People around the world are losing their freedom, and democracy is in decline all over the world for the 16th year in a row, according to a new report by Freedom House. The number of people living in societies that are considered free has declined by 25,7% as political freedoms have eroded.
Bad countries are getting worse, but over the last few years, we`ve also seen democracies getting worse, Amy Slipowitz, who is one of the authors of the report said.
Factors such as undermining the rule of law, attacking media freedom, perverting elections, and discrimination and mistreatment of migrants were internal issues impacting the functionality of existing democracies, the report found.
The US received a score of 2 out of 4 in the category of equal treatment of minority groups in light of its recent policies on asylum seekers. Only 25 countries improved in their freedom scores overall, and some of the most significant increases occurred in Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Ecuador, and Honduras.
The decline is not reversing, but there are still signs that this can be reversed because «there are so many places where people are risking their lives to demand freedom.» The protests in Myanmar and Sudan are examples of how people fight for democracy to persist.
«I think despite these crackdowns and pushback, there is still a very strong demand for democracy,» Slipowitz says. «I do expect that it`ll continue because ultimately, people do have a desire to live freely. So I think the key will be how democracy`s proponents can support these people, and global collaboration is really key to this.»
The difference between communist China and the United States is that the United States is one nation under God. The communists in China don`t believe in religion and God, so people in China believe in communists.
«If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under,» Ronald Reagan once said. He also said that America is the moral force that defeated communism and all those who would put the human soul itself into bondage.
What would Ronald Reagan say today, as the Democratic world is backsliding, also known as autocratization, democratic decay, and de-democratization, which means a gradual decline in the quality of democracy and the opposite of democratization?
If unchecked, democratic backsliding results in the state losing its democratic qualities, becoming an autocracy or authoritarian regime. The democratic decline is caused by the state-led weakening of political institutions that sustain the democratic system, such as the peaceful transition of power or free and fair elections.
Although these political elements are assumed to lead to the onset of backsliding, other essential components of democracy such as infringements of individual rights, especially freedom of expression, question the health, efficiency, and sustainability of democratic systems over time.
Since 2001, there are more autocracies than democracies in the world, and as a result, the «third wave of autocratization» is accelerating and deepening. In addition, apart from the transition to autocratization, democratic backsliding may also lead to authoritarian regressions, revolutions, to hybrid regimes as they enter political «grey zones.»
During a national crisis, there are unique risks of democratic backsliding. It can occur when leaders impose autocratic rules during states of emergency that are either disproportionate to the severity of the crisis or remain in place after the situation has improved.
Democratic backsliding occurs when essential components of democracy are threatened, and examples of democratic backsliding include;
- Free and fair elections are degraded;
- Liberal rights of freedom of speech, press and association decline, impairing the ability of the political opposition to challenge the government, hold it to account, and propose alternatives to the current regime;
- The rule of law (i.e., judicial and bureaucratic restraints on the government) is weakened, such as when the independence of the judiciary is threatened, or when civil service tenure protections are weakened or eliminated.
- An over-emphasis on national security as response to acts of terrorism or perceived antogonists.
Democratic backsliding can occur in several common ways, and you can see it in many places on this planet even today. Backsliding is often led by democratically elected leaders, who use «incremental rather than revolutionary» tactics.
It is difficult to pinpoint a single specific moment at which a government is no longer democratic, given that this process of decline manifests «slowly, in barely visible steps». Ozan Varol uses the phrase stealth authoritarianism to describe the practice of an authoritarian leader (or a potential authoritarian leader) using «seemingly legitimate legal mechanisms for anti-democratic ends….. concealing anti-democratic practices under the mask of law.
Together with Juan Linz, Levitsky and Ziblatt developed and agreed upon their «litmus test», which includes what they believe to be the four key indicators of authoritarian behavior. These four factors are; rejection (or weak comment to) democratic rules of the game, denial of the legitimacy of political opponents, toleration or encouragement of violence, and readiness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including media.
Varol describes the manipulation of libel laws, electoral laws, or «terrorism» laws as tools to target or discredit political opponents, and the employment of democratic rhetoric as a distraction from anti-democratic practices, as manifestations of stealth authoritarianism.
We can also see strategic harassment and manipulation during elections, and this form of democratic backsliding entails the impairment of free and fair elections through tactics such as blocking media access, disqualifying opposition leaders, or harassing opponents.
This form of backsliding is done in such a way that the elections do not appear to be rigged and rarely involve any apparent violations of the law, making it difficult for international election monitoring organizations to observe or criticize this misconduct.
For example, Hitler gave a speech to the Reichstag in support of the Enabling Act. The decline of the Weimar Republic into Nazi Germany is one of the most infamous examples of democratic backsliding.
(The enabling Act of 1933, was a law that gave the German Cabinet, most importantly, the Chancellor, the power to make and enforce laws without the involvement of the Reichstag or Weimar President Paul von Hindenburg.)
Hitler persuaded Hindenburg to enact the Reichstag Fire Decree. The decree abolished most civil liberties including the right to speak, assemble, protest, and due process. Using the decree the Nazis declared a state of emergency and began to arrest, intimidate, and purge their political enemies.
By clearing the political arena of anyone willing to challenge him Hitler submitted a proposal to the Reichstag that would immediately grant all legislative powers to the cabinet. This would in effect allow Hitler`s government to act without concern for the constitution.
The world we live in today is very similar to the 30s, and the most important and serious issue is inequality. Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson have investigated the effect of income inequality on the democratic breakdown.
Studies of democratic collapse show that economic inequality is significantly higher in countries that eventually move towards a more authoritarian model.
In addition, political polarization, racism and nativism, and excessive executive power have alone or in combination provided the conditions for democratic backsliding.
The 2019 Annual Democracy Report of the V-dem Institute at the University of Gothenburg identified three challenges confronting global democracy:
- «Government manipulation of media, civil society, rule of law, and elections»,
- rising «toxic polarization», including «the division of society into distrustful, antagonistic camps», diminishing «respect for opponents, factual reasoning, and engagement with society» among political elites, and increasing use of hate speech by political leaders, and
- foreign disinformation campaigns, primarily digital.
Some countries move toward democracy, while other countries move away from democracy. Just take a look at the West and you will see it on the way to being a wild wild west. Man people are claiming that the United States is the last hope. Ronald Reagan said, «if we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on Earth».
«Democracy is worth dying for because it`s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man».
On August 23, 1984, Ronald Reagan said; «Without God, there is no virtue, because there`s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we`re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure. If we ever forget that we`re one nation under God, then we will be a nation gone under».
But the separation of church and state was never intended to separate public morality from public policy.