We're Living Through Death of US Democracy, but There's a Solution. – Business Insider
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Today is Halloween — so it’s as good of a day as any to acknowledge that the US is experiencing something very, very frightening: the death of our democracy.
Unlike a horror movie villain jumping out from the shadows, it’s easy to see the destruction of American democracy coming. One democratic norm falls, then another, then another, and before long we are left with only a shattered husk, full of the trappings of democracy but with none of the actual representation.
But all hope is not lost. Democrats have a narrow window to strengthen the foundation of our nation, if they’re strong enough and smart enough to seize the moment.
As it stands, we find ourselves living through democracy’s slow and painful death. All the outward symbols of democracy are present: party leaders are still stumping for candidates in New Jersey and Virginia and political operatives are gearing up for the 2022 midterms. But it’s still unclear just how much those elections and the air of normalcy they have around them will help slow the norms being eroded.
In Virginia, the GOP has summoned an “army of poll watchers” to help police voting booths around the state during Tuesday’s statewide elections. While poll watchers are nothing new, an electoral strategy predicated on intimidating voters with excess poll watchers, and then claiming voter fraud before the election even happens are prime examples of long-held democratic norms being tossed aside in the name of political expediency.
In many other states, Republican-led state legislatures are passing laws that make the act of voting more difficult. In Texas, the ability to request a mail-in ballot and use drive-thru voting were curtailed, an attack on the shift workers and the voters of color who are more likely to use these methods. In Georgia, lawmakers made it illegal to bring food and water to voters in line, which is undeniably an attack on voters of color, who are routinely forced to stand in longer lines to vote than their white counterparts.
A common theme from this erosion of democratic norms is that a single party, the Republican party, is responsible. And what’s worse, national Democrats don’t seem to be doing anything about it, despite controlling Congress and the presidency.
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which has already passed the House, would restore parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by the Supreme Court. The For the People Act would ban partisan gerrymandering, make it easier for Americans to register to vote, overhaul campaign finance laws to strengthen everyday Americans’ voices, and curb the corruption of big money in politics.
But so far both of these bills have been stopped cold by the threat of a Senate filibuster — something the Democrats will not fix.
The deck is stacked against Democrats, and considering the autocratic path Republicans are going down, it appears the deck is stacked against democracy as well. Conservatives have a majority on the Supreme Court, big advantages in the Electoral College and Senate maps, and control many state legislatures, and with it the redistricting process that will determine the future of the House.
That legislative control could cause the next major destruction of democratic norms as well: having state legislatures simply appoint presidential electors, rather than having voters choose them. While this was considered a long-shot unlikely to succeed in 2020, with enough time and enough will to disregard democracy, authoritarian-minded Republican legislators could surely figure out a way to permanently rig elections in their favor.
These voting restrictions and other plans to curtail democracy in the United States are all in the service of the de-facto dictator of the Republican party: Donald Trump. While he has made no overt claims to be running in 2024, the writing is certainly on the wall. The Republicans intend for the 2024 election to be a coronation, the final chapter in their quest to entrench minority rule.
And in ’24 they may be able to finish what they started in ’20: overturning the results of a legitimate election that they lost.
The Democrats have only one more year of guaranteed majorities in Congress. This is the urgent moment for them to get Sen. Joe Manchin in line, dump the filibuster if needed, and enact the voting laws that will solidify our fragile democratic tradition.
Without passing major legislation that secures Americans’ right to vote and provides a bulwark against democratic backsliding, they could allow the final pillar of our democratic system to fall. That’s a scary thought.