The United States is no longer a "full democracy," according to the 2016 Democracy Index. The Britain-based Economist Intelligence Unit downgraded the United States to a "flawed democracy," placing it 21st in the international rankings. The grading process was based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture, and civil liberties.
President Trump's polarizing election victory was a symptom â€“ not a cause â€“ of the United States' new "flawed democracy" status. The US had been "teetering on the brink of becoming a flawed democracy" for years amid a decades-long decline in the American public's confidence in government, and would have earned the same ranking even if 2016 had not been an election year.
"Trust in political institutions is an essential component of well-functioning democracies." "Yet surveys by Pew, Gallup and other polling agencies have confirmed that public confidence in government has slumped to historic lows in the U.S. This has had a corrosive effect on the quality of democracy."
Less trust in government isn't inherently bad for democracy, as it may indicate a more informed electorate, notes Lynn Vavreck, a professor of political science and communications at the University of California, Los Angeles.
[S]ome of the recent decline may have less to do with how the government has disappointed people and more to do with an increasing knowledge of how the government works. ... It is of some concern that trust in government is objectively low. But playing a role in the background is a steady march away from government opaqueness â€“ a longstanding American tradition dating to the candid submission of grievances outlined in the Declaration of Independence.
"When thereâ€™s a lack of confidence and trust then you lose those values that hold society together and ... we lose sight of the common good," says Robert Denton, head of the communication department at Virginia Tech and co-author of "Social Fragmentation and the Decline of American Democracy: The End of the Social Contract." "That erodes the fabric of democracy."
The American people must make a fundamental decision. Do we continue the 40-year decline of our middle class and the growing gap between the very rich and everyone else, or do we fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all? Are we prepared to take on the enormous economic and political power of the billionaire class, or do we continue to slide into economic and political oligarchy? These are the most important questions of our time, and how we answer them will determine the future of our country.