Monday, November 28, 2016

Are We Witnessing the End of Democracy?

Yesterday I wrote a post that looked at, at least to me, the troubling parallels between post-election 2016 America and 1933 Germany.  A column in Newsweek looks at some of the frightening future events that may befall America as Donald Trump potentially works to subvert democracy to remain in power.  Assisting him, sadly, will be the Republican Party that is increasingly willing to undermine voting rights and even the U.S. Constitution in order to rig the system before demographic change sweeps them from power.  The author makes sense, in my view, and the importance of resisting in every way possible cannot be overstated.  Here are column highlights:
Among all of the things that Donald Trump could do as president, what is the most frightening? The clear answer is that Trump and the Republicans could effectively end the prospect of free and fair elections. Before getting into that, however, we need to consider some other threats that we now face.
Sadly, there are plenty of other reasons to be scared, including Trump's threats against the free press and his promises to turn the so-called war on terror into an excuse to discriminate against people on the basis of religion, race and nationality. Foreign policy is also a disaster waiting to happen.
Then there is the misogyny. How much damage will be done to women's rights in a world where concerns about sexism and even physical assaults will be dismissed as mere oversensitivity and political correctness? Contraception, abortion, and everything else are now in the balance.
And Trump's economic proposals promise to worsen inequality and make a mockery of his claims that he would help the struggling middle class, especially his blue-collar supporters.
Still, I think that the most profound concern goes beyond all of those fundamentally important looming policy battles. Like many observers, . . . . my concern is that the rule of law in the United States might now be nearing its expiration date.
In my latest column, I argued that there is every reason to think that Trump will be eager to test every supposed limitation on his powers. Tell him that he is not allowed to do something, and his ego and vindictiveness will go into overdrive, leading him to do what he wants while shouting, "Who's gonna stop me?!"
Although government is supposed to be a system of laws and not men, however, it is real human beings in positions of leadership who must step up and stand in Trump's way. Based on the actions of the Republicans throughout the campaign, I am not confident that anyone will even try.
Even so, I do understand what must have driven NeverTrump conservative commentator David Brooks to end his first post-election op-ed with this dig: "After all, the guy will probably resign or be impeached within a year. The future is closer than you think."
Even if we might (against all evidence) think that Republicans in the House would dare to impeach Trump, or that a majority of Senators could consider voting to convict him and remove him from office, why would we imagine that they would do so in a vacuum, where Trump is not intimidating them and threatening them every step of the way?
After all, the president controls the military and the FBI, as well as dozens of other agencies with not merely guns but the power to ruin people financially and even arrest them and their families. If Trump is committing impeachable offenses, why would he not use every power available to him to get his way?
For now, however, let me put aside those more dramatic elements of the threat to the rule of law and return to the specific threat that I mentioned at the beginning of this column. Trump and the Republicans have every reason to make free and fair elections a thing of the past. Indeed, they are already well on their way to success.
Republicans could not afford to allow a Democrat to serve as president, even for four years, because she would have done what she could to roll back the Republicans' quite successful voter suppression laws and tactics.
Ryan and his cohorts (including Vice President-elect Pence) could not wait for 2020, because demographic trends are already running against them and even this year their nominee could only win the electoral college by taking states where Republicans have openly engaged in voter suppression tactics.
Time was not on the Republicans' side. In order to avoid electoral oblivion, they had to make a last stand in 2016. Trump ended up being their nominee, which should have driven the Republican leadership away.
But the alternative, in their view, was worse. It was not that Clinton was actually the demon that they made her out to be, but rather that having any Democrat in power was going to make it harder for Republicans to keep changing the election rules to keep themselves in the game. This was an existential threat.
The Republicans' anti-democracy tactics, moreover, have not been limited to voter suppression efforts. There is, of course, the gerrymandered Republican majority in the House.
In some sense, this is incredibly depressing. The courts have done little to nothing to stop gerrymandering, with the result that the Republicans could keep winning the House even if they had the support of, say, only 46 percent of the voters. On the other hand, it means that the Republicans had not completely closed off the possibility of Democrats' winning back the people's house.
And this is where my story becomes one of optimism rather than resignation. Notwithstanding the apocalyptic future histories that I have written here and in my other recent columns, the reason that we all need to fight harder now is that it is simply wrong to say, "It's all over now." Even though I strongly suspect that Trump will stop at nothing to maintain power, there is still reason to fight.
The reasons to fight are thus to prevent those election-rigging strategies from being adopted in the first place, and to win future elections even if we have to overcome all of the obstacles and disadvantages that the Republicans can impose on the majority of our country.

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