December 5, 2023

Can the US still claim to be the model for Democracy?

With the election of President Joe Biden, the battle between the right and the left in America is not yet over.
Keywords: USA | Joe Biden | Democracy | Liberal | Trumpism | Constitutional | Rights | Europeans | Capitol | Republicans | Democrats | Immigration | Jobs  
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The 46th President of the U.S., Joe Biden has promised to hold “a global Summit for Democracy,” this year, soon after assuming office. At present, the majority of the world’s nations are democracies. The spike in democracies began after World War-II, before that many countries were autocratic or oligarchic, being ruled by Kings or dictators. In contrast, a democracy by its very nature is liberal. This liberal democracy came under threat under Trump’s Presidency, is the opinion of many. The U.S. is the oldest currently extant democracy in the world, as the country attained independence in 1776 from British rule whereas India, after regaining sovereignty in 1947, though it had very different political traditions voluntarily embraced liberal democracy to bring equality to all citizens under the law and to grant constitutionally mandated common rights and privileges under one nation.

It was the Europeans that occupied the American continent soon after the discovery. In the 18th century by spreading the prevailing philosophy of enlightenment they provided an unprecedented extension of democracy to America. In return the United States frequently tries to propagate and preserve democracy in other nations although it has also hatched or fostered military coups and happily protected dictators in many parts of the world. Knowing this American affectation, neighbouring Pakistan tries to showcase itself as a democracy, although in a bonsai-form, to please Washington in particular and the West in general.

To many academics in America: liberal democracy is the highest-form or end-state of human development.  When the very foundations of American liberal democracy were shaken by Donald Trump (by his style of functioning and rhetoric which led to the instigated insurrection around the Capitol on Jan 6 this year), to revive faith in democracy became imperative for Joe Biden as a liberal democrat. However, Biden and his party as well as the Leftist intellectuals who support them at home, never try to introspect as to why Trumpism has taken roots into American democracy.

The issues before Biden at the home front are to be sorted out first. But for, Covid-19 Pandemic that caused huge loss of lives – and the absurd conspiratorial theories propagated by the QAnon- and Trump himself being unscientific by belittling the seriousness of the Coronavirus – calling it a hoax – which helped the contagion to spread, Biden might not have come to power. The moderate Republican voters wanted decency in discourse and civility in society. So, it is said that some of them joined hands with Democrats to defeat Trump. In politics timing is everything and it favoured Biden this time.

In any case, Trump’s America First slogan to give employment to Americans, his policies on: Immigrants, liberal media, China are still alive in the public space. The right-wing groups still continue calling to debate them. They are capable of bending the liberal curve downward further in history. Unless, the liberal moral policing stops, Biden cannot move forward to bring-in his much desired “unity” in America. 

The threat to American democracy or elsewhere in Europe is regarding demographics. Mass migration to Western-European countries from other nations (Syria, Turkey, Algeria, Libya etc.) brought-in much resentment among the natives. That empowered the far right in all those countries. Biden needs to address that issue of immigration at the home-front to dispel fears among people, instead of calling it tribalism. Globalisation and outsourcing of jobs have made the middle-class, especially, the rust-belt Americans poor. Since the manufacturing sector is in the doldrums, many in America are jobless. Earlier, when the Europeans progressed industrially and achieved better material conditions it made democracy possible. Of course, Biden’s recent step of increasing the federal minimum wage to more than double, evinces a realisation of the problem at hand. Where there is vast material inequality/disparity among people, socialism and communism take roots. America has always been at the forefront to aid poor nations economically to stem the spread of Communism. Never forget, in history – social, political and economic disparity led to the French Revolution. Economic welfare for all, makes a country progress. No wonder, the sages of India called for: Sarve Jana Sukheno Bhavantu (Let all people have a peaceful and comfortable life) thousands of years ago.

Now, the very democracy of the U.S., faces acute challenges on many fronts. Immigrants from other countries were, once upon a time, welcomed with open-arms. Now, they are treated as job-stealers. Added to that, the unregulated social media is brain-washing people and peddling, at times, false and concocted information. This is not to say that, before the advent of social media the news media in the liberal democracy was hunky-dory. The mainstream media used to project only one point of view or at most two i.e., the liberal and the more conservative position. The media used to hush up or silence other opinions by either labelling them hate-speech or by not reflecting them. They thought in their wisdom that those voices die down eventually. Truly it was already a tacit form of the current cancel culture prevalent then.

With the election of President Joe Biden, the battle between the right and the left in America is not yet over. As truly pointed out by Chua and Ruben Feld (in their article: Is democracy dying?), “American on both the left and the right now view their political opponents not as fellow Americans with differing views, but as enemies to be vanquished. And they have come to view the Constitution not as an aspirational statement of shared principles and a bulwark against tribalism, but as a cudgel with which to attack those enemies”. Hence, Biden needs to set his house in order, keeping in view the new hopes and sensibilities of people. Biden’s prioritised issues for the Global Summit for Democracy viz.: fighting corruption, authoritarianism and advancing human rights in democracies, would automatically take care of a society that is expected to have democratic element in government.

