American democracy is in serious trouble.
We may be on the verge of the “greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War” and quite possibly the “suspension of American democracy as we have known it,” in the words of Robert Kagan. Michael Gerson laments that recent developments in the U.S. are “revealing the frightening fragility of the American experiment.” And Jonathan Last warns, “America faces an authoritarian peril.”
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On this episode of the Utterly Moderate Podcast, host Lawrence Eppard is joined by Jonathan Last, editor and writer at The Bulwark, and Tom Nichols, writer at The Atlantic, to discuss whether American democracy is going to survive.
The problems are numerous, including:
Election subversion efforts by leading political figures, including the attempted coup in 2020, the threat of a coup in 2024, and ongoing anti-democratic trends among elected officials at the state and local levels.
Widespread misinformation/disinformation disseminated by partisan media outlets on television, the internet, and radio.
Erosion of political and popular support for democracy and growing support for authoritarianism.
Deep polarization, negative partisanship, and tribalism.
Government gridlock and dysfunction.
Threats of violence toward elected representatives and election officials.
I asked a friend of mine who worked on Capitol Hill for years the following question: What percentage of members of Congress really have no principles and are just desperate to stay in the thrill of the game, acquire and maintain power and status, and stay relevant, regardless of whether what they did in Congress helped or hurt our democracy?
This person’s honest answer? At least 51% and maybe as high as 80% or more, and an alarmingly high number are probably sociopaths.
Here is a major problem with that: Weaknesses in our system that were exploited for a near coup in 2020 remain unfixed to be exploited by these numerous less-than-honorable people in the future.
As University of Baltimore law professor Kim Wehle explains:
“There are massive holes in the Electoral Count Act. It is stunning that there is nothing requiring states to count the popular vote. . . That is not democracy. If this is not addressed, state legislatures and/or Congress can steal the next election. The future of our republic is at stake.”
Just this week, The New York Times obtained emails showing that those attempting the massive multi-state Electoral College fraud in 2020 knew what they were doing was wrong, unethical, illegal, and “fake,” as one put it in an email. . .
. . . but they did it anyway:
“We would just be sending in ‘fake’ electoral votes to Pence so that ‘someone’ in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the ‘fake’ votes should be counted.”
This is not democracy. Crossing our fingers and hoping is not going to fix this. We must get serious as a people and fix this through reforms to our system.
Yet time is running out. And if American democracy dies, it cannot just be turned back on like a light switch.
I promise that all of us, regardless of political orientation, will miss it when it is gone.
The Bulwark’s Will Saletan writes:
“Americans like to think our country is immune to authoritarianism. We have a culture of freedom, a tradition of elected government, and a Bill of Rights. We’re not like those European countries that fell into fascism. We’d never willingly abandon democracy, liberty, or the rule of law. But that’s not how authoritarianism would come to America. In fact, it’s not how authoritarianism has come to America. The movement to dismantle our democracy is thriving and growing, even after the failure of the Jan. 6th coup attempt, because it isn’t spreading through overt rejection of our system of government. It’s spreading through lies.”
Strap in, this episode gets really dark.
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The New York Times shows that those coordinating fraudulent Electoral College electors knew it was wrong, unethical, illegal, and fake. They did it anyway.
“A Five-Alarm Fire for American Democracy” by Lawrence M. Eppard.
Check out Jonathan Last’s writing at The Bulwark.
Why We Did Itfrom The Bulwark’s Tim Miller.
Mark Leibovich article referenced in this episode.
The “independent state legislature theory” explained.
Former President Donald Trump pressures/threatens Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to overturn Georgia’s election results.
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