This past week the European Commission began asking its countries to begin reducing its use of natural gas by 15% until next spring. Europeans face many challenges in their energy supply as they continue to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. Already consumers and companies face rising prices for energy, however they may soon face dwindling supplies as well. Meanwhile, Americans continue to face higher prices for gasoline among other forms of inflation. Nonetheless, gas remains the most visible form of inflation, because it changes daily and many Americans pay close attention to its fluctuations.
Citizens of Western democracies will likely continue to face strong economic headwinds from inflation and possibly even recession. Many will prefer economic stability over support for freedom especially when the threat feels so distant. Others want to protect freedom, but will find it difficult when it affects their livelihood. This is the landscape for democracy’s most severe challenge in at least a generation. Russia’s actions threaten democracies around the world. The war tests the resolve of democratic citizens. Will people sacrifice their comfort for political freedom? Can people work together to overcome strains placed on their societies from brutal dictators?
Democracy faces many threats from within and without. Putin is the most obvious villain, because he has a face and his actions are the most obvious. But the United States has not overcome its own demons. Republicans continue to make changes to election law and its enforcement. It’s possible the United States will devolve into something closer to competitive authoritarianism unless both parties take democracy seriously. Still, the strongest defense against autocracy comes from citizens. We cannot allow the temptation of comfort to weaken our commitment to political freedom. Because if we do, the threats will not go away. Instead, they will become relentless.