These optimistic results should not blind, though. Both speakers warned against several clear risks and threats. American democracy, always heavily dependent on big normative narratives, is seeing an intense process of their contestation. While ‘the skeleton’ of institutions still holds up, the bone marrow is eroding’, stressed Cathryn Clüver Ashbrook, pointing at how the so-called election deniers and the media are infusing nihilism and relativism into public discourse, thus, undermining the credibility of the system.
The stability of the US electoral system is also shaken. The time leading to mid-terms will be remembered by active gerrymandering, filibuster, legal contestation of the electoral results, the inflow of ‘dark money’ (crypto money) into electoral campaigning - a new menu of challenges for the US electoral democracy.
Finally, these mid-terms took place in an atmosphere of unprecedented polarisation, culture wars, growing animosity among social groups and the fight between two visions of what it means to protect democracy: via sticking to the rules or, strangely enough, being prepared to defend imaginary ‘stolen elections’ with openly carried guns.
Abuse of institutional loopholes, contestation of ground norms and oftentimes deliberately orchestrated cultural and societal disconnection and polarization – the ‘challenges menu’ for the US democracy remains diverse.