The Decline in Global Democratic Values


The last decade of global politics has enabled a rise of ideological extremism. The United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Argentina, and Turkey, are seeing such effects, to name a few. 

In the United States, the 2016 presidential election was won by Donald Trump. President Trump ran for office with a campaign  that targeted social divisions and aimed to create an us-versus-them mentality. He pinpointed immigration and issues related to social identities, making many voters in the US likely to consider them as factors to their vote.

His time in office marked the failure of an executive to unify the public and the growth of polarization and distrust among voters of opposing parties. Such polarization was not only seen among the public but also in government: “Even before he took office, Trump divided Republicans and Democrats more than any incoming chief executive in the prior three decades” (Pew Research). 

During his time in office, Trump discredited scientists, medical professionals, and educational institutions. Pew Research found that, “between 2015 and 2017, the share of Republicans who said colleges and universities were having a negative effect on the way things were going in the U.S. rose from 37% to 58%.” 

Four years later, in the 2020 election, Joe Biden won the votes over incumbent President Trump. Throughout this election Trump consistently claimed that the only manner in which Biden could win is if the “election [was] rigged.” The same night of the election he called for the votes to stop. When news outlets confirmed Biden’s presidential win, Trump Tweeted “I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!”. 

In that election, 74 million voters still opted for Donald Trump. When 74 million people vote for a candidate who has actively attempted to dismantle pillars of democracy, the system can’t be categorized as stable anymore.  

Marking a drastic loss to the US’ democracy was the attack on Congress on January 6, 2021, during which Congress was certifying President Biden’s electoral win. With relation to this insurrection on the Capitol, former President Trump was indicted on four charges: (1) Conspiracy to defraud the United States, (2) Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, (3) Obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceeding, and (4) Conspiracy against rights. 

Donald Trump became the first US President to hold criminal charges – 91 of them, to be more specific. And yet, he currently leads in the polls among all the 2024 Republican presidential candidate campaigns. 

On January 8, 2023 in Brazil, supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed government buildings in protest of current Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s win in their election. It can be argued that this was a copycat attempt of the January 6 insurrection in the US. The ability to copy such a thing is dangerous in and of itself. Not to mention, it exemplifies that if the US’ democracy begins to fail, the influence of such failure could spread unintentionally beyond its borders. 

The rejection of democratic election results poses a growing threat to the core of liberal democracies. At the center of the vote is its universality and the ideal of free and fair elections, both of which these countries have complied to with a credible standard. According to Freedom House, “Dramatic declines in political rights and civil liberties during 2022 were driven by direct assaults on democratic institutions, whether by foreign military forces or incumbent officials in positions of trust,” for example, Donald Trump.  

In 2022, the elections for the President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies resulted in Giorgia Meloni becoming the country’s first female Prime Minister (PM). Meloni ran on a far right campaign, and her government marks the most far-right Italian government since the Second World War. Prime Minister Meloni is anti-abortion, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigration and pro-secure borders.

The danger in these elections can vary in terms of the actual effect which politicians may have on the law and on altering democratic institutions. For example, the effect of the Netherlands electing Greer Wilders will most likely not have the same effect as Argentina electing Javier Milei. 

Wilders ran an extremely conservative campaign, circling issues such as immigration and pushing anti-Islamic rhetoric. But he also targeted the biggest problems that the Dutch are facing, including a housing crisis and tightened labor market. Unexpectedly, his economic policy is more liberal than that of the preceding prime minister, Mark Rutte. 

Dutch and Surinamese BBA student Cezare Robles said, “His [Wilder’s] policies are much more left economically. His right policies come much more from things like religion, immigration – kind of a Trump with a ‘Make the Netherlands Great Again’. He’s dropped a Netherlands EU exit, but I think he’s smart enough of a guy to know that that would be disastrous.” Wilders’ electoral success may be accredited to him dropping “the bomb on people’s biggest frustrations,” Robles said.

While this is the kind of rhetoric that Wilders ran on, it is not plausible for him to push such an agenda on his own terms. Wilders received the most votes out of all other candidates in the 2023 election but not enough votes for him to form a government; collaboration with various parties is required for him to be able to form one. “I don’t think it will be as bad as everyone thinks it is, because the way the Dutch political system works, to have a majority you have to tend to work together with at least three parties,” Robles said. Resultantly, “he’s backing down off these really radical ideas, and I do really think that he is going into this with the mindset that he wants to be a PM for the country, not just for what he stands for. But, of course, take that with a grain of salt,” Robles added. 

Meanwhile, in Argentina the risks are different. The recent Argentine election resulted in secondary elections between Javier Milei and Sergio Massa. Generally, Massa is associated with Kirchnerism, a strand of Peronism. Argentinian LLBBIR student Zoe Mesch said, “The Peronists – who Massa is associated with – are the people who have been in power for decades in my country… The Peronists are the ones who ruined the country; my country is in the situation that it is in due to them.” 

Hence, the 2023 election in Argentina was a choice between those who have always been in power, Massa, and a radical right, Milei. The situation essentially cornered voters into a very difficult choice. With the combination of voters increasingly leaning toward radicalism around the world and Argentinians being unconvinced of reelecting a Peronist, Milei was seen as the more favorable. “There are a lot of young people who said they were going to vote for Milei, in order to keep the Peronists from winning,” Mesch said.

Still the danger for Argentina comes with the unknown outcome of Milei’s time in office. “My perspective is that even though [Peronists] are very corrupt, with them in power we know what our country will look like: the dollar will continue progressively devaluing, everything will continue to go as badly as it already is going,” Mesch said. “With someone like Milei in power, we have no way of knowing what will happen to our country,” she continued. 

But, the threat which comes with far right political beliefs becoming increasingly popular is not limited only to the effect of the above mentioned politicians sitting in power. A prevalent risk is the plain fact that voters are inclined towards fascist initiatives again: the world has seen how the far right plays out in government, and the dooming effects of facism on the world. 

“A lot of people voted for Milei also because they wanted to try something completely new, to see if it could help the situation… But it’s very dangerous to not think about the fact that history repeats itself. It’s a pattern… People vote like this because they don’t know everything we have to lose,” Mesch said. 

In times of doubt and despair citizens seek to break the cycle they are stuck in, looking for a way out of such stressors. However, depending on the context, such impulsive voting tendencies can lead to a break in the fabric of global democracy instead.

Featured image: Top left: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters. Top right: Samuel Corum/Getty Images. Bottom left: Robin Utrecht/Getty Images. Bottom right: Evaristo Sa/Getty Images. 

Eloise Dayrat
Eloise Dayrat
I am a first year LLBBIR student. I am Colombian and French, but grew up in the US. I am also lactose intolerant, but my breakfast is still yogurt every morning. Sometimes I order my coffee with oat milk in it to compensate. I love music and spend the entirety of my excessively long metro ride to IE discovering artists. I love to run – that is when I don’t have class at 8am. And, I like to write, particularly about politics, history, and social movements and relations.

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