. Populism can be defined as the rise of demagogic political elites claiming to represent “the people” who advocate illiberal views and put forward romantic visions of society that are often elusive as a substitute for basic rights.
Populism is a complex movement, and it may leave positive connotations by expressing the voices of the oppressed among the elites and the ruling institutions. However, it has a dark side if populists take over governments and implement unsuccessful social policies. This is certainly what we see in the US through the rise of far-right parties with all their prejudices and fanaticism.
Finally, political money represents one of the most important challenges to democracy, as the presence of huge funds in political work poses risks to all politicians. The huge funds required for political action have led to unequal access to finance, which undermines equal opportunities.
Political finance also constitutes a channel for corruption and hegemony over policies and affects the public and legitimate public confidence. Unfortunately, Trump’s rise to power is the most obvious case of the dangers of political money to undermining democracies.
In sum, the tyranny of political leaders, working to falsify elections by legal means, polarisation and deep differences between ancient parties, populism and the rise of extremist parties, and political money are the most prominent challenges facing all democracies in the world, but they have all reared their heads in the US in a very clear and strange model; and now, the fate of American democracy hangs in the balance now more than ever, especially in light of Trump’s desperate attempts to gain power and the decline in the popularity of Biden and Kamala Harris to a large extent.
This very strange paradox makes the US today the primary responsible for the success of democracy globally. Today, the whole world looks to the US to see how it will emerge from this chasm and how it will be able to restore democracy again in light of this continuous deterioration. The question now is: “Will the United States of America be able to inspire the world again?”
Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Prof. at International American University for Specialised Studies (IAUS)