American Democracy is dying

Virgil Lin, Opinion

 It won’t be the culmination of war, external meddling, or even — as leftists and millennials have come to pitch — the current presidential administration. Rather, it takes form as a slow, wallowing decline that beckons the other effects of failed democracies to take root — and, disturbingly, it’s been prescribed since the very inception of our country.

The Founding Fathers believed that factionalization would be the deciding factor in splitting the new democracy. Thus, the Constitution was written with safeguards against such factionalization, including the separation of powers and checks and balances. 

As the nation trudged forward, however, rifts between opposing entities grew out of issues that challenged society’s principles rather than breaking pre-established law. Look no further than the causes of the American Civil War; slavery wasn’t illegal at the time, but the different views over the mere idea of slavery were sufficient to lead to war. 

As such, factionalization leads to polarization along ideological lines. America’s polarization is especially distressing in that American politicians — note, its policymakers — have doubled their partisan viewpoints over a single decade. 

What this indicates is an increased willingness to impede the other party from accomplishing anything rather than performing legislative duties and governance. Floundering gun control bills introduced to the House are but one result of the impediment contest between the two parties. 

Inevitably, increasing ideological polarization will not only garner political stagnation but also reverse public and political gains, many of which could’ve had beneficial denotations. For example, former President Barack Obama’s national healthcare system is currently being undone by the staunchly right-wing Trump administration, and the latter has already pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. 

From the breakdown of governmental compromise stems other proven destabilizing factors, such as economic inequality, suppression of civil and minority rights, the degrading of personal freedoms, and the rise of strongman nationalists. 

Keep in mind that it was also these factors that made the extremist ideas of Nazism and Fascism appeal to a significant population of Germans and Italians in the 1920s and 30s. 

Indeed, disagreements and conflicts are natural features of a democratic system; no democratic country has been or will be, in perfect unity. Nevertheless, the ability to compromise on the affairs of the country is absolutely necessary to maintain a functional democracy, regardless of how militarily, diplomatically, and economically powerful it is. Thus, while in these regards the United States is the most powerful country in the world, the internal divisions we face in the coming years will see us brought to our knees. 

After all, the Soviet Union — the world’s second superpower — collapsed due to internal pressures from a transition to democracy. No country is safe from civil unrest and, as continuing ideological polarization demonstrates, the United States is headed down this path. 

The trend likely won’t stop. Government shutdowns and Congressional gridlocks are the forebears for the breakdown of the democratic system altogether. Perhaps a few decades down the line, the governmental situation will very well spiral out of control of Washington’s legislators. 

Therefore, if power is truly vested in the citizens of this country, we must ensure history doesn’t repeat itself. The younger generations must educate themselves in current affairs; the extreme partisan mindset must be discarded in favor of the greater good, and participation in democracy must be emphasized. Votes must be cast for the causes that ensure America’s unique democracy survives, or, surely, America’s democracy is doomed.