Shortly after the Trump inauguration, I made the case that US politics displayed troubling echoes of the democratic backsliding other nations have suffered in the past decade. Where do we stand, one year into the Trump presidency? With robust economic growth, a very predictable blend of tax cuts and deregulation crowding the Washington agenda, and the #MeToo movement putting sexual harassment in the (long-overdue) spotlight, were the concerns I and others expressed overblown?
Did the plot against America unravel before it happened?
Not so fast. Democratic decline, as recent experience in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Kenya, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Russia shows, is an incremental process. Leaders such as Hugo Chávez and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have been elected on the back of populist platforms and then have set about dismantling institutional checks on their authority from courts, legislatures, and the civil services. The quality — and in cases such as Venezuela, the very possibility — of democratic competition has waned.
Venezuela aside, such democratic erosion is wholly consistent with strong economic growth. Indeed, robust growth may paradoxically have provided a buffer for anti-democratic populists to grasp political power without sparking widespread dissent.
In three ways, the US experience of the past year continues to track developments in polities where democracy has eroded. There is clear evidence that the quality of democratic government is set on a sharply downhill gradient; whether the changes can be reversed is a different matter.
Read more at Vox