Strengthening US Democracy
As the world’s most influential democracy, the United States has an essential part to play in the global struggle for liberty.
Freedom House’s history is inextricably linked with that of the United States during the period leading up to and immediately following the Second World War.
In 1941, at a time when isolationism and neutrality were the safest political positions, Freedom House established itself as a proponent of direct American involvement in the fight against fascism in Europe.
This was a risky bet even in the weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor. But the leaders of Freedom House—including recent Republican presidential contender Wendell Willkie and Democratic first lady Eleanor Roosevelt—argued passionately that Hitler and the Nazis posed a grave threat to America’s security and values. And the US commitment to those values ultimately proved to be a bulwark against authoritarian expansion worldwide.
After the war, Freedom House recognized that American engagement would remain crucial in the effort to make democracy the prevailing form of government rather than a rare exception. We supported the creation of US-backed programs and institutions dedicated to the promotion of peace, human rights, and cooperation between nations, including the Marshall Plan, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
But our leaders knew that, to expand democracy globally, we must also strengthen it at home. Freedom House’s founding charter compelled us to “promote the concrete application of the principles of freedom and democracy in the everyday affairs of the United States, governmental and otherwise, so that…this country can be an example of democracy at its best.”
Much has changed in the world since 1941, but much remains the same, including the need for a strong American democracy to serve as a defender and supporter of democratic freedoms and human rights around the globe. Freedom House was founded with that goal, and its mission is still urgently relevant today.
We publish annual and special reports that analyze and quantify the health of American democracy, and offer policy recommendations on how the public and private sectors can help to protect and strengthen US democratic institutions. We are not alone in this effort. Freedom House works with elected officials, government agencies, civic organizations, media groups, business leaders, academics, and others—regardless of party affiliation—to advance our shared interest in a robustly democratic United States that upholds the principles of human liberty abroad. This tradition of cross-party cooperation, established by inaugural cochairs Willkie and Roosevelt, continues even in the present era of political polarization.
The State of US Democracy
Rising political polarization and extremism, partisan pressure on the electoral process, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence have contributed to the erosion of democratic institutions in the United States in recent years.
Reversing Democracy’s Decline in the United States
To reignite the promise of US democracy and safeguard their freedoms and long-term interests, Americans must rise above partisan divisions, renew their shared commitment to fundamental democratic principles, and bolster rules and structures that maximize the common good.
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