American Crisis
American Crisis
American Crisis, Ep. 2: Asha Rangappa on why American democracy really is in trouble

American Crisis, Ep. 2: Asha Rangappa on why American democracy really is in trouble

Strangely enough, the vast majority of Americans agree on the answer

Asha Rangappa just about stopped me cold when I heard her answer to whether she considers American democracy in real trouble, and how worried she is.

Worried enough, this former FBI special agent told me, that she’s looking at colleges outside the United States for her children. Rangappa is an expert on misinformation and disinformation; she lectures on these subjects at Yale University and writes about them on her excellent Substack, The Freedom Academy, in which she offers her Yale course to her readers and subscribers.

Asha Rangappa said she is worried enough about American democracy that she is looking outside the country for her children’s college

We talked about the fraying of “social trust” that results when citizens don’t have a common basis of reality and facts. It’s not that facts don’t exist — they do. But not everyone wants to believe them.

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Right-wing media is a big part of that, since as Asha describes it, there are very few checks on the misinformation that circulates there. That’s quite different from what happens in mainstream media, she says.

As it turns out, most Americans are also pretty worried about the direction of the nation, according to a new USA Today/Suffolk University poll. Seven in 10 of the respondents think democracy is “imperiled.” I strongly suspect people on the right and the left disagree about exactly what the problem is — whether it’s equal access to voting, lies about the 2020 election or the idea that politicians on the other side of the aisle are guilty of “weaponizing” political power.

The discussion I had with Asha reminded me of something I heard Democratic Congressman Jamie Raskin say a couple of years ago, in his 2021 role as lead House manager for Donald Trump’s second impeachment.

“Democracy needs a ground to stand upon — and that ground is the truth,” Raskin said in his opening statement, quoting his father, the political activist Marcus Raskin.

“Democracy needs a ground to stand upon — and that ground is the truth,” said Congressman Jamie Ruskin said in his opening statement during the second impeachment of Donald Trump (from Getty Images)

That’s right. But with a fractured and flawed news media, a former president who spreads lies about a rigged election, and a crucial presidential election looming, is the foundation still there?

Please enjoy the conversation between me and Asha. And to those who have signed up for American Crisis, please know that I’m deeply grateful for your interest and support. I’m really touched by some of the kind words I’ve heard from subscribers about my past work at the New York Times or the Washington Post. I plan to earn your trust here, too. Thanks for giving me that chance!

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