Is American Democracy Failing?
I addressed concerns about democracy in my weekly column published September 6 in the Spy Newspapers of the Eastern Shore. I write that Americans need to work harder at being good voters. I am sharing the column here.
Should We Worry About Democracy?
What does the rest of the world think of American democracy in 2023? Sadly, we are viewed as past our prime. Canadian friends ask how it was possible that Donald Trump was elected president, why our current 80-year-old president is running for re-election, and why “crazy people” sit in the U.S. Congress. A German friend told me Marjorie Taylor Green is better known there than Chuck Schumer and compared Ron DeSantis to Hitler.
My response to questions and comments on American democracy is to remind people that democracy is messy. I say great presidents can be followed by mediocre ones, and we will have great presidents again. I also remind people that challenging times can ruin a presidency and that “failed presidencies” are not always evidence of democracy not working. The Vietnam War, for example, ruined the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, and inflation arguably ruined the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
Presidents are not responsible for everything, good or bad, that happens during their time in the White House. The reelection of Trump in 2020, for example, would not have stopped Russia’s invasion of Ukraine any more than it would have stopped last year’s hurricane Ian. President Biden did not end the COVID epidemic or start the electric car revolution.
People’s opinions of who was a good president or a bad one will differ. We should, however, wonder if more people voting would lead to electing better political leaders. In Australia, voting is mandatory. You can go to jail for not voting. If we had a similar law in the U.S., would we get another Abraham Lincoln, FDR, or George Washington?
I believe that the quality of voters — how democracy is practiced — can make a difference. “Educated” voters are not only more likely to support higher quality candidates for office, but they are also likely to address much of the…