So you think the U.S. is the shining example of freedom throughout the world, the ‘home of the brave, land of the free’. Well, we may not be as free as you think. And if we stay on the path we have been following for the past three months, we may sink even lower on the Human Freedom Index, a ranking of the state of human freedom in the world based on a broad measure that encompasses personal, civil, and economic freedoms, co-published by the Cato Institute, the Fraser Institute, and the Liberales Institut at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom.
“There are currently 123 democracies in the world of all 192 countries. The most basic measure of democracy is electoral efficacy. If a nation has free and fair elections, coupled by competing parties with varied representative interests, it can be classified as a democracy.” – Borgen Magazine, 2013
By the above definition, we have already found a chink in the armour. The 2016 presidential election contained episodes of voter suppression, interference by another nation (Russia), and claims of voter fraud. Additionally, due to a flawed electoral college system, the candidate with fewer votes was awarded the office.
The U.S. actually ranked, at the end of 2016, #23rd in the index.
2016 Human Freedom Index and Sub-Indices
|Rank||Country||Personal Freedom||Economic Freedom||HUMAN FREEDOM INDEX|
|23||United States of America||8.79||7.75||8.27|
According to an article in a recent issue of Der Spiegel (29 April 2017), there are three main institutions requisite for a true democracy:
- An independent judiciary
- A critical press
- A healthy opposition
The United States has all of these … or does it? At the moment it does, but in the last 3 months, all three have been threatened to one extent or another.
Trump has repeatedly rebuked, criticized and even threatened judges who halted his ban on Muslim immigrants and other of his executive orders. The administration recently announced that it will not ask the American Bar Association (ABA) to evaluate candidates for federal judgeships before formally nominating them, as has been done under most past administrations. He has referred to judges as ‘political’. Even Trump’s own nominee for the Supreme Court was ashamed of Trump’s criticism of judges, calling it “demoralizing and disheartening”. I find it frightening that 51% of Trump’s supporters believe he should be able to override judicial rulings he doesn’t agree with. “When both the government and its people are united in their disdain for democratic institutions, it represents a clear danger.” – der Spiegel
Trump’s vitriol against the mainstream media knows no bounds. He has resorted to juvenile name-calling on an almost daily basis. His main nemesis seems to be the stalwart New York Times, in business since 1851, yet Trump refers to them as ‘failing’, ‘fake news’, ‘disgusting’, ‘dishonourable’, ‘a joke’, and worst of all, ‘the enemy of the people’. This has the effect of creating doubt in the mind of the citizens, who may then turn to non-credible news sources, the variety of which are never-ending, rather than following legitimate press for facts. Additionally, Trump has threatened numerous times to “tighten libel laws” and make it easier to sue the press, not only over errors in reporting, but simply because they were critical of the administration, particularly Trump himself. While this move is not expected to gain momentum and would, in fact, be unconstitutional, it is a threat nonetheless.
This may be the one area that Trump has not figured out how to curtail. The opposition, or resistance, is robust and healthy as of today, with recent marches for women’s rights, human rights, and environmental protections garnering crowds that far exceed that of Trump’s inauguration! Many who are appalled by the essence of Trump have become more politically aware and involved than ever before. This is encouraging, though I am certain Trump lies awake nights trying to figure ways to stop the momentum.
In 1787 the U.S. Constitution was ratified, defining and protecting our democratic institutions. However, the U.S. is not immune to abuse of power. The framers of the Constitution made certain assumptions, mainly that leaders and citizenry alike would act in the best interest of the nation as a whole, and would do so with at least a degree of intellect, maturity and compassion. For 230 years, the Constitution has served our democracy well. Can it survive the Trump era? I am not certain. Your thoughts?