The triple threat to democracy in 2024
2024 may well be the most difficult year for American democracy in our lifetimes. One of our major political parties is consolidating around a candidate who launched a violent coup attempt to overthrow the last election. While seeking to rewrite the story of that insurrection and evade any accountability for it, that faction is planning a campaign of retribution and dismantling of checks and balances if it returns to power. Our political parties are ever more calcified, with voters mobilized more by fear of or anger toward the opposing party (affective polarization) than enthusiasm for a candidate or vision. All the while, the American public is losing confidence in our institutions — and in the effectiveness of U.S. democracy.
In the face of these challenges, the fate of our democracy hinges on the ability to hold together a broad, pro-democracy coalition — the roughly 60-plus percent of the country that believes strongly in democracy and is willing to vote to protect it.
If such a coalition stays unified, engaged, and committed to putting the overall health of our democracy above deeply held ideological views, our democracy will likely endure. And not only that, but we will begin to see the grass-shoots of a more vibrant, representative, and inclusive democracy. But if the coalition collapses, we may see a quick crackdown on the rule of law and freedoms many of us have long taken for granted.
Part of this task is simply electoral. The preservation of democracy in the United States requires a strong and unified ballot box coalition, where Democrats, Republicans and Independents — progressives, moderates, and conservatives — join together to ensure the defeat of autocratic candidates. But beyond that, three deeper questions will likely determine whether the autocratic faction succeeds or is thwarted this year, regardless of how the voters vote. Will the election be free and fair? Will the rule of law survive various assaults? And will we begin to escape our democracy doom loop?
Alongside the election itself, these are the key uncertainties in an uncertain year. And every American — regardless of ideology, party, profession, or background — has a stake in the answers.