There is a lot of fear and concern in both the U.S. and the rest of the world over what the presidency of Donald Trump means for individual rights and freedoms. Now a new report says that those fears may be justified.
On Tuesday, Freedom House released their annual "Freedom In the World" report. In the new report the "freedom score" of the United States has declined, and the authors are clear about the reason: the election of Donald J. Trump.
The report dedicates an entire section of the introduction to the U.S. election, and notes the authors' concern about the behavior of the man who now occupies the Oval Office.
The success of Donald Trump, an outsider candidate who challenged the mainstream forces of both major parties, demonstrated the continued openness and dynamism of the American system. It also demonstrated that the United States is not immune to the kind of populist appeals that have resonated across the Atlantic in recent years. The campaign featured a series of disturbing events, stemming mainly from Trump’s own remarks and the actions of his supporters, and punctuated by Trump’s insistence, without evidence and even after he won, that the election results were marred by massive fraud.
Freedom House tweeted this to accompany the release of their report:
While a score of 89 is certainly good compared to some nations, it lags behind the scores of many other western democracies.
In the 2017 report, the U.S. lost ground in the category of "political pluralism and participation" due to Trump's campaign rhetoric.
The 2016 elections stood out for the unusually divisive rhetoric of the Republican presidential nominee. Trump made statements that were widely seen as offensive to Latinos, Muslims, people with disabilities, and women, among others. His ability to do so without suffering significant political repercussions raised fears that these groups’ interests would not be represented in the new administration.
That statement isn't just an indictment of Trump, but of his supporters as well. The authors are concerned not just about what Trump said, but about the fact that there was no significant blowback about any of it.
The Freedom House report also has harsh words about Trump in the section on civil liberties.
In October, the Committee to Protect Journalists declared Trump a threat to media freedom, citing his verbal attacks on individual reporters, his campaign’s denial of credentials to critical outlets, and his call to expand the scope of U.S. libel laws. Other freedom of expression groups issued similar statements of concern about the incoming administration.
Unfortunately, the U.S. isn't the only country experiencing a decline in freedom due to the resurgence of right-wing populism. Several European countries, including Denmark and France, have also seen their scores drop since 2016.
How did Russia, the country run by Vladimir Putin, hero to many American conservatives and buddy to Trump, fare in the report? Freedom House rates Putin's Russia as "not free," with significant issues in the areas of political rights and civil liberties. Russia also made the Freedom House list of countries with the greatest 10-year declines in their freedom scores.
It's ironic that Republicans seem to think their party invented freedom, yet the arrival of a GOP president has caused a drop, albeit slight, in our nation's freedom score. It's also ironic that for all the blathering the right does about our great American freedoms we are surpassed in freedom by most of the countries that at one time looked to us as an example -- Ronald Reagan's "shining city on a hill."
Keep in mind that this report was authored before what has come out of the Trump White House over the past week. In terms of freedom, we have lost a little ground, and with Trump running the show, America certainly won't look any better in the near future.