In short, the answer is yes.
What can we do to fix this is a question on many people’s minds? Sadly, there is not one simple answer. The United States was founded as a democratic country, and still claims to maintain those values today. Even with this ideal occupying the center of the country’s values, it was not a true democracy until the 1960’s with The institutionalization of universal suffrage and the passing of the 24th Amendment to the Constitution. However, democracy is currently threatened in the United States by a few factors, including the unequal treatment of people of color, partisan polarization, improper influence of politics due to money, and decline in political participation. Each of these factors alone could be significant to causing democratic backsliding or as it is also known democratic erosion, however; According to an article written by Sarah Repucci on freedomhouse.org, the United States’ score on the Freedom in the World Scale, has dropped eleven points over the past decade. Together they have caused a significant drop of eleven points in the past decade, six of which happened during the Trump Administration. (Freedom House)
Addressing each of these reasons individually, beginning with the unequal treatment of people of color. This is an issue across almost all people of color within America, between discriminatory immigration laws and a struggle to move on from the days of enslavement and Jim Crow laws. This is not to say that all Americans are racist, rather the political institutions and the criminal justice system are in desperate need to right many wrongs of the past still in the books to this day. This has been made clearer then ever to the whole world through various pleads for immigration reform and the Black Lives Matter movement seen in the past three to five years. Representative James Clyburn recently stated in a webinar that he remembers the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and is fearful that we are repeating the history that required such actions to take place.
The next factor is partisan polarization which in my humble opinion grows worse each day. This is not only an issue between citizens on both extreme sides of the political spectrum, but also an issue of political officials on the extremes refusing to have bipartisan cooperation. This is particularly an issue because it causes some issues and proposals for the greater good to be held up because there is a lack of compromise. This extreme polarization also has led to the public to act in problematic ways such as the insurrection on January sixth, 2021.
The third factor to democratic erosion is the large influence money has over politics. The idea that politics is accessible to anyone is technically true in theory, however; there is a well realized point that if you have more money your ability to influence political officials is far greater. This is because those with more money are seen as more important in society, and they can contribute to campaigns. It is because this that those with money are more likely to get the attention of political officials.
The final factor is political participation. This is a multilevel factor because it is on all levels of participation from voting to running for office. This can be seen in voting registration and participation on the decline over the past few decades. Another example of this is that there is a lack of younger blood in Congress which leads the younger generation to feel unrepresented. This issue however is not only on a national level but instead can be seen in all levels of state and local government as well.
The solution to these issues would be to pass legislation that addresses the will of the people and fixes the racial injustices that plague current institutions. There also needs to be a push to get more involvement in all aspects of politics. Finally, there must be a change of all being heard regardless of wealth in order to stop the furthering disenfranchisement of already underrepresented individuals and a bipartisan cooperation to pass agendas for the greater good of the general public.
“Challenges to Safeguarding Our Democracy.” Forum Network, https://forum-network.org/lectures/challenges-safeguarding-our-democracy/.
“New Report: US Democracy Has Declined Significantly in the Past Decade, Reforms Urgently Needed.” Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/article/new-report-us-democracy-has-declined-significantly-past-decade-reforms-urgently-needed.
“Reversing the Decline of Democracy in the United States.” Freedom House, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2022/global-expansion-authoritarian-rule/reversing-decline-democracy-united-states.