The Future of US Democracy in Crisis
The New Yorker released a special series entitled “The Future of Democracy”, examining the ramifications of a post-Trump America.
In a post-Trump America, government and democratic institutions have been undermined by a number of elements borne from within the very processes that were supposed to safeguard democracy.
The American electoral system has, for one, given way to two presidents in recent history that did not win the popular vote, signifying that there are innate flaws within the American electoral process.
Media on the other hand been used (or rather misused) by what they term to be “malicious actors at home and abroad”, greatly polarizing American political life, and leading a large segment of people to consider the 2020 elections illegitimate.
This crisis, however, was not born with former US President Donald Trump, and has not gone away with him. The New Yorker’s series of articles, published in the week of July 4th, explores the "past, present, and future" of American democracy, and so attempts to shine a light on the latter's innate problems, what effect they have had, and proposes possible solutions for them. However, the practicality and applicability of these solutions is another matter.
One of the more interesting problems was highlighted in Michael Luo’s “How can the press best serve a democratic society”. which tackled the problem of the press in the US. Although the press, in mid-20th century, held high the banner of truth and objectivity, chiefly because of the rise of totalitarianism, these principles were soon overshadowed by sensationalism and the need to provide novel pieces, driven by the market’s needs. This led to “news…skewed by the biases of the owners of media outlets, and by pressure from interest groups.”
Jumping to today’s US, we have “disagreement over basic facts, and half-truths, falsehoods, and propaganda have overrun digital platforms and polluted the news ecosystem. The press itself is also shrinking.”
The piece goes on to the Trump era, calling the Republicans a party “that embraces deception as a political strategy”, and claims that the era’s radicalism has caused a need to reconsider “objectivity” as a journalistic ideal; a solution that can only be tackled by the press.
Here, the responsibility for fixing the press falls on the press itself, as it needs to “fundamentally reset the norms of our field. The old way must go. We need to rebuild our industry as one that operates from a place of moral clarity.”
Indeed, the problems facing US democracy cannot be restricted to media, but media has proven itself to be the most polarizing factor in American political life, especially with its ability to loosen the “collective grasp on reality” through misinformation.