For the past 10 years, The Economist has tracked the strength of democracy in 167 countries across the globe. Now, for the second consecutive year, the United States has failed to meet the standard of “full democracy” as measured by the publication’s metrics.

In his Washington Post column from Feb. 22, Fareed Zakaria says America’s slide to a lesser ranking of “flawed democracy” is part of a worrying global trend.

“The American system is stronger than most, but it is not immune to these forces of democratic decay.” — Fareed Zakaria, Feb. 22 Washington Post column 

The Democracy Index ranks nations on 60 measures in categories ranging from electoral processes to civil liberties. In this year’s report, scores dropped for more than half of the world’s countries.

Zakaria writes, “The nature of this recession is perhaps best seen by looking at the state of the free press worldwide.” He offers numerous examples of the erosion of press freedoms in countries with democratically-elected leaders such as Kenya, Turkey, and Poland.

He then adds, “Even in long-established democracies such as Israel and India, we are witnessing systematic efforts to shrink the space and power of independent media that is critical of the government.”

In the United States specifically, Zakaria says President Trump has done damage with his rhetoric and his policies. “Besides denigrating critical media outlets and lauding friendly ones, he has threatened to strengthen libel laws, strip network licenses and tax the owner of a particular newspaper.”

While many believe the traditions and institutions of the United States will ultimately prevail against attacks against democratic norms, Zakaria warns against dismissing the risks.

“The American system is stronger than most, but it is not immune to these forces of democratic decay.”

Click here for Zakaria’s full article, Democracy is decaying worldwide. America isn’t immune.

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