Democracy Reduced to a Power Play: The US Is a Textbook Cautionary Tale for Building Democracy

The United States holds a “democracy summit,” dividing the world into factions and creating division under the banner of democracy, with the aim of safeguarding U.S. hegemony. It is a great irony that this American-led farce is being held against a backdrop of the constant exposure in recent years of the flaws and chaos of the U.S. democratic system. Some U.S. politicians ignore their own problems and instead claim to be a “beacon of democracy,” not knowing that what they bring to the world is precisely the antithesis of building democracy.

America’s “confrontational democracy” leads to societal breakdown and a failure of governance. In recent years, U.S. domestic politics have been mired in serious infighting. On Capitol Hill, the two parties have attacked each other; the House and the Senate have repeatedly vetoed each other. From the debt ceiling and gerrymandering to immigration policy and anti-pandemic measures, issues relating to the functioning of the government, people’s lives and even the nation’s development have been reduced to partisan bargaining chips. The U.S. is being drawn step by step by its “confrontational democracy” into a dangerous situation in which society is deeply split and national governance is dysfunctional.

Before last year’s election, the COVID-19 rescue plan was difficult to get through Congress because of differences between the two parties. The violent killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white police officer not only sparked mass protests across the United States but saw the two parties point fingers at each other on the issue of eliminating racial discrimination. In January, Republican voters who refused to recognize the results of the presidential election stormed the Capitol and the whole world saw the extreme nature of U.S. party battles.

The infighting has remained fierce since the Democratic administration took office this year. In late August, the hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan caused chaos, and the two parties played “passing the buck” on Capitol Hill. On the economic front, for the 25th consecutive year, Congress has been unable to pass the federal budget on time because of the deep turmoil between the parties. Recently, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy staged a partisan political farce, speaking for more than eight hours straight in an attempt to prevent Congress from voting on the Democratic administration’s spending package.

U.S. democracy has been reduced to a power play and the people have become the victims. Behind the vicious party disputes lies the reality that consensus between the two parties is dissolving and political polarization is increasing. What’s more, there is the “self-serving thinking” of politicians seeking to maximize their own best interests while the American people fall victim to power plays between the two parties. The United States is the country with the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the world, yet the two parties continue to fight each other over the response to the pandemic.

Joshua Huder, a senior fellow at the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University, believes that whatever the actual content of a bill put to a vote, it will be opposed because “one side just wants to deny the other side a legislative victory.” French political scientist and special adviser to the Montaigne Institute Dominique Moïsi writes that increased political polarization may paralyze the United States and that U.S. democracy has almost become “a textbook cautionary tale.”

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