Understanding Democratic Decline in the United States

By Brookings Institute

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Experts agree that the health of U.S. democracy has declined in recent years—but what does that mean? The United States is experiencing two major forms of democratic erosion in its governing institutions: election manipulation and executive overreach.

Most obviously, after the 2020 election, the sitting president, despite admitting privately that he had lost, attempted to subvert the results and remain in office. But democratic erosion in the United States is not synonymous with Donald Trump. Since 2010, state legislatures have instituted laws intended to reduce voters’ access to the ballot, politicize election administration, and foreclose electoral competition via extreme gerrymandering. The United States has also seen substantial expansions of executive power and serious efforts to erode the independence of the civil service. Against these pressures, the gridlocked and hyperpartisan Congress is poorly equipped to provide unbiased oversight and accountability of the executive, and there are serious questions about the impartiality of the judiciary.

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