Between Parody and Fact, US Democracy Comes Under Strain

Abdullah Ayasun
3 min readNov 6, 2020

Once the U.S. sent observing delegations to oversee a smooth electoral process in other countries. Now, it seems it requires the opposite (of sorts).

U.S. President Donald J. Trump delivers a State of Union address to the U.S. Congress.

A series of tweets documenting how African Union countries are worried about the prospect of post-electoral violence in the U.S. and the ongoing uncertainty over the vote count. As of today, the final result in swing states has yet to be clear while anxious sides wait in despair for the end of a protracted count that would seal the fate of the American democracy one way or the other. (Currently, Joe Biden has a lead in the Electoral College.)

The tweets belong to a parody account. But it’s content cannot be more pertinent to what we are witnessing at the moment: The unraveling of the trust and faith in the working of the U.S. electoral institutions. The entire world hold its breath as the weary eyes in other countries are appalled by Trump’s early premature victory, his outright refusal to concede a defeat if the count of mail-in votes gives the leading edge to his Democratic rival, Joe Biden, and his vow to bring results to Supreme Court newly packed by a conservative majority, thanks to the incumbent president. The U.S. presidential election, many observe, would be a dull nonevent at any other time. But these are not the normal times after going through the four-year of Trump presidency that upended every established norm and convention of presidential propriety.

What strikes me most is the unabashed presence of militants, who are armed to the teeth, around polling stations. The video showing them harassing Kamala Harris was mind-blowing. As I tried to learn the thinking of my fellow countrymen from Turkey, I was quite startled by people’s mockery of the U.S. elections. “The world turned upside down,” one quipped, in a video call with me. “Now, the U.S. became a country like Turkey.”

That is the punch line. Resigned to the state of Turkish political affairs as something forever trapped in a non-democratic zone, people were used to viewing the U.S. as a source of model and inspiration. But not anymore. The U.S. descent into a semi-democratic country in a report released by Freedom House in 2017, the setbacks in the norms of governance, once unthinkable only several years ago, and many other hazards singlehandedly generated by Trump’s governing style now serve as a cautionary tale for other countries and for people around the world. Even the U.S., now many scholars concede, is not immune against an attempt for a power grab at the expense of the established institutions, norms, and laws. The U.S. political system and institutions might survive the Trump effect. But not without a bruising. They were heavily hammered, battered, and brutally tested by one single man.

Abdullah Ayasun

New York-based journalist and writer. Columbia School of Journalism. 2023 White House Correspondents' Association Scholar. Twitter: @abyasun