Five professors from the University of Notre Dame who specialize in different areas of democracy studies recently signed a strong statement of concern issued by the New America think tank warning of serious threats to democracy in states -Unis Notre Dame is a longtime leader in research on democratization in perspective comparison across a number of campus institutes, and the subfield of American politics that is part of the Department of Political Science puts the emphasis on research on inclusion.
As the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project demonstrated, there has been a “significant erosion of liberal democracy in the United States since 2016,” said Michael Coppedge, professor of political science and one of the principal investigators of V-Dem. V-Dem has measured hundreds of attributes of democracy and governance for most countries since 1789. The 2021 V-Dem Democracy Report, “Autocratization Goes Viral,” highlights dramatic peaks in countries of more and more autocratic. In fact, V-Dem reports that in 2020, only 4% of the world’s population lives in countries undergoing democratization. He also reports that no country in North America or Western and Eastern Europe has made progress in democracy over the past decade, while democracy in the United States (along with Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Slovenia) has declined considerably.
“A decline is already underway. If recent and pending state-level legislation increasingly erects voting barriers and makes the translation of votes into seats and voters even more skewed than it already is, I’m sure this trend will worsen, ”added Coppedge, who is also a professor. scholar at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies.
The United States fell in three of six indices studied by V-Dem that measure everything from the quality of elections and individual rights to the rule of law and whether political decisions are made in the interest of the common good. The 2021 report shows that the United States has fallen significantly on the Liberal Democracy Index from 0.86 in 2010 to 0.73 in 2020. This is in part, the researchers write, a consequence of repeated attacks by the United States. former President Donald Trump against the media and opposition politicians, and the significant weakening of the de facto checks and balances from the legislative branch to the executive branch. The V-Dem team also reported significant negative changes in the US deliberation score, the component that captures the extent to which public discourse, including counterarguments, and respect for political opponents are respected. by political leaders. It went from 0.91 in 2016 to 0.61 in 2020.
Although the V-Dem team has seen an overall decline in mobilization for democracy around the world, the United States has seen its highest number of protests in recent history. The protests on June 6, 2020 with more than half a million people spurred on by the murder of George Floyd and the months of protests that followed are seen as a condemnation of the systemic oppression of people of color. Race has been key to the fight for the right to vote in 2020 in states like Georgia, where black voters not only gave President Joe Biden a victory, but also secured victories for the first black senator in the world. State and the first Jewish senator over their Republican opponents. Most recently, the Republican-led state legislature successfully changed election laws in Georgia – a move that has been criticized as an attempt to limit the vote of people of color.
“Marginalized and intersectional communities have been crucial leaders in the contemporary struggle to defend and secure voting rights. Black women in particular have transformed their commitment to the community into sophisticated voter mobilization organizations, ”said Christina Wolbrecht, professor of political science and director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy. “It is important to stress, however, that resisting and overcoming discriminatory voting rules requires time, energy and attention that these communities do not have in abundance and that distract from other work that does. to advance human development. ”
Luis Fraga, Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie political science professor, whose areas of expertise include Latin American politics, racial and ethnic politics, voting rights politics, and immigration politics, pointed out that the contemporary struggle for minority rights is nothing new.
“We are a nation founded on slavery and the racism associated with it,” he said. “We have cultural wars and our racist historical past and its lingering contemporary effects and immigration – especially from Latin America – is identified as a threat to American identity and elements of American ideals. Add to that people from Muslim countries, and it intensifies the culture wars. We have seen the material status of some blue collar workers decline in parts of the country. All of these things together have led – and research confirms – to the importance of white identity. Working against this threatens the status of the Republican Party and stimulates gerrymandering / voting tricks. Their goal is to dehumanize the people who are at the origin of this threat.
Echoing the V-Dem team’s deliberation score for the United States, Fraga said that this rhetoric, combined with political leadership doubling down on disinformation in a bid to disseminate it as widely as possible through news outlets sharing the same ideas, caused extreme political polarization in the United States. , “It’s not that the people who are influenced by this are in any way unsophisticated – it’s the things that are changing in the United States in ways that they’re not comfortable with. “
Fraga, who is also Rev. Donald P. McNeill, CSC, professor of transformative Latin leadership and director of the Institute for Latino Studies, sees hope in the proposed legislation. The purpose of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act is to restore and strengthen parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the For the People Act aims to expand voting rights, change campaign finance laws to reduce the influence of money in politics, to limit gerrymandering and create new rules of ethics for federal office holders. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin has announced that he will not support the For the People Act because he believes that any reform of voting and election practices should be bipartisan. In a recent editorial, he wrote: “Partisan policymaking will not instill confidence in our democracy, it will destroy it.
Fraga sees it differently, noting that many lawmakers clearly see that “this is not America at its best” and that the proposed acts would be a way to prevent a democratic rollback.
“The declaration of New America is supported by my research, my teaching and my values and is part of the best traditions of Notre Dame,” he continued. “We were created to provide education to predominantly immigrant, working-class and marginalized Americans. This attack on voting rights can be understood as a threat to what Notre Dame stands for and what made it great. “
Professor of political science and global affairs, Aníbal Pérez-Liñán studies the processes of democratization, political instability and the rule of law in new democracies, particularly in Latin America. He sees parallels in some Latin American countries with attempts by Republican state legislatures in the United States to restrict voting rules, thereby ensuring long-term partisan control of their states.
“This strategy only works if federal legislation fails to enforce voting rights nationally,” said Perez-Liñán, who holds a joint position at the Keough School of Global Affairs. “Students of Latin American politics call this phenomenon ‘border control’. In Latin America, authoritarian governors are known to preserve power in their enclaves by pushing back the influence of national governments.
The idea of eliminating the filibuster – a tactic of Congress, intended to delay the vote or kill a bill, which requires the overturning of 60% of the senators – has been raised since the beginning of the administration Biden and that the Democrats have taken control of both the White House and the Senate. Perez-Liñán, who recently wrote an article for the Dignity & Development blog on the damage that qualified legislative majorities can do to democracy by changing the independence of the courts, notes that filibuster is an important maneuver that protects citizens. legislative minorities.
“Paradoxically, however, some Republican senators are using this institution to disempower minorities in their own states,” said Perez-Liñán, who is also a professor at the Kellogg Institute. “By blocking the passage of federal laws to defend voting rights, they are unfortunately exercising border control to protect the passage of restrictive voting laws.”
Eugene and Helen Conley, political science professor Scott Mainwaring agree and point out that the overt attempts to suppress minority votes, the partisan manipulation of the election administration and the refusal to accept Trump’s defeat are all warning signs of the demise of democracy.
“These practices represent a move towards competitive authoritarian regimes, and they pose a profound threat to democracy,” said Mainwaring, who is also a professor at the Kellogg Institute. “As a student and democracy scholar for over 40 years, I am disheartened to see these practices.”