Over There, Over Here
Terry H. Schwadron
Sept. 26, 2022
Recent news reports seem to underscore that dangerous politics, shaky elections and growing hate for The Other are far easier to recognize far away than close to home.
It is far more common for our own politicians to heap bipartisan abuse on Russian leader Vladmir Putin for a forced, sham plebiscite in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine than to acknowledge our own inside manipulations underway in red states to control voting and election results.
We’re appalled to hear that armed Russian soldiers were going to door to door demanding that people vote for Russian annexation of Ukraine’s occupied provinces, but relatively unmoved by the drive in states for partisan control over voting and election count procedures. Between the number of people who have fled those districts and the pressure campaign by Russian troops, predicting the results seems foregone. The bigger issue is how Putin will use the vote to defend use of weapons to “protect” the newly annexed areas.
In Italy, as with elections in Hungary and now Sweden, the news of emergence of far-right parties in their voting is seen as disquieting, while in this country, congressional Republicans voted as a near block against closing laws set up to ensure that the role of a vice president in Electoral College voting is limited to a ceremonial role rather than to carry out a coup through alternate elector slates, as sought on Jan. 6, 2021, by allies of Donald Trump.
With her campaign built on calls to God, homeland, family, Giorgia Meloni was expected to form a rightist coalition in Italy that now would make religion, anti-immigration and anti-abortion much more prominent.
“God, for her, does not seem to represent faith, but rather a brand of Catholicism imposed as the only religion worthy of rights, “ The Guardian explained. “The homeland’s borders must be defended, with violence if necessary, and the family is not the cradle of affection, but of imposition, obligation and prescription. The family is always heterosexual, its children born and recognized in the imposed form.”
Doesn’t this ring as the so-familiar refrains of our own increasingly right-leaning Republican party?
Why is the case for a pluralistic, independent democracy that cares about civil rights, human rights, women’s rights stronger when we look at street fighting currently happening in Iran than outside our own Supreme Court?
Why are women’s rights of more concern when we see the Taliban cracking down on what women can wear, work, travel or think while we support in so many red states the idea that women are incapable of making a personal, moral decision about carrying a fetus, regardless of circumstance, health or the ability to support a child?
Why are we so quick to attack China’s repression of Uighurs or Myanmar’s expulsion of Muslims as inhumane when we are burning books and demanding that public school teachers mention slavery only in some positive, whitewashed manner and reject any “critical” attempt to link history with current events?
Why are anti-immigrant policies in Hungary or Germany seen as draconian, while the chaos about our immigration system is seen as simply too difficult to get senators from opposing parties into a room to hammer out a comprehensive set of changes? Why does half this country think hoodwinking vulnerable migrants onto buses and planes with unmet promises of jobs and resettlement in an effort towards creating political embarrassment rather than as a goad to addressing what we are reaping from what we have sowed as policy?
Why is Putin recognized as a tyrant for jailing an American athlete or businessman on what would be a minor (if even illegal) trace drug infraction, while in this country, we’re setting our hair on fire over allowing a misdemeanor arrestee who can’t afford $50 bail to get out of jail to await trial?
From congressional votes and polling, nearly half the country sees possible prosecution of Trump as stuff they’d just as soon would go away, without resolution of “accountability” concerns that would land you or me in jail. Now in this country, it seems suddenly between believable and expected that Trump and his circle would threaten civil violence over any criminal prosecution, regardless of why.
The concern is not limited to a single incident or bad event, like being found in possession of stolen documents, including many with top secret government markings, but for a dozen or more simultaneous pattens of what look to be criminal crimes ranging from fraud and procedural violations to much more serious counts of espionage, insurrection and sedition.
Our election slates now reflect choices that include Republican candidates who actively insist that our elections are shams, and who favor limiting voting by time, new registration, in-person voting at a dwindling number of polls and the like, gerrymandering districts, granting the power of state legislatures to override popular votes whose outcome they oppose.
Yes, democracy is on the ballot, and the issues around voting, elections and Jan. 6, the ultimate expression of a schemed desire to overthrow election results — not the perpetual fruitless search for ineligible voters — are at its center.
As a New York Times editorial finds, our threat to democracy is hiding in plain sight: “The real threat to America’s electoral system is not posed by ineligible voters trying to cast ballots. It is coming from inside the system.”
Worse, our fight for democracy is not limited to electing politicians who will undercut our institutions. We’re doing that ourselves through a constant crescendo of cultural war battles.
The point is that you don’t need to look far away to see democracy eroding.