The erosion of democratic liberties in the United States could trigger a worldwide regression of freedom, a new report warned.
And part of the blame belongs to President Donald Trump.
On Monday, Freedom House, a primarily government-funded NGO dedicated to advocating for democracy, released its annual study assessing global freedoms. For the 13th year in a row, the group found such freedoms were on the decline.
The organization’s president, Michael Abramowitz, wrote that while the issue preceded Trump’s presidency, “there remains little question that [he] exerts an influence on American politics that is straining our core values and testing the stability of our constitutional system.”
“No president in living memory has shown less respect for its tenets, norms and principles,” Abramowitz added. “Trump has assailed essential institutions and traditions, including the separation of powers, a free press, an independent judiciary, the impartial delivery of justice, safeguards against corruption and most disturbingly, the legitimacy of elections.”
Abramowitz also accused Congress of failing to check Trump’s power and resist his threats to democracy.
For 2019, the U.S. received a score of 86 out of 100 on the organization’s freedom scale, with 0 being the least free and 100 being the most. But that’s untraditionally low.
“The current overall U.S. score puts American democracy closer to struggling counterparts like Croatia than to traditional peers such as Germany or the United Kingdom,” Abramowitz said.
While America remains solidly in the “free” category, Abramowitz cautioned that there was no guarantee things would stay that way.
“Irresponsible rhetoric can be a first step toward real restrictions on freedom,” he said, pointing to oppressive regimes in Venezuela, Turkey and Hungary as examples.
Syria, Eritrea and North Korea ranked as the report’s least free countries. Saudi Arabia, which ranked 4th worst, has been linked to the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in one of its embassies. Despite CIA intel verifying this connection, Trump called Saudi Arabia a “great ally” and doubted its role in the murder.
Click here to read the full report (PDF).