I never expected to see American democracy degenerate to such a level in the course of my lifetime.
After the first presidential debate, the candidates’ out-of-line performance and its content have led German news magazine Der Spiegel and U.K.’s The Guardian to describe the debate as a “joke” and a “national humiliation,” respectively. German analyst Ulrich Speck remarked that “the debate was really no debate at all.” America is spinning out of control. Deutsche Welle claimed this as evidence that American democracy is in terrible shape. Most U.S. media outlets, regardless of their viewpoints, view the situation as a catastrophe, and “move to Canada” has started to trend online.
The Declaration of Independence issued by the United States during the American Revolution emphasized that all men are created equal and have inalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration asserted that the legitimacy of government power comes from the consent of the governed. These values gave impetus to the anti-feudal movements in Europe, as well as to numerous independence movements in Latin America and Asia.
In that newly independent America, the marvelous debate between federalists and anti-federalists was not only beautifully written, but also laid a solid theoretical foundation for the concept of democratic politics.
The first U.S. president, George Washington, declined a third term in office, setting an example of opposing the lust for power.
In his book “Democracy in America,” Alexis de Tocqueville discussed the social and political environment and democratic practices of this emerging republic as a reference for European nations during his time.
Abraham Lincoln’s America abolished slavery, striving to reunite the U.S. after the Civil War.
After World War II, the United States was the engine for world economic growth, a place of technological innovation and a champion of free trade.
During the Cold War, the United States led democratic nations against communism, becoming a leader of the free world.
Time and again, civil rights advances in the United States have gradually included equal rights for women, minorities and LGBTQ+ groups. The story of the recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an excellent example.
The American dream became endowed with a value that has attracted immigrants from all over the world. The United States is made up not of a particular race, but of a group of people who share their belief in democracy, freedom, opportunity and equality.
All of this has deteriorated into a cacophonous situation. In contemporary America, the melting pot has become an arena of racial conflict. The balance of the two-party system has turned into polarized confrontation. The United States, with the most advanced medical technologies, now has the highest number of deaths from COVID-19. If aliens were to land on Earth right now, they probably would not consider America to be the world’s leader.
My heart is heavy as I write, for I am full of gratitude and goodwill for America. Without the scholarships offered by American schools, I never could have afforded my doctoral program. Without the education and degree offered by an American university, I would not have had the opportunity for social mobility, the means to go from being a kid in a rural grocery store to teaching at a college. As an American political science major, I have studied many great models from the past. Yet today, I see their decline.
No matter where it exists, democracy requires effort and careful management. Democracy is not a one-way street. It slips backward without careful attention. Populist agitators and those with unchecked ambitions often invoke the name of democracy to advance their self-interest.
The regression of democracy is not a problem for the United States alone; it is a common threat that all democracies must face, because totalitarian institutions will cite this American example as an excuse to resist democracy.
In the past, democracy in America served as a model for others. I hope that the current symptoms of decline are only temporary, that the collective wisdom and reflection of the people will eventually be able to set things right. Democracy’s ability to repair itself is now being put to the test. I wish American democracy a speedy recovery.
The author is the chairman of FDC International Hotels.