Charles Edel

It is common today to speak of a crisis of democracy, but such language underrates the challenge at hand. American democracy faces not one, but three distinct and connected crises. There is an ongoing assault on democratic norms and values, which has led to the coarsening of the U.S. social fabric and the erosion of unspoken, but vitally important, norms that provide the guardrails of self-government. There is a sense of displacement, dislocation, and despair among large numbers of Americans who feel that the democratic system has grown increasingly unresponsive to their needs and that government is less willing to advocate for their interests. Finally, there is an onslaught by authoritarian powers in Beijing and Moscow, which are using new forms of technology to reach into democratic societies, exacerbate internal tensions, and carve out illiberal spheres of influences.
Failing to see that these crises are connected diminishes Americans’ ability to understand the full scope of the challenge. Alternatively, concentrating on only the part of the challenge most affecting their own interests gives them at best a partial understanding of what is occurring and hampers our ability to address these connected challenges. To begin to tackle these challenges requires first a sufficiently broad, and accurate, diagnosis of what exactly is afflicting, and what is attacking, democracy.

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