As the US 2022 midterm election continues, there are several phenomena going on in the process. The two political parties; Democrats and Republicans are the two competing rivals running for the upcoming elections. Democrats (liberals) and Republicans (conservatives) both had used distinctive strategies to compete against each other. For instance, they have focused on minorities such as Latinos, African Americans, and whites in the periphery to win their elections. Historically, they have also made policy reforms on voting systems to manipulate election outcomes, usually the Conservatives practiced it in response to regain power.
To make an argument whether the US 2022 election will face democratic backsliding, it is important to trace recent historical cases and the existing institutions. In the 2020 election, Donald Trump lost the election, yet, refused to approve the election outcome by claiming that there was a “voting fraud” that he believed had taken place. Thus, he accused the liberals and caused chaos in the U.S government institutions (attacked congress). The aftermath of the 2020 election had significant implications. First, some states had taken measures to manipulate election outcomes such as passing new bills on voting systems to make the voting process difficult and exclusive to certain groups (i.e., opponents, minorities, etc).
Nancy Bermeo, who wrote about “On Democratic Backsliding”, stated that “…backsliding involves rapid and radical change across a broad range of institutions, it leads to outright democratic breakdown and to regimes that are unambiguously authoritarian.” This indicates that the states that decided to pass new bills about voting systems due to resentment at the 2020 elections are signs of democratic backsliding. Some states have made election laws difficult and made the rules about how the votes will be counted and made it difficult in terms of efficiency. This type of practice could be viewed as a threat to democracy because the new bills serve as mechanisms to exclude certain groups from voting. One of the requirements to maintain democracy is having “competitive” and “free and fair election”, but when actors decide to reform policies on voting rights and voting systems to manipulate voting outcome, it is “electoral malpractice” (Bermeo 2016). In short, the new bills on voting serve as a gridlock to the opponent candidate, it is in the process of backsliding. Nancy Bermeo refers to this form of backsliding also as “strategic election manipulation” (13) because it is intentional and unfair practice for the desired outcome (benefit one party by excluding the opponents).
Despite this, one could argue that the US 2022 election may not face on democratic backsliding for one reason; the separation of powers. Even though the two parties are competing to run as a government, the US powerful institutions such as Congress, the Court, and the Executive all have checks and balances. In other words, even if the elected candidate were to become a president and show signs of threat to democracy, all of the three branches of governments have oversight power, meaning there would be a consequence for a backsliding attempt. In other words, if election manipulation takes place, the US is under a short-term threat. Namely, the 2016 election indicated that Trump won the electoral college and took office, but he did not have total power to do his policy preferences because Congress served as a gridlock for his actions. Later, he paid the 2020 election results as well. Actors may attempt to manipulate elections for short-term gains, however, election frauds could only serve for short -term benefits (gaining-power).
Anyways, the Guardian (2022) report indicated that both the Republicans and the Democrats attempt to attract “Latino voters” using promissory frames. Specifically, both parties are concerned about which party Latinos will vote for. Democratic advocate stated that ” Latinos get to decide the future of these states, which means they get to decide the future of our entire country with their vote.” The promise made by the Democrat advocates is to get Latinos votes, but may not be concerned with their socio-economic issues. Simply, both parties are concerned with win-lose games rather than about Latino’s problems. In the same token, Republicans accused Democrats for failing to address issues related to “crime, inflation, and taxes” in the US. The two parties main goal is to win elections by engaging in polarization rather than negotiating and compromising. This implies the lack of mutual understanding and tolerance, which further divides the citizens. According to Levitisky and Ziblatt, “The Guardrails of Democracy”, it stated that “mutual tolerance” and “institutional forbearance” are important in maintaining democracy besides the formal constitution. These are unwritten informal norms that encourage political parties to engage disagreements through norms. However, the current US 2022 election indicates that both the Conservative and the Liberals are engaging in polarization and further division, which undermines democracy. The parties view each other as potential threats to US democracy. Geller pointed out that Trump supporters are running for governors or secretary of state to gain more power and “conduct audits” in the voting system of key states that determines voting results. This could be a sign of democratic backsliding. Both parties lack trust in each other and each party monitors the political party.
To sum up, it could be stated that the U.S’s formal institution could prevent US’s 2022 election from going to democratic backsliding. Polarization may cause negotiation issues, but still the formal institutions serve as tools that deter actors from attempting in democratic sliding.
Elving, R. (2022, September 4). Claims of voter fraud, old as the republic, still work as weapons for Trump. NPR.org. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Bermeo, N. (n.d.). Project MUSE – On Democratic Backsliding. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Gambino, L. (2022, October 17). Democrats and Republicans fight to make inroads with Latinos ahead of midterms. The Guardian. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Reich, R. (2022, October 16). Republicans are trying to win by spreading three false talking points. Here’s the truth. The Guardian. Retrieved October 17, 2022.
Geller, E (2022). ‘Absolutely terrifying prospect’: How the midterms could weaken U.S election security. Politico. Retrieved September 09, 2022.
Levitsky, S., & Ziblatt, D. (2019, January 8). How Democracies Die.