The outcome of the US midterm elections is widely interpreted by many as positive for the stability and prospects of American democracy. However, the fact that the feared Republican tsunami turned out to be little more than a ripple does not mean that the US is heading for calmer waters.
While “Trumpism” has taken a hit in the meantime, the movement is by no means wiped out. American democracy remains fragile, as evidenced by the undermining of trust in the electoral process, the media, the courts and the political system.
A UKTN national voter exit poll shows that 93 percent of Republican voters still believe Biden was not elected fairly and legitimately, and 95 percent are positive about Trump. Incidentally, only slightly more than 60 percent of all voters believe that Biden rightly won.
But dissatisfaction goes much further. According to the UKTN poll, 7 in 10 voters are “dissatisfied” or “angry” and two-thirds believe American democracy is “somewhat” or “very” in danger. A Gallup survey conducted this year shows that institutions inspire little confidence: Only 25 percent of respondents have moderate to high confidence in the Supreme Court; for newspapers it is 16 percent; for large corporations, 14 percent and Congress scores a terrible 7 percent. These are all historically low scores.
Professors of government and political science Steven Levitsky and Lucan A. Way wrote 20 years ago about the rise of what they call competitive authoritarianism. They note that formal, democratic institutions matter in states where such governance takes place, and are viewed as fundamental means of gaining and exercising political authority. However, those in power violate the rules and institutions in such a way that they essentially no longer meet the prevailing minimum standards of democracy. Examples of countries that can be classified under this heading are Russia, Venezuela and Turkey. In 2020, Levitsky and Way wrote, “Competitive authoritarianism is not only thriving, it is slowly moving west. No democracy is self-evident.”
Over the years, the guardrails that keep American democracy in check have begun to erode and show holes, as evidenced by endless legal proceedings to challenge election results, erode trust in institutions, and, of course, the storming of the Capitol. and the lukewarm response from some Republicans. Organizations such as Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit and the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance that measure the democratic content of states are awarding fewer and fewer points to the US.
Despite the fact that the US is sliding down the democratization list, much of the country still sees itself as an unparalleled democracy, where the myths of American exceptionalism continue to dominate and the citizens are eager to present the nation as the only one who can really spread democracy and democracy. freedom around the world. Given domestic political developments, the US may not be on track to become an autocracy, but its chronic political instability and unpredictability are threatening.
America has long been unstable in the eyes of many, and the model that the US never tires of predicting for the rest of the world is now also coming under pressure. The Western/American model consists of two pillars: economic freedom and democracy. Despite a fair amount of hypocrisy and error, the US was able to show the world for decades how best to shape a society to succeed, using the belief of American exceptionalism and the “leading by example” approach. The perhaps naive expectation was that the whole world would automatically become a version of ‘Great America’.
The prestige of the American model has, however, been severely dented by, among other things, the financial crisis of 2008-2009, gun violence in American society, large and growing inequality, the election of former president Donald Trump and the sometimes embarrassing state of affairs surrounding elections. . This gives alternative models like Singapore’s and China’s a chance to move forward, with Beijing boasting that it has lifted hundreds of millions of Chinese out of poverty within a few decades without embracing the US capitalist-democratic model.
Economist Branko Milanovic wrote in this regard: “If the most successful part of humanity is organized according to principles A, and our historical and cultural experience tells us that B is the best way to organize society, how long can this tension last ?”
The so-called exhausted majority has been very vocal during the midterm elections, which has saved the US from a free fall for the time being. However, as mentioned, the guardrails are certainly not in order. In response to the preliminary results and the great success of the Republicans in what was once Democratic Florida, President Biden has former spokeswoman tweeted this week: “So Dems have a Florida problem, but Republicans have a Trump problem. That seems more difficult to solve.” All of America still has a Trumpism problem and this political issue will mean that the outlook for the dollar, US stocks and bonds will have to be dampened one way or another for years to come.
Moreover, if America stumbles, the world economy will also falter. Indeed, pressured or not, the US is still a political, military and economic superpower. Instead of lending a helping hand from a position of strength and trying to share the throne together for better or for worse, an unstable and insecure America will rather fearfully try to prevent China from playing catch-up.
Andy Langenkamp is a senior political analyst at ECR Research, which conducts independent research on asset allocation, global financial markets, politics, and FX & interest rates.