American democracy is especially fragile now. That’s the conclusion drawn by many in the aftermath of a tumultuous presidential election and the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Even President Joe Biden felt obligated to note in his inauguration speech that “democracy is fragile.”

But the handwringers and those mourning the demise of democracy are wrong, writes political scientist Alasdair Roberts. This nation’s democracy has always been fragile. It’s just that now, “despite its long tradition of presenting itself as exceptional,” says Roberts, the U.S. “looks a lot like the other struggling democracies of the world.”

This week we also liked articles about TikTok’s sea chanteys, progress toward a new flu vaccine that you wouldn’t have to get every year and why cities won’t lose their luster because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Naomi Schalit

Senior Editor, Politics + Society

Armed demonstrators attend a rally in front of the Michigan Capitol in Lansing to protest the governor’s stay-at-home order on May 14, 2020. Scott Olson/Getty Images

What those mourning the fragility of American democracy get wrong

Alasdair S. Roberts, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Everyone's saying it: 'Democracy is fragile' in the United States. But a political science scholar says that has always been the case.

Daily life on a ship could be monotonous and dreary, so songs were sung to lighten the mood. Heritage Images via Getty Images

TikTok’s sea chanteys – how life under the pandemic has mirrored months at sea

Jessica Floyd, Community College of Baltimore County

Crews sang the songs to ease the fears, anxieties and loneliness of daily life on merchant ships.

Wouldn’t it be nice if one shot could protect you for life? Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

A universal influenza vaccine may be one step closer, bringing long-lasting protection against flu

Patricia L. Foster, Indiana University

You need a new shot every year because current flu vaccines provide limited and temporary protection. But researchers' new strategy could mean a one-and-done influenza vaccine is on the way.

Neutralizing antibodies attach to the tips of the spike proteins of the SARS CoV-2 virus. David Goodsell/ProteinDatabase

The body’s fight against COVID-19 explained using 3D-printed models

Nathan Ahlgren, Clark University

A biologist explains what proteins do in viruses, how they interact with human cells, how the vaccine delivers mRNA into the cell and how antibodies protect us.