Hold On, Pardner, Democracy Is Not Yet Dead

Elayne Clift at Salon just penned an article titled How to lose America: The death of democracy looks nearer than ever.

Well written, as one would expect from both Clift and Salon, but a tad too canary in-the-coal-mine for my tastes.

Excerpts follow

Most sentient beings on the planet breathed a huge sigh of relief last November when Joe Biden won the presidential election. We were even happier when he and his administration immediately began acting robustly on myriad issues.”

Agreed. In the robust and myriad departments, Joe was a relief to many, including more common old garden-variety Republicans than you might expect. Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands were reported to have changed their party affiliation after the January 6th debacle.

A majority of states immediately flew into action to bring back Jim Crow with hideous voting rights restrictions. Protesters began to be arrested. Gun violence and hate crimes grew by startling percentages while cops kept killing Black people. Arizona Republicans decided to hold yet another recount of the election results there, barring journalists from the hangar where counters reportedly tried to spot bamboo in the ballots. (Proof, if we needed it, that the party has gone crazy.)”

Whoa now, the canary is far from feet-up and, while those examples are true, they are hardly the stuff of Democracy on the ropes.

The beat goes on

“Republicans in Congress began their urgent campaign, articulated by Mitch McConnell, to stop any legislation proposed by the White House or Democrats in the House of Representatives. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley and other deranged GOP members went on various rants grounded in lies and nonsense. Rand Paul accosted public health expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, accusing him of funding dangerous research in China (more proof of crazy). Vaccine conspiracies and anti-masking activists got really crazy.”

Yeah well, legislation has been slipping past Mitch, as Biden pretty much hits home run after home run. These days Ted Cruz and Lindsey are catching more heat than they are spreading light. And Rand Paul? Since when has Rand Paul been taken seriously on either side of the aisle?

The fact is, the real and growing possibility of living through the destruction of American democracy is not going away. It is growing. Donald Trump is now viewed as the head of the Republican Party as he holds the feet of elected officials to the fire with his fierce, alarming grip on their futures. A significant number of regular Republicans continue to embrace the lies, mantras and inconceivable theories spewed out daily by Fox News. Insurrectionists crawl out from under their rocks in droves. The Supreme Court is now a quasi-political body with a 6-3 conservative majority.”

Sorry Elayne, but the fact isn’t

Calm yourself, take a couple of aspirin and sit down with a soothing cup of tea.

The real and growing possibility we are living through may well herald the end of the Republican Party, but hardly our democracy. It’s made of sterner stuff, having come through a bloody and divisive Civil War that makes January 6th laughable as a threat.

John Roberts, wearing the Chief Justice’s robes over there at the Supreme Court may not be your best example of democracy’s demise. Roberts’ court is more conservative than I would fancy at the moment, but he’s an extremely intelligent guy and reads the public sentiment. History is not now, nor will it be in future on the side of radical extremism.

Insurrectionists, I think you will find, are as agile at crawling back under rocks as they are at leading charges. If you fancy the image of a canary in the mine, check out the whimpering pleas of those charged with insurrection by the Justice Department for their January 6th gutless rampage.

Elayne’s closing thoughts

“We are not immune from autocrats and dictatorship and we are not protected by our Constitution if it no longer holds meaning for those in power. Our future is riding on the midterm elections next year, and the 2024 presidential election.

If you think I am needlessly hyperventilating, consider this: In 1923 Hitler mounted a failed coup. When he failed, his effort was treated leniently. A decade later he was Germany’s dictator. In 2021 Donald Trump inspired a failed coup. It too has been treated leniently by those who say we “need to move on.” Will he, or his appointed alter ego, be our dictator in less than a decade?”

Oh come now, I thought we all agreed long ago not to bring Hitler into the argument.

There is a difference, Elayne, between leniently and legally

We were lenient. Far too lenient to appropriately apply our legal instruments.

The grave mistake made during the one-term Trump presidency was to allow him, while occupying the Oval Office, to use the questionable and scurrilous legal delays that served his failed businesses. We never had a president who simply refused the constitution he swore to uphold and protect and didn’t quite know how to deal with that.

The president of the United States is a private citizen, temporarily holding the most public office on the planet. Now that Trump is once again a private citizen I would remind you that those legal tools remain in the toolbox.

Democrats were out of power during those years. Republicans were so stunned at what they had seen happen to their leadership that they forgot their constitutional role. Most ended up with their pants around their ankles.

Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell and Mitt Romney could have prevented what happened. They chose not to and the price of that choice is likely the demise of the Republican Party for decades, if not permanently.

No one is a prophet, Elayne. Certainly not me

But I have lived a very long life and seen America lose its way through McCarthyism, Watergate, endless unwinnable wars and a string of assassinations that left the nation reeling. Through it all, we have proven to be tough sons-of-bitches, perhaps the toughest when our backs have been against the wall.

Currently, our backs are not even close to the wall. To equate our present situation with the death of democracy is simply to misunderstand our strengths and make a sow’s ear out of a 245 year-old silk purse.


Image Credit: Getty Images

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