New article by Senior Fellow John Shattuck in The American Prospect.
Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that “the greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” Tocqueville’s observation, broadly accurate over the past two centuries, is facing perhaps its most severe test today.
In its 2016 “Democracy Index” report, the Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States from a “full” to a “flawed democracy.” In 2018, Freedom House offered a more dire assessment: “[D]emocratic institutions have suffered erosion, as reflected in partisan manipulation of the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence.”
Declining participation and confidence in government are not new, but the populist forces that propelled the election of Donald Trump signaled a new level of public disillusionment with democratic politics and institutions. During his campaign and first year in office, Trump’s core constituency cheered him on as he attacked fundamental elements of liberal democracy, including media freedom, judicial independence, and a pluralist civil society.