ATHENS — Tuesday, Nov. 8 will be a most significant day in the history of our nation.
Though a midterm election, it nevertheless could determine which party controls Congress and, therefore, determine whether we continue as a democracy - or whether we succumb to the undisguised attempts on the part of the Republican Party to eliminate our democracy in all but name.
The British paper The Guardian recently observed that the United States “is seeing a dizzying number of assaults on democracy.” In addition to the Republican-dominated Supreme Court's draconian attack on women's control of their own bodies with its reversal of Roe v. Wade, PEN America's Index of School Book Bans now lists at least 2,532 instances of 1,648 titles being banned in 138 school districts across 32 states.
What is arguably the most alarming of these attempts to establish authoritarian rule are Republican efforts to delegitimize the 2020 election, and in so doing undermine the credibility of democratic elections.
Since the beginning of 2021, according to the Brennan Center of Justice, Trump's Big Lie has served as the rationalization for 18 Republican-dominated state legislatures to pass 34 restrictive voting laws, which not only “made it harder to vote, but disproportionately affect persons of color.”
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After devoting 2021 to passing such unscrupulous laws, Republican state legislatures have focused this year on election interference - enacting laws that allow for partisan meddling with how elections are run and results are determined.
Ironically, the Brennan Center writes, it is doing so to “combat baseless claims of widespread voter fraud and a stolen 2020 election. Rather than threatening election officials, they will be the election officials - the poll workers and county commissioners and secretaries of state responsible for overseeing the casting, counting and certifying of votes.”
At present, Republicans are pursuing offices that would put them in control of the election machinery. The Washington Post's Amy Gardner found that 299 Republican candidates in the 2022 election for the House, Senate, and important state offices are election deniers - people who, if they win, could be reasonably expected to align with the illegal Trump-like efforts of 2020 to overturn results not favorable to themselves.
The common assumption of Republican stalwarts who accept the Big Lie is that the election of any Democrat is prima facie evidence of fraudulence, and, hence, legitimately deserving of being overturned.
“Election denialism is a form of corruption,” writes New York University historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, the author of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present (available at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro).
“The Republican Party has now institutionalized this form of lying, this form of rejection of results. So it's institutionalized illegal activity,” she writes.
In other words, this is unadulterated fascism.
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Behind the chicanery posing as “democracy” and “patriotism,” of course, is the omnipresent and ever-growing threat of violence, a dramatic instance of which we saw on Jan. 6, 2021.
Robert Pape, director of the University of Chicago Project on Security and Threats, has estimated based on the project's polling that more than 20 million Americans believe that using political violence is justified to return Trump to power.
This was underscored recently by a disturbing New York Times article, which reported: “Soon after the F.B.I. searched Donald J. Trump's home in Florida for classified documents, posts on Twitter that mentioned 'civil war' soared nearly 3,000 percent in just a few hours.”
“Similar spikes followed on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parler, Gab and Truth Social, Mr. Trump's social media platform, and mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcasts,” the Times wrote.
Similar posts jumped once again following President Biden's speech on democracy in Philadelphia a few weeks later when he labeled Trump and his MAGA Republicans as “threatening the very foundations of our republic.”
A Yahoo News/YouGov poll found that 55% of Democrats and 53% of Republicans not only believe it is “likely” that the United States will “cease to be a democracy in the future,” but that 26% percent of those who participated said that political violence could sometimes be justified.
And let us not forget Jan. 6 itself, the violent culmination in a series of Trump-authored coup attempts that included:
• court challenges about “voter fraud,” which were correctly thrown out
• attempts at pressuring officials who certify vote counts
• efforts at overtly manipulating the electoral college with slates of fake electors.
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The situation we face as we approach this seminal election, with its potential for violence and chaos, is one that is fraught with great danger for our democracy.
Voting is essential, of course, but will it be enough to stem the fascist tide that continues to pollute our political landscape with its noxious presence?
Dedicated to the proposition that it can only win, and to lose is unmistakable evidence of Democrat fraud and cheating, the Republican Party has clearly discarded a fundamental precept of a viable democracy: accepting the will of the electorate.
As the political commentator Umair Haque, wrote, “This is American democracy's penultimate chance - and the question is whether enough Americans, of the sane and sensible kind, get it to get out there, and vote like they never have before.”
And beat the Republicans with the very democracy they seek to destroy.