What are the issues in ailing American democracy?

What are the issues in ailing American democracy

Synopsis: The rioting by the Donald Trump supporters in the US Capitol seeking to stall President-elect Joe Biden’s certification by Congress personifies the decaying Democracy in America. 


    • Recently, a violent mob (loyal to President Donald Trump) in an attempt to overturn America’s Presidential election stormed the U.S. Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding. 
    • This act of violence indicates that American democracy is critically ill. 

What are the reasons to perceive that American democracy is under threat? 

According to the author, American democracy suffers from five disorders. 

    • Firstly, the major headache of what the American democracy is witnessing is the breakdown in the culture of bipartisanship (opposing political parties find common ground through compromise) that was so intrinsic to American politics and kept the system working.  
      • Bipartisanship in America has been replaced by ideological chauvinism built on a psychology of hate that sees competitors as the enemy within. This mindset particularly is incapable of compromise, consensus and difficult to cure. 
  • Second, is the rise of the plebiscitary leader which is similar to Max Weber’s concept of charismatic personality has created a partisan constituency 
    • A Plebiscitary leader speaks to his followers, directly, bypassing institutions, that are supposed to limit his powers.  It is like every person voting on every policy-matter.  
    • For example, the ideologies built by Mr. Trump such as “make America great again”, “drain the swamp”, “lock her up”, “stop the steal” has exaggerated the feeling of grievance and have created a partisan constituency. 
    • In this type of politics, institutions becomes weaker and locus of power shifts to the  political leader. 
  • Third, is the weakening of America’s democratic institutions by disrupting its checks and balances by Mr. Trump. For instance, 
    • Bureaucrats who have opposed his views, have been replaced immediately and media too was supressed by dubbing their reports as Fake news when they highlighted about his transgressions 
    • Institutions are the life and soul of a democracy as they check the excesses of power, socialise elected representatives into democratic politics, embody the rules and conventions to maintain balance between private and public interests. Any nation that subverts its institutions, do not thrive. 
  • Fourth, is the evolution of the political formula of neo-liberalism that has been used by capitalist elites to not just accumulate wealth but to make the non-elite feel that such accumulation is in the public interest. 
    • These Political formulas gives legitimacy to elite rule and American democracy today has become the textbook example of the political formula of neo-liberalism. 
  • Fifth, is the increasing inequality in American society, which provided lifeblood to all of the above problems. With the help of charismatic leadership of Trump and use of vigilante politics the government was successful from diverting the citizens from the real issue of rising inequality in American society. 
    • vigilante politics: an organized effort outside legitimate channels to suppress or eradicate any threats to the status quo 

American democracy will need to self-examine itself and need to fix the loop holes that allowed a narcissistic leader, with plebiscitary power to expose the fragility of its institutions. It needs to reform itself to set a precedent to other nations such that this model of politics, the politics of hate will not be entertained in any other country.

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