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In a first, the U.S. is listed among countries experiencing democratic 'backsliding'

Baseless voter fraud allegations have undermined "fundamental trust" in U.S. elections as illiberalism takes hold across the globe, according to a new report.


For the first time, the United States has been added to a list of “backsliding democracies” in a global report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an organization based in Sweden.

“The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale,” according to the International IDEA’s "Global State of Democracy Report 2021," released Monday.

I have reservations about the “bastion of global democracy” part given America’s history, but point taken: The U.S. is becoming an increasingly antidemocratic country due to conservative attacks on free and fair elections. Specifically, the report pointed to former President Donald Trump’s refusal to accept his 2020 election loss as a “historic turning point” in American democracy. The report said Trump’s actions were a sign of America’s “democratic backsliding,” a term for the severe erosion of democratic principles.

“Baseless allegations of electoral fraud and related disinformation undermined fundamental trust in the electoral process, which culminated in the storming of the U.S. Capitol building in January 2021,” the report said.

It also pointed to the GOP’s response — voter restriction efforts that disproportionately impact nonwhite people — as an indicator that the U.S. is experiencing ethnicity-based, antidemocratic inequality.

Photo Illustration: The US Capitol backslides towards darkness
Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

Trump’s baseless allegations have had spillover effects, as well, encouraging unfounded election conspiracy theories and antidemocratic crackdowns in several countries, including Brazil, Mexico, Myanmar and Peru, according to the International IDEA. Alexander Hudson, a co-author of the report, told French news outlet Agence France-Presse the U.S. saw a “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020,” when Trump used violent rhetoric in response to anti-racist activists protesting police brutality

And America’s antidemocratic turn is reverberating across the globe, according to the report.

“Since 2016, and for the fifth consecutive year, the number of countries moving towards authoritarianism is approximately three times as high as the number moving towards democracy,” the authors wrote.

About a quarter of the world’s population is living in a backsliding democracy, the report stated, including geopolitical powers like the U.S., Brazil and India. The organization said those three large countries falling into democratic decline is a particularly worrying sign for global democracy.

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