State of Democracy as 2022 Gets Underway

As the new year 2022 gets underway, the most salient feature is official circles formally acknowledging the crisis of the so-called liberal democratic institutions. Talk within U.S. and Canadian ruling circles refers to the "death spiral of democracy." A dispute has arisen over whether civil war broke out on January 6 when the failed coup took place last year to stop a peaceful transition of power to the new president, or whether it will break out in 2024 when the next presidential election takes place.

Barbara F. Walter, a political science professor at the University of California at San Diego, serves on a CIA advisory panel called the Political Instability Task Force that monitors countries around the world and predicts which of them are most at risk of deteriorating into violence. In a book coming out in January she writes: "No one wants to believe that their beloved democracy is in decline, or headed toward war." But, "if you were an analyst in a foreign country looking at events in America -- the same way you'd look at events in Ukraine or the Ivory Coast or Venezuela -- you would go down a checklist, assessing each of the conditions that make civil war likely. And what you would find is that the United States, a democracy founded more than two centuries ago, has entered very dangerous territory."

Indeed, the United States has already gone through what the CIA identifies as the first two phases of insurgency -- the "pre-insurgency" and "incipient conflict" phases -- "and only time will tell whether the final phase, 'open insurgency,' began with the sacking of the Capitol by Donald Trump supporters on January 6."

The perception that the U.S. is a democratic country deteriorated so dramatically under Trump and since then that the United States no longer technically qualifies as a democracy, the pundits tell us. Citing the Center for Systemic Peace's "Polity" data set -- the one the CIA task force is said to have found "to be most helpful in predicting instability and violence" -- Walter writes that the United States is now an "anocracy" -- which is described as being somewhere between a democracy and an autocratic state.

U.S. democracy is said to have received the Polity Index's top score of 10, or close to it, for much of its history. "But in the five years of the Trump era, it tumbled precipitously into the anocracy zone; by the end of his presidency, the U.S. score had fallen to a 5, making the country a partial democracy for the first time since 1800," a reviewer notes. Walter writes, "We are no longer the world's oldest continuous democracy."

Meanwhile, the hallmark of the Biden administration has become stepping up the concentration of presidential power and calling it democracy. The presidency seems gripped with a sense of hopelessness, helplessness and humiliation, in large part as a result of the fact that the coronavirus does not obey the Biden administration's measures and use of executive powers. The increased use of presidential powers is aimed at controlling the civil war raging within the United States itself and achieving hegemony internationally as countries rise to challenge the U.S. striving for domination.

At the same time, the striving of the peoples everywhere to acquire the decision-making power directly themselves also continues to make headway. This has been seen magnificently in the successful struggle of the farmers in India for the repeal of three anti-farm laws, and most recently in Chile through the ballot box as well as in Honduras and Nicaragua, despite U.S. interference in their elections. In Chile, even from the pulpit, a Catholic priest considered it necessary to counter the reactionary U.S. propaganda stating clearly that no, communists do not pose a danger to Chile, communists have never killed anyone in Chile and now it is up to the people to bring about the changes they and the country need.

Everywhere, unfolding events underscore the problem humankind is facing of the need to renew the democracy and democratic institutions if the people are to control the decisions which affect their lives. This striving of the people to control the decisions which affect their lives is precisely the key element required to open a path to progress within this historical transition that is blocked by darkest reaction and retrogression.

The Supplement to this edition of TML Monthly carries articles dealing with these matters.

This article was published in

Volume 52 Number 1 - January 9, 2022

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