Is the U.S. Leaning Away From Democracy?
The United States of America has been the precedent for what it means to be a democratic country for centuries. Americans fought against the British monarchy because they were controlling their freedom, and went on to set up a system in which they could always be “free” from those in power. Many countries around the world followed in the United States’ footsteps. For example, the French Revolution fought for independence soon after the Americans won the Revolutionary War. Though America may have been the footprint for democracy around the world for over 200 years, that is now shifting.
The U.S. has recently been under fire for the way the current administration has been handling international affairs, national security and bipartisan issues. There has been criticism from the Freedom House in regards to how President Trump has not made any sort of commitment to foreign policies, specifically helping to regulate democracy and human rights around the world. He vetoed bipartisan efforts from Congress to limit arms sales to Saudi Arabia in 2019. This criteria is important because it translates to bipartisan rivalry that is becoming increasingly noticeable each day.
One of the most important procedures in our democracy is the impeachment process. Both Republicans and Democrats are meant to put aside their political interests and use their legislative authority to verify that those in power are following the Constitution and are truly serving the people. However, that was not what we saw in the most recent impeachment process. During the hearings, the administration ordered current and former officials to defy all congressional subpoenas for documents and testimony about the matter. This action threatened one of the most important components of American democracy because it did not allow the congressional branch to oversee the executive branch with fairness and integrity. The impeachment process is an important part of our democracy because it is one of the only ways that citizens can hold presidents and other senior officials accountable for any transgressions, and it is also a way to maintain balance within our democracy.
There has also been talk of banning platforms where Americans exercise their freedom of speech. The banning of certain social media apps such as TikTok and WeChat can be seen as an infringement of our rights. WeChat is more than a messaging app for Chinese Americans; WeChat can be used as an alternative for Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Instagram and several other apps. This app is more common among older generations of Chinese immigrants who use it to stay connected with their loved ones since there are limitations of social media in China. Additionally, since the pandemic has not allowed for frequent traveling back to China, WeChat has become even more essential for the Chinese American population. The reasoning behind President Trump's executive order to ban these apps is that he believes WeChat automatically captures vast swaths of information from its users. In his words, he believes that “this data collection threatens to allow the Chinese Communist Party access to Americans' personal and proprietary information.” This accusation that Trump has made infringes on several constitutional provisions, including the right to free speech, due process and equal protection against arbitrary discrimination. Luckily, Judge Laurel Beeler of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California has decided to suspend President Trump’s order due to these infringements. Though Judge Beeler has halted the ban and therefore invalidated the accusations against the tech company, it is interesting to witness something that is very similar to George Orwell’s novel 1984 take place in real life.
The most interesting part of writing this opinion piece is reflecting back to the beginning of President Trump’s term and quickly pinpointing certain orders that most certainly have infringed on our constitution. To say that we are not living in a democracy would be too harsh of a statement. However, to say that our legislative, judicial and executive branch are all working together coherently and cohesively for the well being of their constituents would also be an incorrect statement. It's important now more than ever to analyze, question and critically think about whether our legislators are truly helping the citizens and working for the betterment of the country or just for their political gain and ego.
By Sofia Gomez, Podcasting Director