Democracy under Threat

Often we take for granted that the United States is a democracy and that democracy is a form of government worth celebrating.


  • Are democracies worth protecting? If so, why?

  • What elements are essential to a healthy democracy?

  • Why do democracies sometimes fail?​


We will explore these questions through a video and discussion.

  • Warm Up

  • "Is There Something Wrong with Democracy?" Video and Study Guide​

Is there something wrong with democracy?

“We are being undermined by the ‘sad passions’: nationalism, anti-semitism, extremism,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in November, marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. 


He was reflecting on the parallels between then and now, as countries have turned inward and democratic institutions are in retreat.


2018 saw Hungary and Poland slink further toward authoritarianism. A far-right, military-dictatorship-loving firebrand, Jair Bolsonaro, won the presidency in Brazil. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won reelection and a sweeping set of new powers. Nicaragua is in the throes of the political crisis, with President Daniel Ortega intensifying his crackdown on civil society and the free press.


Next year(2019) will be another test for democratic countries, both established and emerging. Far-right parties will still work to destabilize Europe. Two major democracies — India and Nigeria — will face contentious, possibly course-changing elections. The United States, the so-called leader of the free world, may face a historic trial of the rule of law and its institutions in 2019, with a divided Congress and a president under increasing pressure from multiple investigations.


The list goes on — yet in the closing weeks of 2018, anti-government protests erupted in Hungary. In Belgrade, Serbia, thousands protested the attack on an opposition politician. Under pressure, Poland reversed a purge of the judiciary. Forces are pushing back against the rise of authoritarianism.


The question for 2019 is which side starts winning again, and where.


Source: Vox, The 7 biggest foreign news stories to watch in 2019, from Brexit to North Korea, December 24th, 2018



1. Do you agree with the sentiments of this article that democracy is under threat?


2. What do you know about how democracy is under attack in any of the countries mentioned?

3. Which countries do you think are the most democratic? The least democratic? Click here for an infographic.