Democratic Backsliding in the USA


Dan Nexon in Lawyers, Guns & Money:

In the United States, Political Science is conventionally divided into four major subfields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. These divisions lack strong intellectual justification. They are largely a matter of convention, historical accident, and training. Indeed, members of the latter three subfields sometimes like to snark that American Politics is just a glorified single-country study. Imagine if Political Science devoted as much time, money, and effort to studying, say, Thailand as an isolated case as it does the United States.

For scholars of Comparative Politics, 2016 has felt like something of a vindication. While many Americanists scramble to make sense of political developments in the United States, these developments seem ratherfamiliar to people used to looking at cross-national patterns of contentious politics, regime change, political parties, and even transnational ideological movements. Terms from comparative politics are making their way into the vernacular, including democratic backsliding and hybrid regimes.

In fact, when evaluated using comparative metrics, North Carolina is no longer a democracy. Andrew Reynolds:

In the just released EIP report, North Carolina’s overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone. If it were a nation state, North Carolina would rank right in the middle of the global league table – a deeply flawed, partly-free, democracy that is only slightly ahead of the failed democracies that constitute much of the developing world.

Indeed Carolina does so poorly on the measures of legal framework and voter registration, that on those indicators we rank alongside Iran and Venezuela. When it comes to the integrity of the voting district boundaries no country has ever received as low a score as the 7/100 North Carolina received. North Carolina is not only the worst state in the USA for unfair districting but the worst entity in the world ever analyzed by the Electoral Integrity Project.

And it gets worse:

That North Carolina can no longer call its elections democratic is shocking enough, but our democratic decline goes beyond what happens at election time. The most respected measures of democracy – Freedom House, POLITY and the Varieties of Democracy project all assess the degree to which the exercise of power depends on the will of the people: That is, governance is not arbitrary, it follows established rules and is based on popular legitimacy.

The extent to which North Carolina now breaches these principles means our state government can no longer be classified as a full democracy.

More here.