Seventy-five years ago, Winston Churchill touted Western democracy as the "less worse" among all forms of government. Today, a race-to-the-bottom ambiance is becoming more explicit on mainstream media in the United States and Britain.
A few weeks ago, The New York Times published an op-ed titled "The ruination of Britain." The Financial Times later responded, mercilessly, with a catching sentence -- "the next presidential election could be the last democratic election in US history."
It seems both countries find relief in bashing the other as a diversion from their own grievance: given all the institutions and procedures both countries have been proud of, democracy has failed to deliver. Instead, the United States and Britain are undergoing an unbridled competition where winners are the underperformers.
In the United States, people have had to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea. Donald Trump was once considered an "interruption" to the democratic process and, when he is gone, all the damage to the political system -- erosion of federal institutions, distrust in the electoral system, radicalization and political violence -- was expected to go with him. However, democracy remains in deterioration even after Trump left the White House. From the Jan. 6 committee to the reversal of Roe v. Wade to the Mar-a-Lago search, a number of federal institutions, including the US Congress, the Supreme Court and the FBI, have all been caught in partisan rivalry. The midterm campaigns have been another who-is-worse game, where few serious policy debates happened, be it the economy, immigration or crimes and guns. During the first seven months of this year, the share of Americans thinking civil war likely within a decade increased from 34 percent to more than 40 percent.
In Britain, the disastrous ending of Liz Truss's 45-day tenure and change of leadership did not automatically bring better results to the country, as Britain continues to suffer from a derailing economy and declining level of living standards. Since Brexit, the Tories have gradually got addicted to elevating leaders with a fetish for anti-intellectualism and ill-thought-out actions, in an attempt to obtain public support with their vague slogans and promises of a fairy-tale-like return to Britain's good old days. Most of the time, they would outcompete policy and economic experts who have already foreseen their failure, as reflected in a comment by The Financial Times, "ideology drives out realism, faith routs nuance and political purists banish pragmatists."
This is why politicians, either in the United States or in Britain, fail to effectively respond to people's concerns: the electoral system fails to encourage them to do so anymore.
Statistics show that Britain is about to experience the worst fall in living standards since records began in 1948. As winter approaches, many face the grim choice between eating and heating.
For Americans, they are discouraged from expecting any major progress in their priority concerns in the next two years, as the Democrats have to struggle with a Republican-dominated House.
Politicians used to go out of their way to persuade people that their solutions were the best to offer. Today, they prefer to argue "at least other political parties are no better" and "at least other countries are doing worse."
People turn out to vote and choose from mediocre candidates one election after another, but until when would someone spot the elephant in the room and shout out: wait, is that what democracy really means, by definition?