A drift away from the elemental rules of democracy within the United States displays international “backsliding” tendencies, says UC Berkeley political scientist Susan D. Hyde. (Photo by Geoff Livingston through Flickr | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

More than two weeks have handed since Election Day within the United States, and although former Vice President Joe Biden emerged the winner after just a few days of uncertainty, the controversies over legitimacy proceed to impress fury amongst President Donald Trump and his allies.

Trump has refused to concede to Biden, a lot much less to congratulate him. His administration has refused to share briefings on the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide safety with the president-elect and has blocked the procedures required for a switch of energy.

Politikwissenschaftler Susan D. Hyde, a UC Berkeley skilled on democracy and “democratic backsliding,” views this battle with some alarm. American democratic establishments are resilient, she mentioned in a latest interview, however the query is: How a lot stress can they take earlier than they endure long-term injury?

Trump has examined democratic norms, and as he continues to contest the election outcomes, Hyde mentioned, the torrent of disinformation from the White House and the silence of most different Republican leaders is compounding the potential injury.

Hyde has travelled extensively for analysis on election remark, and she has labored with prime worldwide democracy-promotion organizations. Her article, “Democracy’s backsliding in the international environment,” was printed just lately within the journal Science.

[This interview has been edited for length and clarity.]

Berkeley News: As a scholar in democracy and democratic backsliding, how are you trying on the present post-election second within the United States?

UC Berkeley political scientist Susan D. Hyde lecturing to students

UC Berkeley Political Science Professor Susan D. Hyde (Photo by Tony Fiorini)

Susan D. Hyde: I’m seeing the present second as one which I hoped that we wouldn’t see within the United States, however that each nation with democratic establishments is considerably weak to. Democratic backsliding might be very refined. It’s akin to hollowing out the within of a tree: You don’t understand how far you may go earlier than you kill it.

We’re seeing tendencies in democratic backsliding in lots of nations around the globe, which I believe lots of people possibly don’t acknowledge. Poland and Hungary are examples from Europe. Venezuela was fairly democratic for a very long time, and then it grew to become a pacesetter in democratic backsliding. Turkey and India are additionally on the listing.

Regarding the strain and battle across the transition to a brand new president — is Trump merely sad that he misplaced? Or is there one thing deeper underway, during which the president and his allies are weighing their dedication to core democratic rules?

Many individuals, I do know, are very a lot centered on the worst-case state of affairs, during which he tries to remain in workplace past the deadline for his departure. It’s not possible to make certain what he’s pondering at this juncture. Yes, he has been a sore loser. It’s potential that he’s making an attempt to make use of this as a fundraising alternative. He’s clearly not making an attempt to control proper now.

I’m assured sufficient in U.S. establishments that I believe he must go away. But it’s regarding that different main Republicans haven’t come out in stronger assist of regular U.S. democratic processes. There are actual nationwide safety dangers and different issues that outcome from that.


Defending U.S. democracy shouldn’t be a partisan concern, and the truth that it has turn into one is itself an indication of democratic backsliding.”

– Susan D. Hyde


And the disinformation that he’s sending out on to his supporters about election fraud is damaging to U.S. election integrity and in all probability to the methods during which these voters will work together within the political system going ahead. So even when he’s simply being a sore loser, his actions are consequential. And that’s problematic.

The same query about Republican leaders: Are they simply making a routine political calculation, exhibiting loyalty to their candidate or their celebration? Or are they contemplating a deeper selection, whether or not to sacrifice democratic norms with a view to hold a maintain on energy?

They’re in some methods enjoying a harmful recreation. I’m not an Americanist, and I don’t examine American politics more often than not. But from what I can learn within the information and infer from what’s being leaked, lots of people are saying they don’t wish to be within the enterprise of confronting the president, that his supporters are in a position to mobilize towards Republicans who do confront him or who do stand as much as him in a approach that they simply don’t wish to cope with.

Die Lincoln-Projekt of us and Republikanische Wähler gegen Trump, are out there saying he must concede. It’s not that they’re the largest followers of Biden, however that they’re placing their nation above their celebration. And that kind of language is what we see in lots of nations that efficiently handle these threats to democratic establishments.

The means of Trump to lie efficiently to his supporters is basically pernicious as a result of we now have a complete bunch of voters residing in what seems to be a fact-free world. That is among the greatest issues that I’m anxious about in the long term, and it’s an issue we’re seeing in lots of different nations around the globe.

