The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The sorry state of American democracy

Bill Allen, of Winthrop, Mass., who served in the Army in Vietnam during 1971, was one of the volunteers planting American flags on Boston Common Wednesday.
Bill Allen, of Winthrop, Mass., who served in the Army in Vietnam during 1971, was one of the volunteers planting American flags on Boston Common Wednesday. (Josh Reynolds/AP)
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In his May 21 op-ed, “American democracy is in worse shape than you think,” Perry Bacon Jr. made a number of disturbing observations regarding threats to American democracy. However, as is often the case, these are seen as stemming largely from party politics and, to some extent, from inside-the-Beltway issues.

The antidemocratic trends that Mr. Bacon noted are enthusiastically supported by a large fraction of the electorate, which is exactly why they are happening. One could reasonably believe that politicians are simply reflecting the wishes and aims of those who elected them and that, failing to do so, they would not have been elected in the first place. Think about the fear of backlash from Trump supporters that prevents many elected Republicans from stepping out of line, regardless of what their true beliefs might be. One can demand that these politicians rise up, seize the moral high ground and lead their party down the path of righteousness, but first they have to be elected and then reelected.

Ironically, the dismantling of American democracy that Mr. Bacon rightfully fears, should it occur, will happen democratically. A fundamental weakness of democracy is that it is built on the tacit assumption that most people like it and want it to continue and, therefore, will act accordingly. This appears not to be universally true.

Vic BermudezSpringfield

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