A Reflection on the State of American Democracy

A Reflection on the State of American Democracy

By Samuel A. Worthington

Democracy rests on laws, on policies debated from different political perspectives, and on civilians who have the right to protest and speak truth to power. The right to peacefully protest is even more critical when the message is inconvenient or hard to hear. But that is not what happened this week.

This week, treasonous rioters attacked our Capitol and our constitutional process. It was not a surprise. Many Americans saw this coming as it was the direct result of President Trump’s deliberate lies to the American people and his selfish refusal to accept the results of a legitimate election.

This stance on President Trump and the insurrection is not about partisanship. InterAction is a non-partisan coalition with a long history of working with those seeking to make a better world. We believe strongly in the importance of U.S. global leadership and the power of the American example. We do not often weigh in on domestic matters. However, our coalition’s shared values and our work worldwide have allowed us to witness the fragility of democracy and how dangerous America’s current situation is.

And that is why, with an awareness of the gravity of the state of affairs, I believe President Trump cannot continue to serve even the few days he has left in office. The risks are too high.

President Trump should resign, or—as already called for by progressive, moderate, and conservative leaders, including former members of his cabinet—he should be removed from office using the tools of our democracy, including the 25th Amendment or impeachment. Those who were complicit by humoring and spreading the false allegations of election fraud, including Senators and Members of the House of Representatives, also bear the blame and must be held accountable.

While I believe these steps are necessary to address the immediate crisis, we have a long road ahead to repair the fissures that have been laid bare this year. And our community should be part of that healing process based on our democratic values. Our primary mission is to advance global development and relief as we actively deliver programs both overseas and to Americans here at home.

As members of U.S. civil society, I challenge us all to consider how we can take our global experience and knowledge and use it to reinforce America’s democracy. Just as we are combatting the current pandemic at home and around the world, we must also ensure that the values and goals we pursue globally are realized across America. Our NGO community is starting to have long-overdue conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The disparate security responses to protests for racial justice over the summer and this week’s insurrection reinforce this work’s urgency.

The scale of disinformation, polarization, and fraying social fabric that led to the violence we saw at the Capitol are other challenges we must confront. As experts on disinformation, governance, community engagement, and so many other areas, it is our duty as Americans to take lessons learned overseas and apply them at home. I do not know yet what our collective work might look like, but I hope that you, as NGO leaders, will continue to explore steps we might take over the coming weeks and months.

This week we are reminded that democracy is resilient because it vests power in institutions and civic participation, not rulers. In the past 72 hours, we have seen record voter turnout in Georgia, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle were not cowed away from finishing their work of certifying the electoral college results. Our community’s work ahead is hard, but it is underway, and we shall overcome.


Samuel A. Worthington
President & CEO InterAction

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