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How the Presidential Election Affects Global Democracy

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Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) debates with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump during the third U.S. presidential debate at the Thomas & Mack Center on October 19, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The news that Republican Donald Trump has not decided whether he’ll accept the results of next month’s Presidential election may no longer be the lead headline in campaign coverage, but it is still having reverberations in this country and abroad.

People in other countries are watching this US election season closely, amid Trump’s accusations of poll and vote-rigging - none of which have been backed up with clear evidence.  However, it is just one part of the picture of the state of democracy worldwide. That’s a subject Carl Gershman knows well, as president of the NGO, the National Endowment for Democracy.  He believes that among the biggest threats democracy faces across the globe today are the challenges from authoritarian countries.

"Russia, China, and Iran are asserting their power in a much more aggressive way; we call this 'resurgent authoritarianism,'" Gershman explains. "They're also cooperating with each other, and as they're doing this the western countries are more divided and they also lack the political will to respond to this challenge."

While western countries are focused on internal issues, the authoritarian countries continue to expand in both hard power - military expansion and assertion, and soft power - media campaigns, the influencing of international norms, unlimited sovereignty, and propaganda campaigns, according to Gershman.

"It's a very troubling time for democracy," he says. "It's here, it's in Europe, it's the rise of populism, it's a deep alienation from the democratic system."

Gershman contends that that this year's U.S. election cycle has not helped with the state of democracy, either.

"[The election] has actually harmed the reputation of the United States.  The U.S. has been seen as a model of democracy, and when our reputation has been harmed in this way, it is used by countries like China or Russia to promote their own alternative model," he says.

Wherever this year's presidential campaign leads the country, Gershman hopes all people to have a sense of perspective and understanding.

"Democracy is a difficult, messy process. It takes a lot of work to get consensus on policy. Democracy inevitably promotes competition and, in a way, political division," he says. "I think that what's really essential is to remember that there are things that unite us, and sometimes we tend to forget that."

Audrey Nowakowski is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.