A Decline of American Democracy
Thirty years ago, a century long growing trend in democracy came to a halt. As democracy starts to work less and less in favour of the people and more in favour of the government, many question the legitimacy of modern democracy. For generations, political scientists have been adopting a pro-democratic stance, the majority of political scientists see democracy as the only valid system of government. Historically, it has been very successful, and has been the cornerstone for generations of peace and political freedom. But it’s possible that the honeymoon phase with democracy is coming to a close, and the flaws in the system are becoming more and more evident.
In Foa and Mounks article, “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect” they argue that democratic deconsolidation is occurring. While the support for democracy begins to lessen, the question of whether or not adopting a default pro-democratic stance as a political scientist is posed. As well, are Foa and Mounk correct in believing democracy may be coming to an end? What is at stake if our democracies are to deconsolidate? Arguably, it is wrong for political scientists to adopt a normative pro-democracy stance when they should remain objective and open minded to all possible governmental systems.
It is important to consider the impact democracy has had on societies as a whole. Democratic states are generally wealthier, safer, and citizens are granted rights and freedoms that members of authoritarian states or dictatorships are not. The system in which members of the public are allowed to vote for their representatives allows for governments that better represent public opinions and values. As well, it prevents leaders from causing chaos in societies when given too much power. Due to the checks and balances of a democratic state, no one leader can rule over an entire nation without interruption or hindrance. With this in mind it is hard for many to imagine supporting any other system of government. I believe that historically, democracy has been the best political system for us to follow. However, society is dynamic, and constantly evolving.
Political scientists may adopt a stance that is pro-democracy but they should be able to shift to new viewpoints and not focus only democracy and its benefits. Because while democracy has been great, it is evident that it is not working as well as it used to. Meaning that our political scientists should be searching for new ways to go about structuring a government. Additionally, I believe that the personal opinions of political scientists should be kept private, which would allow for members of the public to access non-biased information that can be used to form their own opinions without the impact of others affecting how they perceive the current and possible systems of government. In conclusion, political scientists are incorrect when they adopt a normative pro-democracy stance, as they have to be ready to entertain new ideas for governmental systems as well as the fact that they should remain objective and open to possible new forms of governing society.
In Foa and Mounks article “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect” they argue that democracies around the world have begun deconsolidating. The article can be startling for many readers as it implies that the peace many of us have come to know and take for granted may be coming to an end. Foa and Mounk both discuss the possibility of democratic deconsolidation and are correct in arguing so. Seeing as support for the system of democracy has lessened and the democratic institutions, norms and practices that we have become accustomed to, are weakening. Seemingly strong democracies around the world have become more fragile in recent years. Politicians have started dismantling democracy from within, voter turnout is declining, and citizens tend to vote for candidates that promise quick fixes to single issue movements. It is a scary truth to face, but politicians have been working to dismantle democracy for many years. Historical cases of this include Adolf Hitler, getting rid of all of his opponents and firing everyone who disagreed with him.
By doing so, he managed to appoint himself prime minister of Germany and claim all the power for himself. When an individual is given too much power, the consequences are horrific. The world war that was caused by Adolf Hitler was one that nobody could ever imagine reliving. After the war was over, many countries subscribed to the democratic structure of government to avoid anything like that ever happening again. It is the lessons learned in WWII that caused the majority of citizens around the world to uphold the structure of democracy. Many decades later, the lessons learned from WWII are beginning to fade, and patterns of dismantling democracies are beginning to repeat themselves.
An example of this occurred in 2016 when Russian dictator Valdimir Putin and his government interfered with the American federal elections by persuading candidates to vote for Trump through ads online. The American democratic system has been around for over two centuries. The process of swaying an election is not only against the law, but it is a true testament of how corrupt the once powerful American democracy has become. It is evident that many world leaders are not taking into consideration the processes of a democratic society, and if the most powerful politicians are not upholding the system of democracy, how can we expect it to last? Democracy’s main purpose is to serve the people. When democracy stops working in favour of the people, consensus will start to fall apart and there becomes a greater possibility of democractic deconsolidation. In a study done by The Pew Research Centre, it was found that within the twenty-seven countries that were surveyed, fifty-one percent of citizens are unhappy with how their democracy is working for them. Statistics like these emphasize just how severely democracy is failing, and how close we may be to deconsolidation. When democracy stops working for the citizens of a country, many individuals will begin to feel as though they do not have a voice in political discourse, and in turn, will stop voting.
Another factor that is causing low voter turn-out is education, if the importance of voting is not instilled in citizens and they are not taught about the politics in their country then they will not see any reason to go out and vote. The effect of low voter-turnout is candidates without the qualifications needed to govern a country winning. As well, if only a small percentage of the population votes, the elected officials will not represent the values of their country accurately. Another factor that is contributing to deconsolidation is the fact that voters tend to support candidates that focus on single issue movements. Single issue campaigns are campaigns that focus on a single controversial issue such as abortion rights, gun control laws, or immigration laws. Single-issue voters vote based on a candidates stance on a single issue without considering the candidates views on other issues and policies.
A prime example of a single issue campaign is Donald Trump’s campaign for the 2016 American presidential election. He delivered many speeches and participated in many interviews and debates, and while there are many issues Americans are faced with that he could have spoken about, it seemed that he always came back to the topic of immigration. This hot button topic divides many Americans, and Trump was very clear on his stance. He promised that if he were elected he would “Make America Great Again” by ridding the country of illegal (and legal) immigrants. He amassed great support by “railing against the political system and promising policies that would openly violate the rights of ethnic and religious minorities”(Foa and Mounk, page 12.)
This single issue campaign grabbed the attention of many Americans and could be attributed to his victory. The election of Donald Trump has proved that it is not a sound strategy for choosing who to vote for seeing as many new issues have arisen since his election, and because he has fired almost everyone in the White House who disagrees with him. The strategy of single issue voters is detrimental and allows candidates with little experience or poor intentions into office, which can in turn, cause democratic deconsolidation. It is for these factors that Foa and Mounk are correct in arguing that democracy is de-consolidating, with that established it is important to consider what may be at stake if democracies begin collapsing. In order to understand what could happen to current democracies if they crashed, we must look at countries who do not uphold democratic systems, such as China and Cuba which are both run by dictators. Both countries are corrupt in several ways.
For example in China, individuals are not granted the same rights and freedoms as citizens in Canada or America. As well, both countries are communist countries, which means that money is distributed equally amongst citizens. While this sounds ideal in theory, in practice it results in extreme poverty for most citizens. The countries that do not uphold democracies are generally not as wealthy, not as safe, and provide poorer healthcare for citizens than countries that do follow a democratic system. Therefore, if democracies were to begin deconsolidating, countries that had once been wealthy and safe would worsen. The rights and freedoms that go hand in hand with democracy are all considered to be necessary for a fulfilling and free life of the citizens. For many generations, political scientists have been adopting a default pro-democracy stance simply based on the fact that it had been the only governmental structure that had allowed for peace and freedom in societies around the world.
But democracy can only work if it is upheld by the citizens and if it is not corrupt. In Foa and Mounks article “The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect”, they rightfully argue that democracies around the world are de-consolidating and they discuss that in recent years support for democracy has begun to diminish. All evidence provided in the article suggest that democracy is de-consolidating therefore it would be wrong to believe that Foa and Mounk are incorrect in arguing so.
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