Democracy is like a newborn child. It requires constant attention and care. It must be nurtured and monitored closely. Commenting on democracy, Ilka Chase, an American novelist and actress, called it “a living, changing organism, continuously shifting, and attempting to strike a balance between individual freedom and general order.” Sadly, around the world, this “living, changing organism” is dying a swift death. Individual freedom is being replaced by various flavors of oppression. In the United States, supposedly the greatest country in the world, democracy is backsliding. Also called autocratization, backsliding is the polar opposite of democratization; it involves a gradual erosion of democratic norms. If the United States fails to arrest this worrying decline, the country may find itself fractured beyond repair.
Sanjay Ruparelia, an associate professor of politics at Ryerson University, previously discussed the many ways in which confidence in the democratic process is being replaced by suspicion and despair. It's easy to see why. Governments are becoming more tyrannical in nature. Democratic backsliding, he wrote, occurs when governments move to “restrict the participation of citizens” in everyday life (COVID lockdowns, anyone?); when governments actively “reduce the competitiveness of elections and capacity of actors to contest for power;" and when “the accountability of rulers” to the people is no longer apparent. In more unstable countries, democratic backsliding is defined by violent revolutions. In more stable countries—like the United States for example—it is defined by executive aggrandizement. This, according to Ruparelia, occurs when elected leaders “take advantage of existing norms, rules and procedures, to weaken the capacity of state institutions and civil society to check the executive.” Some examples of executive aggrandizement include curbing the freedom of the press and weaponizing various branches of government. Sound familiar? In the United States, press freedom continues to wither. Meanwhile, the current administration stands accused of weaponizing the FBI and DOJ. As I have shown before, the Biden administration has also used the U.S. postal service to spy on American citizens.
Not surprisingly, many of the people who didn’t vote for Biden are unhappy with his administration’s conduct. The country, they fear, is going to hell in a handbasket. Sadly, their fears appear to be entirely justified. Published earlier this year, a paper by William Galston and Elain Kamrack, two political scientists associated with the Brookings Institute, discussed whether or not American democracy is “backsliding towards failure.” The answer, according to the two academics, is yes. They also concluded that “democratic failure represents a systemic risk” to the country.
Galston and Kamrack then proceeded to outline why democracy hangs in the balance. “Democracy,” they said, “means the rule of the people.” That definition is problematic for Americans, they added. Why? Because “Americans do not fully agree about who belongs to the people.” They referenced “increasing immigration” and “religious pluralism” as two of the reasons for so much friction, division, and downright contempt (more on contempt later). Across the country, they warn, support for acts of political violence are growing, with millions of Americans on both sides of the political aisle agreeing that “if elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.”
The authors, somewhat nonsensically, take aim at Donald Trump throughout the paper, without once referencing the current administration that has been in power since 2020. Again, just to emphasize, press freedom has worsened under the Biden administration, and the weaponization of various branches of government has certainly intensified under Biden’s tenure. Last year, because of draconian lockdown measures, 6.2 million Americans did not work at all or worked considerably fewer hours. Sadly, in these polarized times, facts can’t compete with tribalization and agenda-driven narratives. Which begs the question: is it time for a national divorce?
Going Separate Ways
In October, the Republican representative for Georgia's 14th congressional district made a rather bold prediction. Shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) chose to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its recommended schedules for children and adults, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene predicted that a "national divorce" was inevitable. To some, such a claim might seem ridiculous. To others, though, Greene’s claim surely resonated.
John Gottman, a well-respected relationship expert, said the biggest threat to a relationship is contempt—when one partner looks at the other with complete disgust. In many ways, contempt is a distant cousin of dehumanization. Sadly, the United States is a country divided by contempt. Recent polls show Americans’ faith in each other is at an all-time low. The Left and Right, some authors contend, have irreconcilable differences. According to a 2021 survey by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, 52 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats think the country should split up. David Reaboi, a conservative author, has written extensively on the topic. His conclusion? A national divorce would be extremely expensive, but it would be worth every single penny.
Some authors, on the other hand, have argued that a national divorce would be detrimental to the country. Instead, Americans should “strive to repair the nation we have.”
Whatever your thoughts on a national divorce may be, whether you think it’s a great idea or a godawful one, most Americans would surely agree that the country is in dire need of rescuing. Americans are losing faith in the government. More worryingly, they are losing faith in each other. Corrective action must be taken. Time, the very thing the United States doesn't have, is of the essence.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Mac Ghlionn is a researcher and essayist. He covers psychology and social relations, and has a keen interest in social dysfunction and media manipulation. His work has been published by the New York Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, Newsweek, National Review, and The Spectator US, among others.