Photo retrieved from: https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/9/5/16227700/hyperpartisanship-identity-american-democracy-problems-solutions-doom-loop
Democracy was born in ancient Greece and its meaning stems from two Greek words, demos which translates to “the people” and kratia which translates to “power”. The Greek root words indicate that democracy is a form of government designed to give power to the citizens. However, in the United States there is a fine line dictating which group of citizens (party) harnesses the power that shapes our nation. As the United States’ population continues to grow and diversify a major question that remains, is the current representative democracy best suited to serve all U.S. citizens?
A voter call back survey conducted on November 10th-14th of 2016 revealed that the majority of U.S. voters were dissatisfied with the conduct of presidential candidates, the democratic and republican parties as a whole, and the press during their campaigns. The winning candidate in that of Donald Trump received a historically low conduct rating in which only 30% of those surveyed thought his actions was justified and or acceptable. The code of conduct carried throughout the 2016 Presidential election process was an embarrassment to the United States which left the rest of the world laughing. If the 2020 presidential election is anything like the 2016 election it will be quite worrisome considering the world’s issues are becoming more and more complex each day while our democratic structure seems to be deteriorating in credibility and ethical codes of conduct.
The people’s perception of politics in the United States has become quite distorted overtime as technology and access to media evolve more and more. In light of heightened social unrest in the United States the 2016 presidential election was merely a bloodbath of insults and speculation between the Democratic and Republican parties. Erratic behavior by both parties insinuated a storm of what could be considered “bad press” by certain news stations and media outlets alike. A survey conducted from January 12th to February 8th, 2016 revealed that the majority of U.S. news consumers rely on television and online sources for their information. A large portion of new sources possess some sort of biases that have the potential to sway an individual’s perception on specific issues. In today’s day in age where efficiency and information that is readily available rules the world American citizens need to be proactive and conscious in their pursuit to remain informed. The combination of unruly behavior from the United States’ two major political parties and the untrustworthy media has made what could be considered the “staple child of democracy” a laughing stock of the world in recent years.
I believe the United States can overcome their 2016 election debacle in 2020, though it is going to require a collective effort across the country. The push for redemption will start with the Presidential candidates and their ability to act properly as the country and nations around the world are watching. Through the process of restoring what it means to be “presidential” U.S. citizens will likely regain their confidence for the future election. Aside from the candidates the U.S. media needs to focus on the core issues and what really matters, keeping in mind the U.S. citizens. Obviously the main goal for the media is to acquire as many views as possible so media outlets will likely reveal content that attracts the most viewers. This is where the U.S. citizens come into play, and it is them who frame how the race is perceived throughout the country and rest of the world. All U.S. citizens must remain aware of biases in the media and focus on important issues, opposed to the previous election and glorifying hollywood like behavior by candidates. Overall, the push to revive the United States’ Representative Democracy is going to require consistent positive behavior from all stakeholders. However if the current situation takes a turn for the worse the legitimacy of our democracy as we know it may be in jeopardy.
The signs of democracy backsliding in the United States have happened for a long time and by the time of the presidential election in 2016 they were exposed through the face of biased news and political actors. But it’s worth mentioning that the media has a strong influence on our belief system. As we all know those media coverages play an important role in any elections. Candidates are able to use them as a way to support their campaigns, but also to bring down their opponents by giving false statements or misleading information to manipulate the viewers. By the time Trump mentions “fake news” in most of his statements during his campaign, The number of voters has decreased significantly and this has led to Mrs. Clinton’s failure in the presidential election. There was an Ohio University study saying that fake news actually had a serious impact on the 2016 presidential election. Most of Obama’s former voters in previous years were now no longer voted for Mrs. Clinton in particular or the Democratic Party in general. Mrs. Clinton lost 0.6% to the presidential election, and this study shows data showing that the influence of fake news is enough to cause this. It is enough to see how much influence the media has on people’s beliefs and lifestyles. Only one politician makes false statements, leading the press to write articles about false information, causing people to lose faith in both the government and the online newspapers. The “fake news” story does not stop at ordinary scams. It distorts the truth and in an age of one click on social networks can bring information to reach thousands of people, fake news “undermines democratic value in the US” according to politicians and become Intimidating danger, unable to find a solution at this time. Therefore, citizens always have to be aware of misinformation and disinformation. Meanwhile, it is necessary to create programs with the aim of educating the public about media knowledge and raising awareness about fake news.
This is a very interesting post! The behavior of presidential candidates in the 2016 election was certainly unlike the norms of previous elections. I think you make an important point about the media encouraging this “hollywood-like” behavior. The code of conduct followed, and the acceptance of poor conduct by citizens, is a sign of democratic backsliding because it signals the deterioration of our norms of what “presidential” behavior is. In Levitsky and Ziblatt How Democracies Die, they explain that mutual toleration has deteriorated in this United States. This was evident in the United States election, as Donald Trump did not exhibit mutual toleration or accept Hillary Clinton, nor other political rivals, as legitimate. Levitsky and Ziblatt call this norm, as well as forbearance, “the guardrails of American democracy” and helped the country to “avoid the kind of partisan fight to the death that destroyed democracies elsewhere in the world” (9). I believe that you are right in saying that the United States can overcome this problem, and that citizens can resist backsliding. I also feel that you are correct in stating that the media needs to play a more responsible role in resisting backsliding, and not rewarding behavior that deteriorates our norms. It will be interesting to see how the 2020 election plays out. Will citizens and the media actively resist? Or will our norms and “guardrails” continue to degrade until we arrive at the partisan “fight to the death”?
I think this post is really interesting. I agree with Hoang’s comment regarding democratic erosion in the United States happening before the presidential election in 2016. I think the past election definitely brought all of the democratic backslidings to light, especially regarding the media and the influence it has on U.S. citizens which you mention in your blog post. As a journalism major, I spent the majority of my undergraduate studies on dissecting the media and understanding how to remove bias from news telling. Sadly, the U.S. struggles with this — especially during the last presidential election. I thought the voter call back survey you mentioned in the second paragraph was interesting. Do you think it affected voter participation? Because I think that is definitely something worth mentioning in your blog post as a reason for democratic erosion within the United States. For a country that is free and has frequent elections for its citizens, the percentage of those who actually go out and vote is extremely low. Besides removing bias from the media, do you think there are other factors that can stop democratic erosion in the United States? Fake news is definitely an issue, especially surrounding Donald Trump’s presidency. Your blog post mentions a lot, but I think if you focus on more aspects of the media and how it affects voter turnout within the United States as a form of democratic backsliding, you’d have a very strong argument.
Daniel, I found your blog post very interesting. I agree with you that behaviors from both the Democrat and Republican parties during the 2016 Presidential Elections was quite embarrassing especially from an international perspective. I also believe that the misperception that the average American has about news outlets and the biases that each media source contains is alarming. Americans need to understand that there will always be some type of media bias and must be cautious of that when receiving their news. The Freedom Report 2018 for the United States also delves into this issue: “The president’s behavior stems in part from a frustration with the country’s democratic checks and balances, including the independent courts, a coequal legislative branch, the free press, and an active civil society. These institutions remained fairly resilient in 2017, but the administration’s statements and actions could ultimately leave them weakened, with serious consequences for the health of U.S. democracy and America’s role in the world.” I hope that with a collective effort and a better understanding of acceptable/unacceptable behavior from our president and respective parties, that the 2020 Presidential Election will be more democratic and less Hollywood.