While many in the media and political landscape are distracted by the phantom menace of wokeness, the US was just added to an annual list of “backsliding” democracies for the first time ever.
It’s an urgent reminder to Americans battling windmills like Critical Race Theory and The 1619 project, and desperately rehabilitating former Trump officials, that we have less than a year to try and save our ailing Republic from an increasingly radicalized and weaponized GOP death cult.
Earlier this week, the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) based in Stockholm warned about a “visible deterioration” in US democracy that it says began in 2019 and rapidly accelerated after Trump refused to concede the 2020 election. For the fifth straight year, more countries moved towards authoritarianism than democratisation, according to IDEA, which currently sees only 98 democracies around the world—the lowest number in years.
In addition to the Big Lie, which is believed by a majority of Republican voters and promoted by most Republican elected officials, the think tank also cited our decline in civil liberties and checks on government. A co-author of the report also pointed to the “decline in the quality of freedom of association and assembly during the summer of protests in 2020” after the murder of George Floyd.
The acquittal and subsequent adulation of shooter Kyle Rittenhouse—who says he supports the BLM movement and showed it by bringing an AR-15 to a protest and killing two of its supporters—surely isn’t an auspicious sign for the future of our democracy. It is springtime, however, for violent vigilantes and gun enthusiasts who no longer have to wear their hoods in public or abide by laws and election results they don’t like. Republicans in the House are publicly competing to make Rittenhouse their Congressional intern, while Marjorie Taylor Greene has a bill to give him a gold medal.
The Republican Party is now considered an illiberal, far right movement, with rhetoric “closer to authoritarian parties, such as Fidesz in Hungary,” according to a massive V-Dem Institute study in 2020 that surveyed the policy positions of political parties around the world. Coincidentally, Hungary, which is beloved by conservatives, is no longer considered a democracy but a “hybrid regime.”
This is exactly why Tucker Carlson recently went there to host his top-rated Fox show in part thanks to a recommendation from conservative writer Rod Dreher, who admires Orban for “willing to take the hard stances necessary to keep his country from losing its collective mind under assault by woke loonies.” Those “hard stances” include promoting virulent nationalism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and anti-semitic conspiracy theories, as well as silencing the press, purging academics, and replacing critical voices in the government and courts with subservient yes-men. No wonder Steve Bannon said Orban was “Trump before Trump.” Hungary is your ideal blueprint if you’re a white, Christian, nationalist movement that seeks to abuse its power to ensure minority rule at all costs.
Republicans are trying their best to play catch-up. In addition to the failed coup attempt of Jan. 6, they have introduced pernicious voter suppression bills across the country to make sure people of color can no longer tilt once reliably red states like Arizona and Georgia.
And Republicans are furiously redrawing maps in absurd and byzantine ways to wipe out competitive House districts and rig the map for their party. Some of these new maps in Ohio, where 45% of voters went for Biden, are deliberately diluting Black voters, making it nearly impossible for Democrats to win even if they receive the majority of votes—which is exactly what happened in Wisconsin after Republicans shamelessly chiseled and molded their maps with surgical precision.
If gerrymandering doesn’t work, then Republicans will use their majorities in state legislatures to rewrite the rules and strip Democrats of power, which is what they did in 2018 after Governor Tony Evers defeated Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Conservative hacks in courts across the nation, packed thanks to Mitch McConnell and the Koch brothers’ money, will follow their Federalist Society marching orders and uphold these laws solely designed to maintain the party’s grip on power.
To make sure the next coup doesn’t fail, the MAGA cult is also purging and culling fellow Republicans to ensure that only wide-eyed loyalists remain. In 2020, America was able to avert Trump’s coup attempt thanks to some Republicans like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who refused to cave even as Trump pressured him to “find” votes. Like Rep. Liz Cheney, Raffensperger is now exiled and ex-communicated. Pathetically, he’s still open to voting for Trump again in 2024, just like Chris Christie, who almost died from COVID-19 most likely given to him by Trump. Desperation and an addiction to relevance are its own powerful, self-destructive drugs.
Not all is lost. There’s still time to take on the death cult.
President Biden’s number one priority has to be amending or nuking the filibuster, an obstructionist instrument of Jim Crow, so Democrats can pass voting rights protections before the 2022 midterms. In a public letter, more than 150 scholars of U.S. democracy warned, “Defenders of democracy in America still have a slim window of opportunity to act. But time is ticking away, and midnight is approaching.” Unfortunately, Democrats are saddled with Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, who remain committed to the ghost of bipartisanship even as Manchin’s Freedom to Vote Act was killed by Republicans using — wait for it — the filibuster.
In the midst of this internal assault on US democracy by Republicans and the conservative movement, President Biden is preparing to host the international democracy summit. Ironically, he can show his resolve and commitment to democracy by exercising his bully pulpit like LBJ to do whatever’s necessary to win over these conservative Democrats, who are currently being rewarded by corporate lobbyists for their obstructionism, and pass voting rights protections and the Protecting Our Democracy Act. Bribe, bully, sweet-talk, deal, adulate, punish — whatever it takes, because democracy is at stake.
As he’s trying to win over Manchinema, who will be busy gutting Biden’s expansive and popular Build Back Better plan, Democrats have to finally take off their hoops and shoes, roll up their sleeves, and dive into the culture war, attacking Republicans on issues concerning race, religion and gender. They can no longer sheepishly retreat and blame “progressives'' for every humiliating loss, such as the one they recently suffered in Virginia.
Over 81 million people elected Biden to replace Trump and hold him and his cronies accountable. In addition to the Justice Department aggressively following up on the massive evidence of GOP complicity in the Jan. 6 insurrection, Democrats have to attack Republicans in the media, relentlessly focusing on messaging, painting them as the dangerous extremists they are and warning Americans about what will happen to their rights, their health care, the climate and democracy if the GOP returns to power in 2022.
There’s no longer a place in this fight for centrists promoting platitudes about bipartisanship, engaging in asymmetrical and reductive both-sides narratives and acting as if the guardrails of democracy will somehow magically protect us even as GOP goblins are openly and actively dismantling them on a daily basis.
You have to take a side.
Do you want to stand with those that want to slide us back to American democracy of the 1950s, when white men were on top, able to stand their ground, hold their smoking guns, and look down upon the rest of us to feel great?
Or, do you want to stand with a multicultural majority that is committed to moving forward and expanding this country to embrace and fulfill its still unrealized potential as a democracy in progress?
Democrats have to choose, but the clock is about to strike midnight and, like our democracy, they are running out of time.