Wednesday, May 22, 2024

American Democracy at the Crossroads.

March 7, 2021 by  
Filed under News, Politics, Weekly Columns

( The 2020 presidential election was a watershed year for American democracy.  Turnout was at the highest level in over a century and Biden got more votes than any candidate for president in history.  Only time turnout was higher was in the 1800s, with a smaller white males only electorate, when black people were kept from the polls and before white women first exercised the franchise in 1920.

Now the question is, will voting rights be expanded via the “For the People Act”, or will they be curtailed by efforts across over forty states to make it more difficult to register and cast a ballot?

The new Jim Crow

HR1 passed in the House with only Democrats voting in favor.  Among many of its voter reforms, it would require automatic voter registration when applying for a driver’s license, restrict “dark money” in financing campaigns and restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.

While the Bill was being debated on the House floor, lawyers representing Arizona Republicans were at the Supreme Court arguing for provisions in an Arizona law that would make it harder to vote.  Paul Waldman wrote in the Washington Post, “Republicans are explicitly arguing that if the electoral system were not restrictive, exclusionary and corrupt, then they would be put in an unfair advantage.”

That’s where things stand today.  One side wants to expand democracy, enabling more people to have access to the ballot box, while the other, according to Michael McDonald, a political scientist at the University of Florida, is attempting “the greatest roll back of voting rights in this country since the era of Jim Crow.”

There are, however, two even greater threats to our democratic system of government than voter restrictions.  One is the rise of anti-democratic movements like the ones that were part of the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6 and the other is social media fueled disinformation.


Conspiracy theories

Many of the rioters at the Capitol were hell-bent on overturning the results of the 2020 election by any means necessary, including by violence.  In the run-up to that day, people like disgraced former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the “My Pillow” guy were calling for martial law in states the former president lost and for new elections to be held at gunpoint.  Since then, some QAnon followers have pointed to the military coup in Myanmar as the example of what they would like to see here.

In one of the more far-out conspiracy theories, Q adherents insisted that the “real” Inauguration Day is March 4 where the former president would be re-installed as the 19th president; asserting there have been no lawful presidents since Ulysses S. Grant.  Internet “chatter” was that they would storm the Capitol again and forcibly “remove” Democrats, leading the House to hold no sessions that day.

All of these crazy conspiracy theories are amplified by social media.  And even though the more popular outlets like Facebook and Twitter have made some half-hearted attempts to police their platforms for the most outrageous claims, new sites like Parlor have sprung up to replace them spreading more lies.

At the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) convention recently held in Florida, those vying for the 2024 presidential nomination repeated the BIG LIE about voter fraud and, even former VP Mike Pence, who the mob wanted to hang, wrote a subsequent op-ed decrying “voting irregularities” and the need for more “voter security.”  New euphemisms for voter suppression measures.

What comes next…

Politics as practiced in America today is no longer a contest of ideas.  The Republicans didn’t even bother to put forward a platform in 2020.  It’s all about power.  They see politics, according to the attorneys for Arizona, as “a zero sum game” or, as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell once said, “a knife fight in an alley.”  When people tell you who they are, and what they believe, believe them.

So, while policy proposals and new legislation are well and good, it won’t be enough.  We also have to be willing to confront the insurrectionists and conspiracy theorists to ensure that whatever obstacles placed in our way are overcome. We’ve got to keep pushing until we achieve liberty and justice for all.

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell

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