Is Our Democracy “Healthy”?

The New York Times opens “Checking Democracy’s Pulse,” an article about a survey of 1,126 political scientists, with the following conclusion, “American democracy remains healthy,…”

That article reports that a majority of those scholars believes that the United States “mostly” or “fully” meets the following standards:

  • Elected branches respect judicial independence
  • The judiciary can effectively limit executive power
  • Government does not interfere with journalists or news organizations
  • Government protects individuals’ right to engage in unpopular speech or expression
  • No parties and candidates barred because of politics or ideology
  • Government officials are legally sanctioned for misconduct
  • Government prevents politically motivated violence or intimidation
  • Government agencies are not used to monitor, attack, or punish political opponents

A majority also believe that the United States “mostly” or “fully” does not meet the following standards:

  • Executive authority cannot expand beyond constitutional limits
  • The legislature can effectively limit executive power
  • No foreign influence on elections
  • In the elected branches, majorities act with restraint and reciprocity
  • Leaders acknowledge bureaucratic or scientific consensus on public policy
  • All votes have equal impact on election outcomes
  • Government officials do not use public office for private gain
  • Political competition occurs without criticism of opponents’ loyalty or patriotism

Assuming for the sake of argument, if those characteristics are accurate, was the Times correct to say  “American democracy remains healthy,…”?

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