The time to act is now, before American democracy disappears

The title of this post comes from a 2022 paper by Richard Hasen on Identifying and Minimizing the Risk of Election Subversion and Stolen Elections in the Contemporary United States, Harvard Law Review Forum. This post is a call to action for those in the system dynamics community who are concerned about the wave of authoritarianism sweeping across the world, and realize the negative effect that can have on solving the environmental sustainability problem, as well as general quality of life.

Democracy is in crisis, as seen by the rise of authoritarians in China, Russia, the United States, India, Turkey, Israel, Brazil, and more. Since authoritarian leaders put their own interests first, the democratic backslide has severe implications for common good problems like climate change, as demonstrated, for example, by President Donald Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate change mitigation. Authoritarians also tend to provoke military conflict, as seen for example by Russia and China’s recent actions, as well as those by past authoritarians like Hitler. Consequences like these arguably make the democratic backsliding problem the world’s most important current political problem.

The backslide from democracy to authoritarianism is especially acute in the United States. Hasen’s paper opens by saying:

The United States faces a serious risk that the 2024 presidential election, and other future U.S. elections, will not be conducted fairly, and that the candidates taking office will not reflect the free choices made by eligible voters under previously announced election rules.

Hasen lays out in stark detail how a massive election subversion attack is underway, by use of voter suppression, voting fraud, suppressive election administration, violent acts, and even overturning of undesired election results. At the end of the Introduction, he concludes that:

Preserving and protecting American democracy from the risk of election subversion should be at the top of everyone’s agenda. The time to act is now, before American democracy disappears.

Robert Kagan, in a September 23, 2021 editorial in the Washington Post titled Our constitutional crisis is already here, opens with this sober assessment:

The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves.

This raises the obvious question: Is anyone attempting to analyze and model this problem? Is anyone aware of any attempts in this direction? Does anyone have any ideas on how to analyze this incredibly difficult problem?

For our part, we are close to submission of a paper that attempts to analyze the problem using a mixed methods approach of root cause analysis and system dynamics. This paper may serve to illustrate that, despite the depressing nature of the times we live in, there is a viable analytical path forward. Feedback on the paper is welcome. To save time on grasping what the paper has to offer, please read the cover letter first.

Most sincerely,

Jack Harich and Montserrat Koloffon Rosas, coauthors