Friday, May 21, 2021

Four Continuing Threats to American Democracy

For many the defeat of Donald Trump in the 2020 election is viewed as having ended America's slide away from Democracy.  Sadly, the threat continues and, given the trends in the Republican Party may be increasing rather than lessening. For one thing, the racial resentments Trump fanned continue on the political right and Christofascists prefer a dictatorship that appeals to their hatreds and bigotry over constitutional government.  In addition, the media continues to fail to expose the Republican agenda for what it is and too often plays the false equivalency game that helped Trump in 2016.  Lies need to be exposed as lies, but too many in the media clutch their pearls at the prospect of calling Republicans liars. Another threat is the inability of too many moderates and independents to see Republicans and what that party now stands for as an existential threat that requires constant full mobilization of the elector to defeat Republican candidates.  A column in the Washington Post looks at these ongoing grave threats.  Here are excerpts:

[E]ven with a terrible president out of office, America is still headed in a terrible direction — and at a much faster pace than I expected when Biden took over.

We have four huge problems. I don’t see solutions to any of them.

By far the biggest problem is the Republican Party. Presented with a clear chance to move on from Trumpism after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, the GOP has instead continued its drift toward anti-democratic action and white grievance. The future looks scary. A Republican-controlled House could attempt to impeach Biden in 2023 and 2024 on basically any pretext, as payback for Trump’s two impeachments. If Republicans win the governorships of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin next year, taking total control in those key swing states, they could impose all kinds of electoral barriers for the next presidential election. The Republicans are laying the groundwork to refuse to certify a 2024 Democratic presidential victory should the GOP hold a House majority.

“The radicalization of the Republican Party has outpaced what even most critical observers imagined,” Georgetown University historian Thomas Zimmer told me. “We need to grapple with what that should mean for our expectations going forward and start thinking about real worst-case scenarios.”

Further, Republicans are poised to take a lot of undemocratic actions at the state level, where they already have total control in 23 states. Expect to see Republicans elsewhere gerrymander legislative districts the way they have in Wisconsin, where it is now virtually impossible for Democrats to win a majority in either house of the legislature. . . . America won’t be much of a democracy, Zimmer said, if it has a federal system in which more than 20 states “resemble apartheid South Africa more than a functioning multiracial democracy.”

And all indications are that another group of Republicans, the six GOP appointees on the U.S. Supreme Court, either embrace the party’s anti-democratic drift or aren’t going to do much to halt it.

The Republican path wouldn’t matter too much if it seemed like voters were going to punish them. But the GOP appears unlikely to suffer an electoral backlash because of our second, huge problem: America appears intractably polarized into Team Blue and Team Red.

The Republicans are the favorites to win the House next year and could also win the Senate, as well as key gubernatorial and secretary of state races, putting them in charge of the election process in Michigan and other states. So the Republicans look poised to have a lot of power in 2023 to execute the agenda I laid out above.

America could at least prepare for an anti-democratic GOP, but the past four months suggest our third huge problem: Our institutions aren’t up to it. Many news outlets, particularly at the local level, avoid honestly describing the Republican Party as increasingly at war with democracy. Businesses are backtracking from their initial decisions to stop donating money to Republicans who wouldn’t certify the 2020 election results, and social media companies are wary of acting to stop misinformation, which disproportionately comes from conservative sources. Nonpartisan institutions, faced with a choice of maintaining neutrality or upholding their core values, are often choosing the former.

And finally, moderate Democrats and anti-Trump Republicans either don’t appreciate the direness of the situation or don’t care. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) seem to value their reputations as being bipartisan more than protecting the voting rights of people who look like me.

I hope I am overly alarmed about all of this. But I don’t think I am. Perhaps democracy dies faster in darkness. But it could also die slowly in the light, as all of us watched but didn’t do enough to save it.

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