11 comments

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  • For me… The political system in the USA is almost like Greek and Latin. I never understood the difference between the two major political parties… the democracy in the USA… This article helped me big time to at least know something about the prevailing political scenario in the USA … n compare it to our own democracy in
    India.

  • I think Biden’s effort to hold the world democratic convention is for a couple of reasons …. the optics to show the world that America is back on its saddle… restoring faith back into people that his govt is for the people..by the people…of the people. We cannot question him or his intent for doing the utmost right thing to bringorder back to world where the mind set of many govt’s are gravitating towards “country first” mentality.. this kind of thinking defeats the spirit of NAM/UN and many other conglomerates formed in the world for human equality… in my humble summation of your article…. yes America lost its track/focus for last four years… but that does not disqualify itself to take lead on the fundamentals in instilling seeds of democratic ideas into people.
    My two cents…

  • Ultimately all said and done about the current state of affairs in the USA the world needs the US more than ever, especially with the rise and expansionary plans of China.
    Democracy is the only way forward but how to make it function in the world of the new media with no belief in the objective purveyors of truth is a challenge for the whole world and one which US will hopefully show the path forward on.

  • Well-researched article drawing references from all
    over the globe! The only thing I would not agree to is their the Europeans brought enlightened thinking to America. We are beginning to learn that the native Americans were so wise, very close to nature. That said democracy is a great institution which functions well with a healthy dose of egalitarianism as pointed by the author.

  • “Viewing political opponents not as fellow citizens with differing views, but as enemies to be vanquished.”
    I think this is where Nationalists play a significant role to which ever country they belong to, i fondly remember Shri Vajypayee, Shri Narasimha Rao, Dr.Abdul Kalaam & Smt.Sushma Swaraj in ensuring nation’s interests first but at the same time treating opponents warmly inspite of differing views.

  • This article is Thought-provoking,To know the deep difference between the two shades of Democratic Policies especially in USA ,Superb Analysis The Author did, Really Always I could not myself make out till Today The Difference between Republican party n Democratic party on the Basis of Policymaking, But now With this Article I got Clear Idea ,Worth reading Article 📚 👌

  • Your appraisal of American democracy is par excellence yet a few observations may be made as given under:
    Recently concluded elections 2020
    Captions three parties at forefront:
    Republicans,Democrats and Green.
    Republicans adhere to conservatism and uphold traditional morality with much rural
    background.Democrats advocate liberalism much advocated by their constitution and adhere to well being and equality. Greens oblige
    Federalism plus environment.
    Resurrection of Capitol reminds fellow Americans to remember and recast the farewell address given by George Washington the first president of America.
    Mehdi Hasan and his observations
    may be cited to reform the electoral
    System of America:
    Abolition of present Electoral College; prohibition of racist ID laws at state level ; gerrymandering , and filibusters; role of black money; term limits for Supreme Court judges; statehood to Washington DC and Puerto Rico and to lower the voting right to 16 years.
    America and its USAID services may not be forgotten at this juncture as they do serve and publicise democracy, Human Rights and Governance in many African and Asian countries that are worst affected now and then owing to their political and ethnic problems.

  • Very true . The elaborate details of the origin of democracy & its spread gives an impression that even the highly prosperous country like USA is widely divided between the left liberals & the extreme right . The causes are quite serious as the US is contemplating protectionist approach by laying down strict immigration policies besides reserving jobs for Americans. But then the prosperity is mainly through immigrants contribution to American economy. The recent clashes at Capitol is an example as to differences in the ideology & approach to humanism. By large I appreciate the author for putting the issues in the right perspective driving the thought provoking narrative. Excellent read & highly recommend everyone to read this article.

  • January 26 episode of Tractor rally and its results show ‘people’s justice Federation ‘and its functionaries like Mo Dhaliwal and Anita Lal aided by Marina Patterson and Jagmeet Singh have roped in US Pop Star: Rihanna and Swedish environmental Activist Greta Thunberg to swing into movement
    through Twitter as well tool kit propaganda and the events that followed remain a part of history.
    Mohinder Gulati former chief operating officer : UN sustainable energy for All chides Greta Thunberg through his letter for her active participation in present menace.
    Emission from crop residue burning and its ill effects; Food wastage -its menace; water crisis and corruption controlled agriculture markets plus Minimum Support Price – modalities have been thoroughly explained and adds that present government of India strictly enforced the law through parliament, courts, media and public opinion . He further adds that privatisation where businessmen like Adani and Ambani and their involvement is no curse to the nation as well farming community.
    Present government and its agricultural reforms as stated by Supreme Court may not be enforced for 18 months and the farmers may opt for the current policies that are in operation.

Indira G.

Indira G is associated with the organisation Pragna Bharati, Hyderabad and is Incharge-Publications. She also contributes to Opindia and other news platforms.

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