The recent political events in the United States have caused worries about the erosion of democratic principles. There are claims that the Democratic party has adopted strategies from dictatorships or third-world countries to eliminate threats to their party. As an outsider, I believe it is important to analyze these accusations critically. This article aims to explore these claims in detail, focusing on specific incidents that allegedly aimed to undermine President Trump's chances in the upcoming elections.
I. The Erosion of Democracy
Populist sentiments have been on the rise worldwide, including within the United States. According to a Pew Research Center survey, in 2018, 65% of Americans said that they were frustrated with the political system, and 58% said that the government was run for the benefit of the few, rather than the many. These frustrations have been exploited by populist leaders who often promote their agenda at the expense of democratic principles. For example, former President Donald Trump's rhetoric often targeted immigrants and minorities, which contributed to the polarization and deterioration of democratic norms.
Moreover, the increasing influence of money on American politics has reached alarming levels. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, over $14 billion was spent on the 2020 U.S. election cycle, making it the most expensive election in history. This exorbitant funding creates room for powerful donors and corporate interests to exercise undue influence, thereby compromising the democratic process. A study by the University of Kansas found that politicians are more likely to cater to the interests of their top donors than to the general public. This dynamic marginalizes the interests of ordinary citizens, further undermining the democratic principles upon which the United States was founded.
II. The "Banana Republic" Label
Electoral irregularities have been a major concern for the US elections in recent years. In 2020, there were several allegations of voter suppression, gerrymandering, and insufficient electoral transparency. For instance, in Georgia, there were reports of long queues and malfunctioning machines in predominantly black neighbourhoods, leading to accusations of voter suppression. Similarly, there were concerns about gerrymandering in North Carolina, where the Republican-controlled legislature was accused of redrawing the district boundaries to favour their party.
Furthermore, the 2016 presidential election was marred by allegations of Russian interference, which raised questions about the integrity of the election. The Mueller report confirmed that Russian operatives had launched a "sweeping and systematic" disinformation campaign to influence the election in favour of Donald Trump. These allegations have led some experts to compare the US elections to those in "banana republics," where corrupt officials manipulate the electoral process to maintain their grip on power.
The circulation of misinformation and disinformation on social media platforms has also contributed to the polarization and division within American society. A study by the Pew Research Center found that 62% of Americans believe that social media has a mostly negative effect on the way news is reported. False narratives and conspiracy theories have been amplified by social media, making it increasingly difficult for citizens to engage in healthy democratic discourse. This has led to a decline in trust in institutions and a rise in political tribalism, where people identify more with their political party than with their country.
III. Party Politics and Power Struggles
In recent years, bipartisanship in the United States has become increasingly rare, as evidenced by the failure to find common ground on many pressing issues. This lack of cooperation and compromise hampers effective problem-solving and undermines the underlying principles of democracy. According to a report by the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans who hold consistently conservative or consistently liberal views has doubled since the late 1990s, leading to a more polarized political climate, has risen from 10% in 1994 to 21% in 2017. This trend is reflected in Congress, where lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have become more ideologically rigid.
Compounding the challenge of partisanship is the rise of extremist ideologies and changing demographics in the US. The country is becoming more diverse, with nonwhite groups accounting for a growing share of the population. According to the US Census Bureau, the Hispanic and Asian populations alone are projected to double by 2060. However, this demographic shift has also fueled fears among some white Americans, contributing to the rise of white nationalist groups and other extremist ideologies.
These extremist ideologies have further widened political divisions, creating a situation in which ideological purity tests within parties have become more common. Rather than seeking common ground, many politicians are more focused on appeasing their base and winning elections. This has impeded constructive dialogue and undermined the principles of democracy. In order to address these challenges, it is essential to find ways to promote bipartisan cooperation and overcome the ideological purity tests that have come to define contemporary American politics.
This polarization is further exacerbated by changing demographics in the US, with the rise of extremist ideologies that widen political divisions. Ideological purity tests within parties also impede constructive dialogue, making it difficult to bridge the gap between opposing viewpoints. As a result, the ability of the government to address critical issues, such as healthcare, infrastructure, and climate change, has been severely hampered. This failure to work together for the common good threatens the stability of democracy itself, as citizens become increasingly disillusioned with their representatives and the political process.
IV. The Battle for Power
According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, the United States has seen a surge in voting restrictions since the 2016 election. Over 14 states have implemented new voting restrictions, including strict voter ID laws and purges of voter rolls. These restrictions have been criticized by many, who argue that they disproportionately affect marginalized communities and limit access to the ballot box.
In addition to these issues, personal attacks against political opponents have become commonplace. Politicians and public figures are regularly subjected to online harassment and threats of violence. These attacks can have a chilling effect on free speech and democratic participation and further contribute to the erosion of trust in political institutions. Overall, these challenges underscore the need for ongoing efforts to protect and strengthen democratic norms and institutions in the United States.
The 2020 US presidential election was marred by numerous legal challenges and court battles, resulting in a great deal of controversy and uncertainty. One of the most significant challenges came from President Trump, who filed a lawsuit alleging widespread voter fraud in several key states. However, this lawsuit was dismissed by multiple courts due to a lack of evidence.
Unfortunately, these events have had a significant impact on public trust in the electoral process. Many Americans are now questioning the legitimacy of the election results, which could have far-reaching consequences for the democratic process. The legacy of the 2020 election is likely to be felt for years to come, with ongoing debates about the role of money in politics, the influence of social media on elections, and the need for election reform.
Overall, the 2020 election has highlighted the importance of upholding the integrity of the democratic process. While legal challenges and debates are a natural part of any election, the American people must have faith in the fairness and transparency of their electoral system. Hopefully, the lessons learned from the 2020 election will lead to positive changes and improvements in the future.
There are several concerns surrounding democracy in the United States, and they require scrutiny. Among these concerns are allegations that the Democratic Party is adopting strategies from dictatorships or third-world countries to eliminate perceived threats. To restore and strengthen democratic institutions, it is essential to address issues such as the rise of populism, the influence of money in politics, electoral irregularities, and polarization. If the United States is to once again be a shining example of democracy, political actors from all parties must come together to foster unity and prioritize the common good over partisan interests. The first step towards reclaiming democracy's rightful place in the United States is to recognize and rectify the flaws within its democratic system.
Dr Ahmad Zaharuddin Sani Sabri is a former director at the Institute of Tun Dr Mahathir Thoughts.