For the first time, the United States is considered a backsliding democracy.
That finding is according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, which is based in Stockholm, Sweden. The think tank notes that the US began to backslide “at least since 2019.”
The report specifically cites eroding civil liberties, a decline in freedom of assembly after the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020, and former president Donald Trump’s questioning of election results.
“A historic turning point came in 2020-21 when former president Donald Trump questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 election results in the United States,” the report says. “The visible deterioration of democracy in the United States, as seen in the increasing tendency to contest credible election results, the efforts to suppress participation (in elections), and the runaway polarisation … is one of the most concerning developments.”
The think tank categorizes countries into three groups: democracies (including backsliding democracies), hybrid (among them Russia and Turkey), and authoritarian (such as China and Saudi Arabia).
The United States joins the ranks of Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia as backsliding democracies. All told, backsliding democracies have doubled in the past decade and now account for a quarter of the world’s population.
Meanwhile, Ukraine was removed from the list of backsliding democracies after improvements in recent years. Serbia and Mali were removed from the list of backsliding democracies because they are no longer considered democracies.
The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance is not alone in its assessment of the perilous state of democracy in the United States. One hundred and fifty top scholars of American democracy have signed a letter warning that “midnight is approaching.”
“Defenders of democracy in America still have a slim window of opportunity to act. But time is ticking away,” the scholars write, arguing that Congress must act to protect voting rights.