Boston University

The United States Has Joined the Sad Roster of Backsliding Democracies by Nikki Tolenoa

Since the moment that current President Trump had been elected as the next President of the United States, the entire world has kept an eye on the United States with curiosity and hesitance at hand. Even before Trump was elected there was continuous debates on whether he would lead this strong country into success, riches, and prosperity. Or, if the nation would come crumbling down; gazing towards the world with hopelessness and defeat in their eyes. Due to Trump’s significant amount of confidence and stubbornness, U.S. democracy has been faced with disturbances harder than the nation ever thought would be possible (e.g. scandals, equality issues, government shutdown, border control). One may argue in favor of the multiple positive attributions that have surfaced during Trump’s presidency, (e.g. economic growth, tax cuts, funding) but vast economic growth is no stranger to the process of democratic erosion.

                From examining Trumps methods, views and beliefs, one could conclude that he has modeled himself as an Authoritarian ruler. Actions of an Authoritarian ruler will reject the democratic rules of the game, deny legitimacy of opponents, tolerate or encourage violence, and indicate a willingness to curtail civil liberties of opponents, including the media. Part of Trump’s campaign strategy is to harshly attack certain races/ethnic minorities that he finds to be aggressive and problematic in American borders. Populist Trump supporters and high elites in America’s society have followed in Trump’s footsteps and publicized their mutual feelings towards certain ethnic minorities as well. For example, Trump has publicly supported Jayda Fransen, an anti-Muslim figure who tweets anti-Muslim libels on twitter. Trump also slanders immigrants, specifically those who are coming from Mexico. A point should be made that the United States has continuously dealt with racism since the nation was formed, but it wouldn’t be unreasonable to believe that hate crimes and the tension between white supremacists and diverse minorities has shot up since Trump trampled into the spotlight.

                The negligent actions of Congress and further government leaders also lead to the assumption that democratic erosion is taking place. In the article, Under Trump, the United States has joined the sad roster of backsliding democracies, Azi Huq addresses these actions by stating that “the past year has revealed that key political actors, including members of Congress, will tolerate flagrant malfeasance by the president and members of his administration…”  Withholding this view of Trump stands above the rules” political government leaders continue to put personal interests above national interests, in order to defend their Presidents wrong-doings by poor discernment. An example to be given would be the continuous struggle for an investigation looking into Russian involvement in the 2016 election. Trump so willingly has fired James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which hasn’t provoked neither fellow Republican elites nor Republican supporters.

                Huq further explains that “co-opting the bureaucracy for political ends” is the third warning sign that the U.S. is steadily heading towards democratic erosion. An example to look at once again, would be the challenging process of opening an investigation in regard to the 2016 elections affiliated with possible Russian involvement. Although, when the president suggested that there should be an investigation into the Clinton Foundation, the agency (FBI) complies with no hesitation.

In sum, due to Trump’s lack of empathy towards America’s population and his disregard towards the nations democracy, the United States is steadily spiraling towards democratic backsliding.

Photo by “”, Creative Commons Zero License.


  1. Zhuoyang Song

    February 13, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    The main idea of the article addresses that Trump is the key contributor to democracy erosion in the US. In the article you mention that Trump is an authoritarian because he has discrimination to specific ethnic group or race and he also has his supporters who followed his step of being aggressive toward minority groups. Besides, Trump also in a way eliminates the voice of people who against him in political fights, which is also a signal of authoritarianism. In democratic countries, liberty is one of the important factors and that means all people have an equal chance to speak and express their opinion in policymaking. However, in your article, you proved that Trump is doing the opposite side of democracy that he makes some group of people have a weak voice on the policymaking process.

  2. Gabriel Moran

    February 17, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    For starters, even though you did not mention it explicitly, I feel as though that your article is implying that the United States has joined the “sad roster of backsliding democracies” since Trump’s presidency had officially started. The evidence you offer in support of this is the fact that we are facing large problems now that we have never faced before. While you’re correct in that statement, your examples given are not offering the same insight. Scandals, Equality issues, Government shutdowns, and Border control have all been problems previous to Trump’s presidency. Clinton literally had affair while in office, African Americans and other minorities have been fighting for equality long before we came to be, government shutdowns are fairly common since the Carter presidency and border disputes have been fought out for a long time before the United States had even been formed between the colonies.
    To make claims like Trump is the cause of these issues is simply not true. Most of the problems we face today are not a result of Trump. Trump is more like a result of the inability to alleviate all of the problems that you had mentioned before in a reasonable fashion. This is a nod to when you mentioned the “negligent actions of Congress and other government leaders…” and how that is part of the reason why Trump managed to win the presidency. Their lack of cooperation and “gatekeeping” as discussed in How Democracies Die was not practiced to the extent it should have been. Thus creating the world in which our country is the petri dish for populism to take root and create a intolerant, hate driven sentiment the same way it took root in Italy, and Germany in the early 20th century. I’m now beginning to realize the quote at the end of the introduction of How Democracies Die. “History doesn’t repeat itself. But it Rhymes.”

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