The Strength of U.S. Democracy II. What are the Threats?

Last week I argued that the fundamental strength of American democracy is its decentralized nature.  Voting procedures are regulated at the state level and elections are conducted at the county level.  This ensures that the people in charge of running elections, at the state and local level, are close to the people.  This naturally creates more trust among the voters.

Political polarization is often considered to be a major threat to democracy.  Consider the following.

  • The sociologist, Charles Murray, says that the biggest threat to our democratic system is the polarization created by identity politics. The rhetoric coming from black opinion leaders and their white supporters, about systemic racism and white supremacy, is causing a strong backlash among middle-class and working-class whites.  This is the main cause of our current polarization, says Mr. Murray.
  • But another sociologist, Richard Alba, responds that many non-whites are assimilating into the American mainstream just as white ethnic groups did before them. More than 10% of U.S.-born babies have one parent who is nonwhite or Hispanic and one parent who is white and non-Hispanic.  This is a sign of growing integration into the mainstream by members of minority groups.  By the 2050s, one third of babies with white ancestry will also have Hispanic or nonwhite ancestry. The idea of who belongs to a racial majority or minority will become scrambled.  In this way, racial assimilation will increase and polarization will begin to fade.
  • Last week I discussed how Donald Trump’s 2020 election denialism is now alienating increasing numbers of voters. It is quite interesting that a recent WSJ poll shows that Republican voters now favor Florida Governor Ron DeSantis over Donald Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential candidate.  It is very early for the 2024 election, of course, but already Donald Trump does not have a lock on the 2024 GOP presidential nomination.
  • Election integrity in Nebraska. I live in Omaha NE and the Nebraska Secretary of State has just reported that a manual audit of 10% of the votes cast last month discovered a discrepancy of only 11 votes (0.023%), between machine and hand counting, in the 48,292 votes counted in the audit.  In other words, it can be concluded that vote counting in Nebraska is very secure.

Conclusion.  Americans have the good fortune to live in a country with a long tradition of sound democratic government.  There will always be real or perceived threats to political stability in a democracy, a polarized electorate and Donald Trump’s narcissistic persona being two current examples.  But things are much better than they seem!  These two threats are likely in the process of dissipating.  Of course, “eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”  But let’s not overreact to perceived threats to our democratic system.

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