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THE AMERICAN STRUGGLE AGAINST POPULISM

The war in Ukraine has undeniably shown the democratic West how ruthless and destructive Putin and his authoritarian regime can be. Ukraine, a country increasingly turning towards western politics and becoming a reasonable candidate to join the European Union, is now directly facing a humanitarian crisis, invaded and destroyed. For Russia, the threat of an independent and democratic Ukraine was too big to ignore, as the wave of democracy has already spilled over to the Russian borders and citizens. The goal of Putin is clear: Crush the democratic spirit channeled, showing both the Russian people and the world the superiority of his regime as compared to the democratic ideal. Western democratic nations have come to realize that to save the face of democracy, they will have to confront Putin and his authoritarian ruling. Yet, the struggle against authoritarianism is also very much apparent on the western democratic front .


For the first time since 2004, we can find more authoritarian countries than democratic ones, which is worrying for those who wish to see a prospering democratic and free world. Especially the United States have been struck hard, shown for instance by the attack on the United States Capitol, the heart of American democracy, by Trump supporters and right winged activists in 2021. Specifically, right-winged and populist politicians have gained more and more influence in the United States on a national level, notably with Trump’s presidency. Furthermore, Trump has received severe backing for a second term from influential governors, such as Greg Abbot the governor of Texas, who condemned the Capital Hill riots but are now aligning with Trump and his team once again. Especially Texas is a crucial state for the Republican presidential candidates. Winning it would therefore pave the way for a potential second presidential run for Trump, something which has not been confirmed yet however seems more and more likely. These developments show that there is an alarming trend threatening the democratic foundation that the United States is built upon, which brings up several questions. How has this populist movement become so powerful? And what can be done to prevent the further surge of authoritarianism in the United States?


The United States has been in an increasing turmoil the past two decades caused by the steadily increasing income gap, deepening racism, and poor healthcare, demonstrating the inability of the government and American political system to create a fair and equitable society. The traditional identity of the United States of America has been lost and its recovery seems far away. From “rags to riches” to “the American melting pot”, these views and frameworks are outdated and not achievable in the current United States anymore, as the country has moved into a severely socially stratified dimension. Currently, the United States has the highest income inequality in the developed world, as in 2020 the top 5% of households earned 23% of total national income, while the bottom 20% only earned 3% of the nation’s income. The citizens of the United States are looking for a government that can guide them in solving these deeply-rooted, societal problems.


Nonetheless, the current political system with legislative discrepancies on a national and state level, as well as the frictions between the House of Representatives and Senate, has not been able to form a clear and constant voice, leading to a United States without unity. The rag rug of legislation instead has caused further cleavages, which can be observed by the recent shocking abortion bills signed in Florida and Texas, which completely contradict the developments in other states such as Washington and California and has left many progressive Americans speechless, further emphasizing the growing divide within the population. Moreover, the spread of fake news has intensified these issues, as many Americans were given false information, which has played an especially large role during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as during Trump’s presidency. Essentially, the distribution of false information has shown to be a core driver of Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016 and a valuable tool that was used throughout his term, especially over the platform of Twitter. Many Americans have since lost faith in a once trusted system of democracy and freedom and were looking for consistency in leadership and a strong powerful voice, which they hope to find in a populist leader, namely Donald Trump.


Since the Biden administration has taken office, barely winning the election in 2020, many American citizens have hoped to regain trust in the democratic system again, believing in an America for all and a strong democratic government that will tackle the issues the nation is facing decisively. So far, however, President Biden and his administration have yet to fulfil these expectations, which brings us to the core issue: the lack of American’s political system to create a fair and equitable society for every American. The American two-party system seems outdated, lacking diversity in both the Senate and House of Representatives, as one can only choose between Republican or Democratic, two in many points drastically opposing positions. While one party is trying to create new legislation or pass a new bill, the other party is trying to oppose this vehemently, thereby hampering legislative progress. Examples of this phenomenon are the DREAM Act during Obama’s term or the Disclose Act in 2012, where both bills passed the House of Representatives, however were blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Furthermore, the strong influence of lobbyists on national matters has a prominent impact on American domestic and foreign policy, causing even more discrepancies and unalignments within the political system. Voices have become louder, proposing to introduce a multi-party system, so that citizens have a greater array of options while simultaneously creating a more dynamic system with more changes and different covenants. Such a system could potentially revive America’s political system, representing the population better and serving the needs of individual communities more effectively. Nevertheless, such a change would need significant time and reforms, but might ultimately be necessary to steer America back to a strong democracy.


A populist government and leader, however, is never the solution, which the recent developments in Ukraine have clearly shown. The world cannot afford to lose another global superpower to authoritarianism, and the United States is needed as a stable and reliable economic and political partner, to secure our global community. The United States of America is a democratic country and should always stay democratic, where each citizen has the free choice to vote and shape their future. Put in Lincoln’s words “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people”.

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