A respected human rights watchdog group raises alarm: President Donald Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy, perhaps the greatest challenge in modern history.
"Trump has attacked key institutions and traditions, including the separation of press freedom, a free press, an independent judiciary, impartial jurisdiction, the preservation of corruption and, above all, the legitimacy of elections," writes Freedom House President Mike Abramovitz, in a special section of this year's report, published Tuesday morning, "We can not assume that institutional bulwarks will retain their strength against abuse of power, or that our democracy will last forever." More rarely was the need to defend its rules and norms "Urgent."
Freedom House is a respected, nonpartisan watchdog group that produces an annual report on the state of democracy and human rights around the world, a report known as freedom in the world by policy makers and academia those who deal with democracy, often cited. It's a serious endeavor by serious analysts ̵
The report was paired with a full court press, including editors of the Washington Post and the New York Times, in which the Freedom House's emphasis was on concern over the threat to American democracy under Trump. In essence, an impartial human rights group is engaged in a fierce fight with the president.
This is an argument against the group's own interest. According to a 2016 audit report, around 85 percent of Freedom House's annual revenue comes from government grants. If a vengeful Trump or his associates were in the organization's congress, the implications for the end result could be severe.
The fact that Abramovitz is willing to take that risk shows how worried the group is about the survival of American democracy
Why Freedom House is worried – and you should also
Freedom's system House ranks countries on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being fully authoritarian and 100 fully democratic. Countries receive points based on freedom of choice, respect for fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, the quality of their independent press and other key liberal democratic rights.
The US has performed well despite all its problems Compared with the rest of the world – measured by these metrics – it has scored more than 90 points along with other advanced democracies. However, since 2009, the rating has slowly declined, for example due to the rise of hyper-party media, political polarization and state-level restrictions on voting.
Then in 2018 there was a noticeable drop from 89 to 86, which Abramowitz largely attributes to Trump's influence. The US is currently under Italy, a rather dysfunctional democracy with a governing coalition currently comprising the far-right Northern League.
"The total score of 86 still ranks the country firmly in the Free category of the report, [but] the current The US overall rating brings American democracy closer to combat partners such as Croatia than traditional counterparts such as Germany or the United Kingdom." he writes.
The reason for this, according to Abramowitz, is so worrying that Trump follows an established gamebook from countries like Hungary and Venezuela in which the elected leaders have undermined their country's democracy, Trump's rhetorical and political attacks coincidentally concentrated on the same institutions (19459031 – 19459032) that contribute to the protection of democracy
"His attacks on justice and the press Opposition to anti-corruption safeguards and its unfounded allegations of electoral fraud by the opposition are all s known tactics of foreign autocrats and populist demagogues who want to undermine control over their power, "writes Abramowitz.
These tactics need time to work, and they are most effective when public attention is limited. The following chart from the report compares the US under Trump with several other countries that have elected leaders with authoritarian leanings. It can be seen that America is still on the early side of the democrat's turning point:
Therefore, it is important, according to Abramowitz, now to trigger the alarm – before things become to worsen.
"The fact that the [US] system has proven durable so far is no guarantee that it will continue to be so," he writes. In other parts of the world, in places like Hungary, Venezuela or Turkey, Freedom House has watched democratic institutions gradually succumbing to the ongoing pressure of anti-democratic leadership, often after a staggering start. Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step towards real restrictions on freedom. "
I'd like to encourage you to read the full story to get a deeper sense of why the authors consider Trump to be singularly threatening – so the report details some of the factors that have characterized its attacks on the press as" Enemy of the people "until his systematic disregard of anti-corruption standards. But the short version reads: Freedom House is more than a little worried.
"Ours is an established and resilient democracy, and we can see the effect of its antibodies on the viruses that infect it," concludes Abramowitz. "However, the pressure on our system is as serious as any experienced in living memory."