Democracy’s existential crisis
President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence walk with then–Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senator Roy Blunt, R-Mo. in 2020.

Democracy’s existential crisis

The Republicans’ priority is absolute power and minority rule, and they are dedicated to achieving these aims by any means necessary. They have become the enemy of democracy. What are we to do?

ATHENS — The political reality of our times is that the Republican Party has gone rogue.

It is no longer an honorable opponent of the Democratic Party, one that respects the Constitution and plays by the ethical norms of a democratic society. Instead, it has become an incipient fascist outlier.

Because the Republicans' priority is absolute power and minority rule, and they are dedicated to achieving these aims by any means necessary. They have become the enemy of democracy.

Republicans have been waging war against democracy for some time now (e.g., “law and order” murder and incarceration of African Americans, gerrymandering the boundaries of electoral districts, etc.). But their efforts have escalated further over the past few months with their introduction of 263 voter suppression laws in 43 state legislatures to diminish the foundation of democracy: the vote.

It is also apparent in their promise to block President Biden's citizen-favored agenda, through their use of the archaic filibuster in the Senate, as evidenced by their successful blocking of a nonpartisan commission to investigate the Trump-inspired Jan. 6 insurrection.

Like Orbán in Hungary, ErdoÄŸan in Turkey, and Chávez in Venezuela, so are the Trumpicans using democracy to destroy democracy. This is the playbook of contemporary fascism.

Republicans are doing so because they have increasingly become a minority party, at present constituting just 25 percent of the voting population. Their situation will only worsen as demographic trends indicate that non-whites will become the majority of the population by 2045.

This is significant because non-whites tend to vote Democratic. Republicans understandably fear that they will be further marginalized into inconsequence because their largely white-supremacist and Christian-evangelical base does not resonate with the majority of Americans.

Since they can't win on a level playing field, Republicans are engaged in a concerted effort to interfere with the most fundamental right of any democracy.

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This war is not limited to the party's notables in Congress and on Fox News. Quite the contrary.

As the 74 million of our fellow citizens who voted for Trump last November, the Jan. 6 Trump-prompted insurrection on the U.S. Capitol to overthrow the election results, and the 53 percent of Republicans who believe Trump's Big Lie that he is still the president all suggest, the malaise that has gripped the party's politicians with singleminded loyalty to the ex-president is also pervasive among an appreciable number of the rank-and-file as well. This so-called “populist” minority is the lifeblood of the Republican's march toward fascism.

Such is the potency of this grassroots Trump fanaticism that with respect to whether the party should develop more popular policies to win over voters or prioritize changes to the voting rules, according to a CBS News–YouGov poll of Republicans, 47 percent opted for the latter.

This suggests that in future elections, Democratic victories will be challenged as illegitimate by Republicans. This is something that Red State legislators are already preparing for now by passing laws that empower partisan poll watching and enable tampering with election results.

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The latest escalation in this war occurred during the first week of June, when Trump declared that he will be “reinstated” to the presidency this August on the basis of the phony electoral “audits” being conducted in Arizona, Georgia, and elsewhere by his loyalists.

Followed by campaign-like rallies, this effort will only further inflame his base (especially the more unstable QAnon true believers and white supremacist militias) when his unconstitutional “reinstatement” fails, as it inevitably will.

The outlook for democracy is grim. It doesn't improve, either, when we look to one of the very few political options available: the restoration and preservation of voting rights through the enactment by the Senate of the For the People Act.

This bill would eliminate much of what all the state voter suppression bills are trying to accomplish.

However, with the Republicans committed to using the filibuster to block this measure - when initiated, this maneuver requires a supermajority of 60 votes for a bill's passage; the Democrats only have 50 - and with Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema stating they are opposed to “nuking” the filibuster, a vote that would need only a simple majority, the chances of passing the For the People Act are nil to nonexistent.

Their position has dire implications for democracy in the elections of 2022 and 2024, when the outcome could very possibly play out in the “democratic” election of a Republican congress and authoritarian president.

* * *

What are we to do?

Perhaps a significant number of dedicated and courageous citizens might suspend our daily lives to participate in a national strike and a peaceful Occupy Washington to pressure the Democrats to jettison their misbegotten attempt at partisanship with an adversary who is openly committed to destroying them, and forge ahead on their own, instead.

But for the long haul, what needs to be done is best performed right here at home. It requires no less commitment and courage than a one-shot, dramatic act of protest and, in fact, necessitates much more, because it is something we have to do as a consistent, moment-to-moment practice with all living beings - family and stranger, friend and foe alike.

We must dedicate ourselves, that is, to intentionally and conscientiously rebuilding our democracy - to finally getting it right! - by liberating ourselves from the gender, race, and class power relationships that are the genesis of fascism and have so fatally compromised the Founders' original vision of being a nation where all human beings are created equal, blessed with the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

To accomplish this, however, we must embrace the moral values that are the bedrock of a truly functioning democracy, heart properties that speak unequivocally to the inherently good people we are.

We do so by loving life, itself, through an everyday practice of kindness and generosity, compassion and forgiveness, selflessness and modesty, personal integrity and moral courage, a practice that accepts all living beings for the precious expressions of life that we are.

That is what a living democracy is about: valuing life, valuing each other.

In being full-time citizens of democracy, living a values-informed way of life in our relationships with others, democracy becomes impregnable to the siren of fascism.

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