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American democracy is on life support – Crikey

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Many countries usurped by authoritarian rule were saved only with US help. But to whom could America turn for assistance?

Nov 11, 2021
Abraham Lincoln spoke just 271 words in his Gettysburg Address. And yet his final stanza immortalised not only the purpose of the bloody struggle between north and south, but the essence of democracy: “That government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
The American experiment was still radical in 1863. Having won the right to self-determination mere decades before, and drafted the first codified constitution to cement it, the United States had shown the world a new possibility. The rule of autocrats, intact for millennia, began to crumble.
It’s easy to forget that democracy is an aberration in human history. Through the ages most people have lived under the authority of others. Billions still do. But once America broke the mould, people everywhere took note. In the past 245 years, nation after nation has followed its example. It’s no coincidence that this epoch has produced the greatest surge in human prosperity and longevity ever known.
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Keir Semmens
North America Correspondent
Keir Semmens is an Australian writer living in Austin, Texas. After graduating from Georgetown University in Washington, DC, with double Masters degrees in foreign service and business, he worked in corporate finance on Wall Street and then in Sydney. He is currently writing a book on American government.
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