Is democracy on the ballot? It’s not that simple

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For some time, President Joe Biden has been saying that “democracy is on the ballot” in the 2024 presidential election. Many have echoed Biden, stating that the choice between Biden and Donald Trump is an existential one for U.S. democracy.

But because I’m a journalist and have been taught that if your mother says she loves you, check it out, I wanted to know whether this often-repeated phrase is really true. Is the future of democracy in America at stake in the upcoming election?

Scholars Dayna Cunningham and Peter Levine tackled that question for us. The two lead nonpartisan efforts to educate college students and others about their roles in democracy at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life. So democracy is at the center of their professional lives.

And their answer to my question? That the answer is more complicated than the question.

“We believe there are potential threats to U.S. democracy posed by the choices voters make in this election,” they write. “But the benefits of American democracy have for centuries been unequally available, and any discussion of the current threats needs to happen against that background.”

Cunningham and Levine range through a variety of sources to paint what they call a “complex picture” of threats to democracy. That simple question I asked of them? I knew there was no simple answer.

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Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Democracy

Democracy in the U.S. has historically not been available to all. Panacea Doll/iStock / Getty Images Plus

US democracy’s unaddressed flaws undermine Biden’s stand as democracy’s defender − but Trump keeps favoring political violence

Dayna Cunningham, Tufts University; Peter Levine, Tufts University

There are potential threats to US democracy posed by the choices voters make in this presidential election. But the benefits of American democracy have for centuries been unequally available.

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