Article by Larry Diamond: “The world is mired in a deep, diffuse, and protracted democratic recession. According to Freedom House, 2021 was the 16th consecutive year in which more countries declined in freedom than gained. Tunisia, the sole democracy to emerge from the Arab Spring protests that began in 2010, is morphing into a dictatorship. In countries as diverse as Bangladesh, Hungary, and Turkey, elections have long ceased to be democratic. Autocrats in Algeria, Belarus, Ethiopia, Sudan, Turkey, and Zimbabwe have clung to power despite mounting public demands for democratization. In Africa, seven democracies have slid back into autocracy since 2015, including Benin and Burkina Faso.
Democracy is looking shaky even in countries that hold free and fair elections. In emerging-market behemoths such as Brazil, India, and Mexico, democratic institutions and norms are under attack. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has made threats of an autogolpe (self-coup) and a possible return to military rule if he does not win reelection in October. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has steadily chipped away at press freedoms, minority rights, judicial independence, the integrity of the civil service, and the autonomy of civil society. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has attempted to silence critics and remove democratic checks and balances.
Democratic prospects have risen and fallen in decades past, but they now confront a formidable new problem: democracy is at risk in the very country that has traditionally been its most ardent champion. Over the past dozen years, the United States has experienced one of the biggest declines in political rights and civil liberties of any country measured by the Freedom House annual survey. The Economist now ranks the United States as a “flawed democracy” behind Spain, Costa Rica, and Chile. U.S. President Donald Trump deserves much of the blame: he abused presidential power on a scale unprecedented in U.S. history and, after being voted out of office, propagated the “Big Lie” of election fraud and incited the violent rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. But American democracy was in peril before Trump assumed office, with rising polarization exposing acute flaws in American democratic institutions. The Electoral College, the representational structure of the Senate, the Senate filibuster, the brazen gerrymandering of House districts, and lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court have all made it possible for a political minority to exert prolonged outsize influence.
Can a country in the throes of its own democratic decay do anything to arrest the broader global decline? For many, the answer is no…(More)”.