For decades, being a Superpower has been America’s superpower. For a variety of wildly obvious reasons, now seems as good a time as ever to reflect on the state of American democracy and the country’s changing role in the world. John Rapley, author of Why Empires Fail, takes stock of America’s status and compares it to another empire. Rome. “Like modern America, Rome attained a degree of supremacy unprecedented in its day. But the paradox of great imperial systems is that they often sow the seeds of their own downfall. As Rome grew rich and powerful from the economic exploitation of its peripheries, it inadvertently spurred the development of territories beyond its European frontiers. In time, the larger and politically more coherent confederations that emerged acquired the ability to parry — and eventually roll back — imperial domination. In the same way, America’s decline is a product of its success.” NYT (Gift Article): America Is an Empire in Decline. That Doesn’t Mean It Has to Fall. (Maybe America needs a pep-talk from Deion.)

+ Are you in the right demo? In The Atlantic, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt cover a related, but perhaps more pressing, issue. The state of American democracy (which isn’t as strong as it superpowerdom): How American Democracy Fell So Far Behind. “Since 2016, America has experienced what political scientists call ‘democratic backsliding.’ The country has seen a surge in political violence; threats against election workers; efforts to make voting harder; and a campaign by the then-president to overturn the results of an election—hallmarks of a democracy in distress. Organizations that track the health of democracies around the world have captured this problem in numerical terms. Freedom House’s Global Freedom Index gives countries a score from 0 to 100 each year; 100 indicates the most democratic. In 2015, the United States received a score of 90, roughly in line with countries such as Canada, France, Germany, and Japan. But since then, America’s score has declined steadily, reaching 83 in 2021. Not only was that score lower than every established democracy in Western Europe; it was lower than new or historically troubled democracies such as Argentina, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Taiwan.” It really couldn’t be more clear. America’s greatest threat comes from within.