In Freedom House's 2018 world freedom map, 71 countries registered declines while only 35 saw gains: "emboldened autocrats, beleaguered democracies, and the United States' withdrawal from its leadership role" have created a crisis.
Among those slipping into "not free" status were Turkey and the Central African Republic, which each saw dramatic declines of more than 30 percent in the last year, according to Freedom House's criteria. Ukraine, Mali, Nigaragua and Honduras were among those countries slipping from freedom to "partial" freedom. In Europe, Hungary slipped 20 percent, to stand only 2 points within the range of free countries. Tunisia, though, the Arab world's only "free" country, clung to that status despite domestic strife.
Democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades in 2017 as its basic tenets—including guarantees of free and fair elections, the rights of minorities, freedom of the press, and the rule of law—came under attack around the world. … Perhaps worst of all, and most worrisome for the future, young people, who have little memory of the long struggles against fascism and communism, may be losing faith and interest in the democratic project. The very idea of democracy and its promotion has been tarnished among many, contributing to a dangerous apathy.
Most alarming, though, is America's drop to 86/100. Though still well within the range of free countries, it has slipped noticeably behind all those Northern European democracies lurking in the 90s. It's turning into a big crap Italy.
The president's behavior stems in part from a frustration with the country's democratic checks and balances, including the independent courts, a coequal legislative branch, the free press, and an active civil society. These institutions remained fairly resilient in 2017, but the administration's statements and actions could ultimately leave them weakened, with serious consequences for the health of U.S. democracy and America's role in the world.