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USRESIST NEWS Investigative Reports

Democracy At Risk

By Ron Israel

Democracies across the planet are imperiled by a variety of forces—the failure to address the needs of rural poor and lower-income populations, the growth in income inequality,  populist authoritarianism, changing demographics,  the rise of social media and fake news, and the disregard for science and the rule of law. Are modern day democracies capable of withstanding these forces? What needs to be done to increase the effectiveness of democratic forms of governance? We will explore these and related questions in this new Democracy At Investigative Report series written by USRESIST NEWS Managing Editor Ron C Israel.

 Part 1 Democracy Necessities

January 14, 2021

Democracy, derived from the Greek word demos, or people, is defined as government in which the supreme power is vested in a country’s citizens. In small communities democracy can be exercised directly by citizens; in large societies it is by the people through their elected representatives.

Democratic governments are designed to protect basic human and civil rights, such as the right to free speech, freedom of religious worship, freedom of expression,  and freedom to associate and protest. In large communities and countries people elect others to make and enforce laws that ensure that these rights and the safety of citizens are protected, and that citizens  have access to the basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, and work.

But democracy is fragile and depends on  social/political norms and institutional practices to keep it in place.  The following norm and practice guidelines can help t determine the effectiveness of a democracy. We will explore each of them in greater detail in subsequent episodes of this Report

# 1  A clearly defined and respected rule of law, i.e. a system of agreed upon laws and regulations that guide peoples’ behavior.

# 2  A means for holding elected officials accountable for their actions, for example by having them regularly run for re-election or by punishing them if they violate the rule of law.

# 3  A clearly defined set of citizens’ rights, and mechanisms (such as courts and police) that ensure those rights are protected.

# 4   The provision of equal opportunity for all citizens to have access to jobs, a fair minimum wage education, health care and other human rights.

# 5  An independent judicial system that ensures everyone access to a fair trial.

#6  A free, fair, and secure electoral system where all citizens have the right to vote on a regular basis, and where there are reasonable campaign finance limits.

#7  The separation between church and state that allows people to practice a religion of their own choosing.

# 8  Civilian  rule of the military.

# 9  The ability of  citizens to assemble,  peacefully protest, and express their opinions.

# 10 A free and independent press and media that is enabled to question and criticize the government.

# 11 . The regulation broadcast and Internet political advertising and hate speech.

# 12 Political parties with different perspectives and points of view on public policy.

# 13   Legislators who are have the ability to work together and, when needed, make compromises that put country over party.

# 14 Government ethics that help prevent and prosecute corruption

The United States has witnessed an erosion of the above norms and practices for the past quarter century, culminating with the Presidency of Donald Trump. Trump unearthed large holes in the ways that our democracy is supposed to work. Now that he is no longer President we have an opportunity to repair the damage that the Trump administration wrought. This series explores what is broken or near broken and how to fix-it.

Next: The Rule of Law

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