Is it proper to consider the United States as a rustic the place democracy is eroding?

Democratic establishments might be occupied by leaders with authoritarian impulses. These leaders might attempt to stretch democratic establishments into extra authoritarian territory. The analogy I’ve used with my coauthor, Elizabeth Saunders, is that democratic establishments are versatile, type of like a rubber band. If stretched too far, there’s some extent at which the rubber band will break. It’s additionally potential that stretching too typically into authoritarian territory will trigger lasting injury.

One of the virtues of democratic establishments is that they will bend with out breaking way more than authoritarian regimes can. But it’s laborious to see within the second. I’m anxious in regards to the lasting injury to U.S. democracy that’s being brought on proper now, and I believe it’s too optimistic to say that we’ll simply snap again to a extra democratic course of, to the place we have been.


The means of Trump to lie efficiently to his supporters is basically pernicious as a result of we now have a complete bunch of voters residing in what seems to be a fact-free world.”

– Susan D. Hyde


One different factor to consider is that U.S. democratic establishments had lots of well-documented points earlier than this election. For lots of people within the United States — they haven’t been residing in a really democratic system for a very long time. Confronting these points could lead on us to a spot, finally, that’s extra democratic than earlier than.

What are a few of the points that pre-date the Trump presidency?

Obviously, it was once that solely white males might vote. Even after Black individuals got that proper, the literacy exams to vote, the lynchings and different efforts to attempt to intimidate Black communities or Native American communities from taking part in politics — that historical past is definitely related to this dialog. The ways have modified, however the common sentiment has modified too little.

The extra modern efforts that contribute to democratic backsliding contain this effort to intervene within the judiciary, to pack the courts, a scarcity of respect by political actors for rule of legislation, and the assaults on the media. Some of the authorized however polarizing actions, together with gerrymandering of congressional districts, proceed to be problematic.

In the favored creativeness, democracy is all about authorities motion reflecting the need of the individuals. But it’s placing proper now that 77% of Trump’s supporters, and 32% of voters total, assume the election was not free and honest. Is this a sign of backsliding?

I’ve seen conflicting public opinion polling on questions like this. I’m a bit of curious how this may play out within the weeks to come back as these conducting these polls attempt to get a very dependable measure. It doesn’t assist that Trump continues to be tweeting his lies in regards to the high quality of the method — by all credible accounts to this point and the proof that has been made public, the allegations of election fraud are baseless.

Lots of people do appear to be taking a look at his administration and saying, ‘That’s effective.’ My hopeful aspect thinks that they really feel that as a result of they’re following celebration leaders — that’s the Republican Party’s place proper now. But public opinion might change if extra elected officers within the Republican Party put democracy and loyalty to their nation over loyalty to Trump.

Returning to my rubber band metaphor. The properties of democratic establishments and how versatile they are often with out lasting injury might have rather a lot to do with what the general public will tolerate.

Susan Hyde (front row, center) stands with a colleague, an interpreter and a security detail during travel to Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008 as part of a Democracy International election observation mission.

Susan D. Hyde traveled to Islamabad, Pakistan, in 2008 as a part of a Democracy International election remark mission. (Photo courtesy of Susan D. Hyde)

Are pro-democracy forces within the U.S. doing a very good job proper now? What do they have to be doing?

It’s laborious to know learn how to cease the pockets of disinformation, misinformation, and conspiracy theories. That’s one of the necessary questions for students of democracy to confront, as a result of this can be a basic risk to how democracy works. Until you may pierce that bubble of disinformation surrounding so many citizens proper now, pro-democracy leaders and establishments can hold speaking, however this a part of the world just isn’t going to concentrate to them.

Business leaders, together with social media firms, might do extra to defend democracy within the United States. Some political leaders are doing the suitable factor, like former President George W. Bush’s assertion after the election defending the integrity of the election. But Mitch McConnell has lots of energy proper now to do one thing greater than he’s doing to defend U.S. democracy and to stop additional injury.

Defending U.S. democracy shouldn’t be a partisan concern, and the truth that it has turn into one is itself an indication of democratic backsliding.

Do I believe sufficient is occurring? It’s laborious to know. But if the worst got here to move, it could be good if we didn’t must look again and say, ‘Oh, we could have done a little more.’