Terry H. Schwadron
June 3, 2021
We’re suddenly awash in articles and opinions that democracy as we know it is in serious danger.
In remarks at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Memorial Day this week, Joe Biden said that “democracy itself is in peril, here at home and around the world.” Apparently, that makes it official.
The president was noting the plethora of anti-democratic voting bills in Republican-majority states, unwarranted “audits” that are little more than partisan platforms to repeat the Big Lie that the last election was stolen from Donald Trump, and the resistance among Republicans to want to look squarely and fairly at the planning and coordination for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Lots of other publications are pointing to the continuing attacks by QAnon, and the spread of the repeated conspiracy theories to the Tucker Carlson and other right-leaning pundits into the Congress, governors, and the people who run elections and count votes.
None of this is new, of course, but Biden saying out loud what we all have been thinking apparently allows us to chew it all publicly.
At heart, what is at stake in a Republican-coordinated block of voting rights — and the passage of bills to curtail voting — and the constant repeat of the election myths is a coordinated assault on institutions, starting with elected officials to government more broadly to “elites” that include scientists, educators and environmentalists — and, as always, both people of color and the news media.
Indeed, the only legitimate justification that Republicans offer in Texas, Arizona, Georgia and other states to halt particular types of voting by particular kinds of people in particular kinds of places that tend Democratic, is to restore “trust” in elections. That “trust” has diminished, of course, only as the result of the repeated assertions that something must have been fraudulent in the last elections because otherwise Trump would have won.
That we have put ourselves in a bad place for this American democratic experiment is neither a joke nor unrealistic. It is happening here.
A statement on the website of the Washington-based think tank New America, signed by more than 100 scholars this week warns that as a result of the Big Lies or the Big Steal talk, voting procedures in several states are being transformed into “political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections.”
The statement includes this dire prediction: “our entire democracy is now at risk,” according to leading professors of political science, government, communications and history at many of the nation’s best-known universities and colleges — thereby qualifying as elitists.
Of course, the rest of us have been seeing these signs for quite a while, without benefit of scholar statements. Even Republicans agree that the country sense of what democracy means is unmistakably veering towards the rocks; they just blame the opposite policies and demography.
Pulling no punches, these scholars blame Trump and Republicans of manufacturing false claims of election fraud “that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law.” They call for “a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.”
In other words, they want the Voter Rights Bill and the S.1 For the People Act now stuck in the Senate, where Republicans refuse to budge, and at least two Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, seem unwilling to make them budge by backing the end of filibuster rules that effectively give minority parties the power to block legislation.
Add in our economic and social divisions, mix in an obvious flaw in our cybersecurity to make even delivery of fuel and food open to international tampering, serious splits in cultural and governmental outlooks, and it is quickly evident that it’s not all about voting procedures.
‘I Shall Return’
This week, too, saw former National Security Advisor and Gen. Michael T. Flynn appear to invite a military coup in this country — he later backed away — and reports from a New York Times reporter that Trump is telling associates that he will be returned to office in August once the partisan Arizona re-recount of votes says he won that state, and suggests that other private recounts will show the same elsewhere.
That assertion itself is seen as the very sort of wacky, conspiratorial, what-is-he-talking-about twist of reality that is putting us in this messy place. Could 75 million voters be wrong, he asks, overlooking that the actual president had 82 million. We’re continually replaying the election count as if the situation is going to change, and we’re dragging down much of our institutional society and rules in the process.
Having spent seven months of yelling Stop the Steal, Republicans have “ segued into a “Start the Steal” offensive to ensure that they will win the 2022 and 2024 elections — even if most voters once again support the Democratic Party” argued Max Boot, Washington Post columnist.
In addition to voter suppression laws, Republican-driven voter suppression, GOP controlled legislatures have access to Census-ordered reapportionment and gerrymandering in 187 congressional districts, while Democrats will control just 75. Redistricting in four states — Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina — could be enough to deliver the House to Republican control.
Given the moves in states to make it easier to challenge election results, it is not hard to envision Congress itself challenging the next national election, with or without another insurrection. That would put the election in the House, where each state has one vote, guaranteeing a Republican outcome. And all with the legal nod of a compliant Supreme Court.
One (wo)man, no vote could be the new mantra. You wonder if that might be enough to move Manchin
Ruling Punishes Crime, but Not Trump
For those jumping at reports of pending criminal charges involving Donald Trump, yesterday offered a caution. The Federal Election Commission fined the publisher of The National Enquirer $187,000 for its role in a “hush-money” payment for silence for an alleged an affair with Donald Trump during the 2016 election cycle, according to documents made public by Common Cause, a watchdog group.
But Trump himself, who denied such an affair, skated.
The publisher, American Media Inc., now A360 Media LLC, made an illegal corporate campaign contribution by paying $150,000 to keep quiet the reported affair with former Playboy model Karen McDougal. In 2018, AMI signed a non-prosecution agreement with Manhattan federal prosecutors in which it admitted that its “principal purpose in entering into the agreement” to pay McDougal “was to suppress (McDougal’s) story so as to prevent it from influencing the election.”
That had followed disclosure by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen has said in court that hush-money payments were made at Trump’s direction. The FEC said in its letter to the watchdog that “[t]here were an insufficient number of votes to find reason to believe that the remaining respondents violated” election laws.
Sic transit justica.