The purpose of this post is to examine Democratic Erosion in the context of the United States, potential strategies to mitigate democratic erosion, and how democratic erosion led to the Capitol Hill Riots on January, 6th.
The first institution I would like to take a look at is our voting system. While American citizens are able to vote for whoever we want, there are problems with our system. Voter fraud has occurred on both sides of the aisle. This has come to light recently with the last presidential election. Whether it be a mailman or women destroying Trump or Biden mail in ballets, people using false/dead social security numbers in order to secure more votes for their candidates, or simply a miscount of votes (whether purposeful or not), our voting system has a lot it could work on. These problems can be fixed by increasing voter security at every level. Post office employees should not have direct access to our ballets . This would curtail some of the problems listed above. Ballots should be counted precisely in order to assure that the official number is the correct one. There should also be an effort made on the federal level to stop any attempt to physically make it harder for the opposition to receive votes, whether that be through mandates limiting who can vote, limiting voting access, etc. In taking these concrete steps, our voting system will not only be more secure for both party participants, but fairer. Everyone should have a say, and no one’s “say” should be more important than another’s.
Another institution which demands examination is the media. Both conservatives and liberals have very biased news networks, whether that be Fox news for right leaning people or CNN for left leaning people. While it is perfectly fine to express your views, stating your views as “fact” is very problematic, given that your audience may view your opinion as just that, a fact. Very few places offer unbiased news sources anymore. News stations are ultimately a business and try to cater their information to their audience in order to maintain viewer retention and make money. However, this does not validate make the stating opinions as facts. News should be presented in a non-biased format. For example, “This is what happened. THEN this is what I think about it.” Most of the time, the “this is what I think about it” massively influences how the “facts” are laid out. How do we fix biased reporting? News stations should list the facts prior to stating their opinion, and clarify between facts and opinions. While this may seem easy on paper, I am unsure if this will ever happen. And frankly if it does happen it will not be anytime soon, as the media right now seems so polarized and opinionated on both sides as a result of the current political climate.
As far as a recent event that represents our countries democratic backsliding, we can look no further than January 6th of this year, also known as the capitol riots. A recent article highlighted three main points of interest regarding the insurrection. The first point was that this event was not unique. Even in the past few months, events like this have occurred all over the world. They typically occur over issues of extreme government power, stolen elections, violent repression, curtailing certain rights, or an attempt to extend one’s stay in office . What makes the Capitol Hill riots so unique is that it was so blatant, as individuals took selfies and videos to post all over social media. The second thing the article points out, from a democratic erosion point of view, is that January 6th is actually an outcome of Democratic Erosion, rather than a cause of it. A 2020 annual freedom report found that civil liberties and general freedom have been in decline in the United States over the past 14 years. The main “cause” for this insurrection seems to be the massive polarization in the country, as mentioned in the media paragraph above. There is a large divide in opinions, confirmation bias, and even radicalization, so this insurrection was really no surprise when thought about from this perspective. The 3rd issue the article brought up was that January 6th was a game of “follow the leader”. This was a result of Trump’s loyal following. Trump used the issues with the U.S. voting system and the media to persuade his following that everyone was against them, causing this drastic outcome.
In this post we see how 2 problematic institutions have paved the way for this event on January 6th to occur, and how this is an example of democratic backsliding within our own country. These institutions need to be fixed in order for something like this to never occur again.
I believe you make a very interesting point in stating the January 6th riots were in fact a result of democratic erosion rather than a cause of it. It brings to light a very important point that you are right – for the past 14 years or so, the United States has had its citizens polarized and if I’m understanding you correctly, the country is divided. Our political differences have affected our ability as a whole country to protect our best interests for our people and our global presence. And not to mention, the media, as you stated, plays a major role in this.
I agree with Fox News for the far rights and CNN for the far lefts clearly catering to their audience. But I would ask your opinion on news broadcasters such as BBC News? I feel that they make an effort to remain for the most part moderately placed. You’ll always see your typical leftists attacking rightists and vice versa, but on BBC you learn about real heartbreaking worldwide news that shows truly affected people in places experiencing catastrophes we can’t even fathom. Their news reporting on the United States may be less, but from what I can understand its accuracy is proven just as well and they truly try to come from an unbiased point of view no matter how difficult that truly is in media.
I truly just think it’s important we consider the factors like the ones you’ve mentioned that have contributed to the state of being the United States is in today. And even more. Like the government’s involvement or lack thereof in this erosion and what the people’s demands have been. Or even whether or not what is required of us, is even possible right not to return to a growing democracy. It’ll answer a lot more questions than we have the answers to now.
-Sana Iqbal (Suffolk University)
I totally agree with this, especially the point about the democratic erosion in this country which lead to the January 6 insurrection. There’s an article I read called, “The United States. Has a Democracy Problem: What Democracy Erosion Scholarship Tells Us about Jan. 6.” A few points I took from this article is that, for one, this was an attack done by U.S. citizens on the nation’s symbol of democracy. Secondly, the January 6 insurrection is not unique. And what I mean by this is that there were other countries that experienced similar events. For example, (1) Kyrgyzstan had a disputed election, (2) Guatemala had a controversial budget, (3) and Armenia there were protests over peace deal. These dramatic events most often occurs following antidemocratic actions by the government in power. A call, for “justice” or change” or whatever social group may be in affect at the time of a dramatic event, it occurs depending on who is in power. Last month, while watching Governor Gavin Newsom preliminary election, one thing he said was, “Democracy is not a football. You don’t throw it around.” This is true because democracy is vulnerable to destruction, if people don’t stand up and push back, our democracy will fall. There’s also a CNN poll on democracy, where most Americans feel that our democracy is under attack. 56% feel democracy is under attack and 51% say its likely that elected officials in the U.S. will successfully overturn the results of a future election because their party didn’t win. We all know that the January 6 insurrection was orchestrated by Donald Trump followed by his group of Republicans. Republicans are more likely than the Democrats to say that democracy is under attack, and we all know that view is prevalent among those who support former president Trump. It’s important who we elect to power because based off that, we can avoid any democratic erosion or failure on our democracy.
I have also attached both links to the article and the CNN polls feel free to check them out.
I like how you incorporated the flaws of the voting system and the January 6 Capitol Hill Riots as a combined result of the polarization in the United States in this post. Although having mail-in ballots is a more convenient means of voting, especially during a pandemic, such a system could also make it easier for fraudulent ballots to be sent in with the social security numbers of deceased citizens. This activity along with attempts to get rid of opposition votes results in polarization and overall distrust between partisans, further fueling partisan news sources such as Fox News or CNN as you mentioned. Illegal ballot activity, such as throwing out votes for certain individuals or making it more difficult for opposition members to cast a ballot has gotten noticeably more press following the 2020 presidential election, a situation complicated by louder and louder propaganda on both sides of the political spectrum. It is no wonder, then, that a not insignificant number of Trump voters took to the streets in DC on January 6, 2021, and attempted to take over the nation’s capital, an event also arguably spurred on by Trump’s own rhetoric. I believe that the progression of distrust in the United States’ voting system along with stronger media polarization has led to the events that occurred in January and is a notable example of democratic erosion in the United States as you stated in this post. Moreover, these events, although condemned by many in this country including many in the Republican party, have likely worsened social trust as well as polarization as partisans view the other side as more and more extreme.