Freedom House’s director of research, Arch Puddington, recently spoke at the American Enterprise Institute about the erosion of freedom in the U.S., even before the current administration came to power. He mentioned voter-suppression laws, gerrymandering, and the immigration debate. His message is largely based on talking points from the progressive Left.
The health of American democracy is in rapid decline
- 1 The health of American democracy is in rapid decline
- 2 Authoritarian regimes are exploiting their systems to promote hatred, violence, and unbridled power
- 3 Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is a sign of a structural change in international relations
- 4 Estonia is rated a “free” country
- 5 China is rated a “not free” country
- 6 Nicaragua and Venezuela are countries to watch throughout 2018
In recent years, the United States has struggled with its reputation as a democracy in the world. Its image has fluctuated over time, depending on which president was in office, but the overall tone has remained negative. The country is now at a low point in many polls, and the future is far from certain.
The decline in trust in American democracy is hurting the United States’ legitimacy and authority abroad. It also hurts the United States’ ability to persuade other countries to join its policy. For instance, the Turkish parliament rejected U.S. troops in Iraq in 2003, and a Pew survey shows that only 12 percent of Turks are favorable toward the U.S. During the same time period, Germany refused to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and many of its voters did not support this decision. At that time, 25 percent of Germans were favorable to the U.S.
Increasing political interference in elections has undermined political participation and undermined the credibility of elected officials. Threats against elected officials and the harassment of incumbent election officials have damaged public confidence in US institutions. This harassment has led to unprecedented resignations of incumbent election officials, which further erodes public confidence in government. If the trend continues, there is a chance that radical partisans may replace experienced professionals and deteriorate confidence in the system.
There are several factors that contribute to the decline in freedom in the United States. First, a global hegemon is less likely to fight for democracy outside its borders. Second, an increasingly clout-friendly autocracy has helped to push authoritarian leaders to power.
Freedom House is an independent organization that promotes human rights and freedom in the world. The group released a report on the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the first day of the country’s official occupation. Though this news was a breaking development, the report did not change its title to reflect the illegal attack.
The threat of authoritarian regimes is increasing across the world. These regimes have become more adept at coopting democracy and promoting unbridled power. Their aggressive attempts to reshape the world’s institutions have paved the way for brazen power grabs and heavier repression. These efforts have also weakened democracies.
Freedom House’s annual report details the state of democracy worldwide. Over the past year, 60 countries declined and 25 improved. As a result, nearly 40 percent of the world’s population is living under authoritarian regimes.
In the Euro-Atlantic region, a backlash against whites has become common. The white working class has been deprived of basic amenities and benefits, including decent housing and schools. Meanwhile, the middle class has lost their pensions and futures. In response to this backlash, the white working class has begun a political revolt against supposed dark usurpers.
Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is a sign of a structural change in international relations
The escalation of conflict in Ukraine has been a symptom of a structural change in international relations between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. The Russian Federation has increasingly excluded minorities from politics, making it almost impossible for anyone to organize independently and advocate their interests in the political arena. Even those who profess support for Ukraine are putting themselves at risk.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a climax in a soaring conflict between the two countries, which escalated steeply from its beginnings in 2014. As part of this change, more autocracies are becoming bolder and more aggressive in their foreign policy, and this shift is affecting the norms and values of international relations.
The occupied Donbas region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is a prime example of this problem. The Russian government has confiscated the private businesses of these regions and seized their property. There are few independent media outlets in these regions. Instead, local media is controlled by the “official” DNR and LNR broadcasters, websites, and print media. As a result, reports about the armed conflict are based on separatist militia propaganda.
The Russian government has also taken the initiative to clamp down on opposition political organizations. Opposition politicians are regularly targeted with fabricated criminal cases and administrative harassment. This is intended to keep them from participating in the political process. In August 2020, the opposition politician, Alexei Navalny, was poisoned with a toxic nerve agent while investigating corruption in Siberia and campaigning in that region. He was subsequently evacuated to Germany for treatment. The Russian Supreme Court subsequently convicted him for a probation violation and sentenced him to prison.
