American democracy is in serious trouble.
We may be on the brink of the “greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War” and quite possibly the “suspension of American democracy as we have known it”, in the words of Robert Kagan. Michael Gerson laments that recent developments in the United States “reveal the frightening fragility of the American experience.” And Jonathan Last warns: “America faces an authoritarian peril”.
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On this episode of Fully Moderated Podcasthost Lawrence Eppard is joined by Jonathan Last, editor and writer at the rampart, and Tom Nichols, writer at Atlanticto discuss the survival of American democracy.
The problems are many, including:
Election subversion efforts by high-profile political figures, including the attempted coup in 2020, the threat of a coup in 2024, and ongoing anti-democratic trends among elected officials at the state and local levels.
Widespread misinformation/disinformation spread by partisan media on TV, internet and radio.
Erosion of political and popular support for democracy and growing support for authoritarianism.
Deep polarization, negative partisanship and tribalism.
Government blockage and dysfunction.
Threats of violence against elected officials and electoral officials.
I asked a friend of mine who worked on Capitol Hill for years the following question: what percentage of congressmen really have no principles and are desperate to stay in the thrill of the game, to acquire and maintain power and status, and stay relevant? , regardless of whether what they did in Congress helped or hurt our democracy?
This person’s honest answer? At least 51% and possibly as high as 80% or more, and an alarming number are probably sociopaths.
There is plenty of evidence that this could very well be true in recent books by Mark Leibovich and Tim Miller.
Here is a major problem with this: Weaknesses in our system that were exploited for a near coup in 2020 remain unpatched to be exploited by these many less than honorable people in the future.
As Kim Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, explains:
“There are huge holes in the electoral count law. Amazingly, there is no requirement for states to count the popular vote. . . It’s not democracy. If left unresolved, state legislatures and/or Congress can steal the next election. The future of our republic is at stake.
Just this week The New York Times obtained emails showing that those attempting the massive Multi-State Electoral College fraud in 2020 knew what they were doing was wrong, unethical, illegal, and “wrong,” as they put it in an email. . .
. . . but they did it anyway:
“We would just be sending ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can object when they start counting the votes and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted.”
This is not democracy. Crossing your fingers and hoping isn’t going to fix this. We need to get serious as a people and fix this problem through reforms in our system.
However, time is running out. And if American democracy dies, it cannot simply be turned back on like a light switch.
I promise we will all miss him, regardless of our political leanings, when he is gone.
the rampart Will Saletan writes:
“Americans like to think our country is safe from authoritarianism. We have a culture of freedom, a tradition of elected government and a bill of rights. We are not like those European countries that fell into fascism. We would never voluntarily give up democracy, freedom or the rule of law. But that’s not how authoritarianism would come to America. In fact, that’s not how authoritarianism came to America. The movement to dismantle our democracy thrives and grows, even after the failed January 6 coup attempt, because it does not spread through overt rejection of our system of government. It spreads through lies.
Hang in there, this episode is getting really dark.
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