Democracy in America is a political system that may be considered to be one of the most proper and applicable forms of government. Democracy entitles every eligible citizen to decide what is necessary for the harmonious existence and development of the state. Therefore, with such a political system, people are able to freely participate in the direct management of their state, society, and, consequently, personal destiny. However, no government is able to provide a full-fledged democracy for its nation. Research suggests that support for democracy in the United States of America is decreasing every year, which raises the question of whether America is a genuine democratic state.
Nowadays, democratic principles are becoming less and less substantial. In recent years, several studies have argued that social dedication to democratic principles in America has decreased (Carey et al.). One of the obstacles to the full realization of democracy may be polarization. It can manifest itself at the ideological, party, and political levels. In political elections, voters are faced with a choice between two potentially contradictory considerations, democratic principles, and party interests. Partisan polarization raises the difference and the price of prioritizing democratic principles over party interests. In such a case, voters choose between a one-party candidate whose ideas may violate democratic principles and a candidate whose ideas are democratic but otherwise not in the voters’ interests. According to Graham and Svolik, a substantial part of American voters may neglect democratic values to elect a candidate who meets their party or interests and intentions. Thereby, with polarized elections, even pro-democratic voters may firstly abide by their party interests and only secondly by the democratic principles. Carey et al. argue that the stability of the American political structure, which is based on the commitment to democratic norms, may be shaken by the sharp rise of partisan antagonism. As a result, party polarization may adversely affect American democracy.
Distinguishing and punishing deviations from the above-mentioned political system may be crucial for its maintenance in the state. Although candidates whose campaigning seems to be undemocratic may receive punishments, the penalty amount may not be significant enough. Graham and Svolik (393) state that “a candidate who considers adopting an undemocratic position can expect to be punished by losing only about 11.7% of his overall vote share.” Therefore, American laws value democracy but yet punishments for not meeting its principles may not be severe. In addition, voters are more interested in punishing negative valences that may be unrelated to democracy than punishing restrictions on the freedom of assembly and executive authority abuse. According to Graham and Svolik, voters punish social unrelated to democracy problems, such as extramarital affairs or underpayment of taxes, more severely than they punish violations of democratic principles. This suggests that not only the government but the citizens themselves may as well neglect democratic principles.
Further evidence may serve an example of democracy decline in the United States. According to Hanson et al., former American President Donald Trump claimed without any evidence that his loss in the 2020 presidential election was due to widespread voting fraud. Courts and the Department of Justice have constantly rejected his reports. However, the former president’s supporters have accepted these claims and used them as a justification for the storming of the Capitol. Since then, in order to ensure security during elections, a number of states have begun passing laws that have restricted voting. According to Hanson et al., “Georgia has adopted a bill that cuts the time voters have to request absentee ballots, implements stricter voter ID requirements, and prevents anyone from providing people with food or water.” Furthermore, Iowa has followed Georgia example in imposing electoral restrictions. In Iowa, “lawmakers passed legislation that requires polls to close an hour earlier, shortens early voting by nine days, and makes it illegal for local elections officials to mail absentee request forms to all voters” (Hanson et al.). The above-mentioned incidents have raised concerns among societies about the democracy decline in the United States.
In response to these events, a national poll has been conducted in order to clarify the sentiments within American society. Hanson et al. state that “The Grinnell College National Poll is a national telephone survey of 1,012 adults 18 and over and was fielded from March 24 – 28 by Selzer & Co.” The main poll’s aim was to determine how much citizens valued core democratic principles, such as freedom of speech, free and fair elections, equal treatment for people, and independent courts. Furthermore, respondents were asked whether these principles described the United States. The results of the conducted survey were rather worrying and unsatisfying. According to Hanson et al., the state of American democracy was troubling since less than a majority of American citizens claimed that these principles described the United States. The firmness of democracy principles within society depends largely on the social and public agreement that the current political institutions meet their interests regarding the country’s development perspective.
Such adverse statistics are explained not only by the 2020 presidential elections and American citizens’ opinions but the very principles on which the American political system operates. Real political values, “specifically, and overwhelmingly, in Republicans’ ethnocentric concerns about the political and social role of immigrants, African-Americans, and Latinos in a context of significant demographic and cultural change” (Bartels 1). Such an ethnic antagonism and growing party polarization may be crucial factors in the democratic recession in the United States of America. Bartels (1) argues that “substantial numbers of Republicans endorse statements contemplating violations of key democratic norms, including respect for the law and the outcomes of elections and eschewing the use of force in pursuit of political ends.” Concerns about political power misuse and such ethnic discrimination increase the impact of antidemocratic sentiments in politics and society. According to Bartels (1), “the strong tendency of ethnocentric Republicans to countenance violence and lawlessness, even prospectively and hypothetically, underlines the significance of ethnic conflict in contemporary US politics.” Any ethnic discriminations and infringements already violate the core democratic values about equality between people regardless of their gender, race, and religion. However, Republicans are not the only ones who may express uncertain attachment to democratic values. Bartels (2) states that in 2017, “with a Republican in the White House, Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats (24–11%) to agree that when the country is facing difficult times, it is justifiable for the president of the country to close the Congress and govern without Congress.” However, the situation was different when the president was a Democratic representative. In research from Bartels (2) in 2014, “with a Republican majority in Congress, that partisan difference was reversed, 30% of Democrats but only 6% of Republicans were willing to countenance the president closing Congress.” Consequently, both Democrats and Republicans may make decisions only with their interests and intentions.
The United States of America is commonly referred to as a cradle of democracy. However, summarizing the above-mentioned data, it may be argued that the American government may not always be able to provide its citizens with a full-fledged democracy. Party polarization and Republicans’ principles that may violate people’s equality, such as ethnic antagonism, may take a crucial part in raising undemocratic attitudes within contemporary American society.
Bartels, Larry M. “Ethnic Antagonism Erodes Republicans’ Commitment to Democracy.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 117, no. 37, 2020, pp. 1–8. Crossref. Web.
Carey, John, et al. “Who Will Defend Democracy? Evaluating Tradeoffs in Candidate Support Among Partisan Donors and Voters.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, 2020, pp. 1–16. Crossref. Web.
Graham, Matthew H., and Milan W. Svolik. “Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States.” American Political Science Review, vol. 114, no. 2, 2020, pp. 392–409. Crossref. Web.
Hanson, Peter, et al. “Why Americans’ Support for Democratic Values May Not Protect Democracy in Practice – LSE Research Online.” USApp – American Politics and Policy Blog, 2021. Web.