Estonia is rated a “free” country
The US-based non-governmental organization, Freedom House, has rated Estonia as a “free” country. The index measures the level of civil liberties and democracy in a country on a scale of one to seven, with one being the most free and seven being the least free. According to the report, Estonia’s democratic institutions are generally strong, and political and civil liberties are widely respected. Nevertheless, there are still a number of issues that warrant attention, such as the fact that over 5% of the population are unable to vote in national elections. The report also highlights the fact that Russian-speaking people are legally barred from voting and are issued alien passports.
While Estonia’s constitution and laws provide broad protections against discrimination, societal discrimination continues to be an issue. Although the government and parliament have not yet ratified the Helsinki Accord, the Estonian government has introduced legislation that would make this a crime. In addition, the country’s Roma population faces discrimination in employment, as well as disparities in educational outcomes.
The Estonian government generally respects freedom of the press. However, recent attacks from political groups such as EKRE have raised concerns about self-censorship. For example, prominent political commentator Vilja Kiisler resigned from Postimees after her editor in chief told her to tone down her comments criticizing the EKRE. Vilja Kiisler also claimed that she had received threats of violence and was forced to censor her writing.
China is rated a “not free” country
The Chinese government has tightened controls on religion, free speech and online speech in recent years. The Communist Party also restricts the activities of religious groups and civil society associations. Despite these restrictions, China’s budding civil society has struggled to survive amid the crackdown. However, human rights movements continue to push for greater freedoms and greater access to uncensored information and media.
While the CCP is increasingly consolidating its power, it still does not allow meaningful political competition. Political dissidents and other activists who seek to create alternative parties are frequently repressed and jailed. The country is also highly censored on the internet, and a cybersecurity law was passed in June that restricts online communication. Human rights lawyers and bloggers have also been criminally prosecuted and arrested.
The Freedom House rating of China indicates that the country’s government is severely restricting the rights of its citizens. The report also says that the government’s censorship policies restrict free speech. According to the Freedom House, the Chinese government’s government has censored media and blocked access to major social media platforms.
The restrictions on political activity remain particularly tough, especially for ethnic and religious minorities. While nominal representatives of these groups have been included in state and party bodies, their role is largely symbolic. In addition, women are drastically underrepresented in government and CCP positions. This trend has deteriorated in recent years. There are currently no women on the PSC, the highest political body in China.
Nicaragua and Venezuela are countries to watch throughout 2018
The countries’ economic policies have increased the likelihood of corruption and black market activities. Public officials have also been accused of collusion with organized crime networks. Overregulation and price controls have also hurt property rights. In addition, government-owned enterprises have been plagued with allegations of mismanagement and corruption. While social freedoms are generally well-protected, violence against women and poor people is common. These conditions have exacerbated the region’s migration crisis.
Nicaragua’s government has failed to protect its indigenous population and has used registration laws to stifle civil society and opposition groups. As a result, human rights defenders have been subject to severe harassment and attacks, and leaders of civil society organizations have been suspended or fired. In addition, settlers continue to occupy Indigenous land and engage in violent crimes against Indigenous communities. Furthermore, the country’s government has enacted two laws designed to crush the opposition, the Foreign Agents Law, which requires Nicaraguans to register as foreign agents with the Interior Ministry, and a Special Cybercrimes Law, which criminalizes the dissemination of false and distorted information on the Internet.
In addition, the FSLN has significantly increased its majority in Nicaragua’s National Assembly, while the PLC won 13 seats. However, the government refuses to allow international observers to monitor the elections, and Montealegre was expelled from the PRI before the polls, damaging the PRI’s political power. Last year, elections in Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region and the South Atlantic Autonomous Region were held, with the FSLN winning the largest share of votes.
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