Our democracy is in danger

Over the past 10 years, we have moved ominously away from the democracy we have evolved into since 1776 and increasingly become an oligar...



Over the past 10 years, we have moved ominously away from the democracy we have evolved into since 1776 and increasingly become an oligarchy where power has been concentrated in the hands of a few incredibly wealthy people. Witnessing the violent January 6 insurrection reinforced our belief that we barely care about our democracy.

Next, Allen read “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them” (2022) by Barbara F. Walter, professor of political science at UC San Diego. He shared Walter’s central ideas about the danger our country finds itself in – unprecedented since the original Civil War – with Tom. Walter’s ideas confirmed our worst fears. Much of his research is based on the Polity Index, compiled by the Center for Systemic Peace’s Polity Project (www.systemicpeace.org/polityproject.html), which places countries on a scale ranging from fully autocratic (minus 10) to fully democratic. (plus 10). She declares that the United States is an anocracy, a country going from a democracy to authoritarianism.

His testimony begins in 1976 when the United States was at +10. In 2017, it was a +8. In 2019, it had dropped to +7. And, after January 6, 2021, it had dropped to +5. This means the United States is an anocracy for the first time in 200 years. We are no longer the oldest continuous democracy in the world and it has only taken five years for this deeply troubling transition.

In 2019, 2,000 experts were invited to assess the world’s political parties. The GOP was deemed most similar to anti-democratic parties such as the Justice and Development Party of Turkey and the Law and Justice Party of Poland. “It is not the desperately poor who start civil wars,” says Walter, “but those who once had privileges and feel they are losing their rightful status.”

We believe our decline is the result of a series of devastating actions, beginning with the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010), which stated that businesses and other outside groups can spend an unlimited amount of money on elections. This was followed in 2013 by Shelby County v. Holder. He gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act 1965, which had made it illegal to harm minority voters. The 2016 election had undemocratic results. Although Donald Trump won the Electoral College, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by about 3 million. The right to vote was not guaranteed for all citizens. The United States went from +10 to +8 on the Polity Index after the election.

Then the Trump presidency was characterized by the absence of executive constraints, which led to the ranking of our democracy with Burundi, Ecuador and Russia! His subsequent refusal to cooperate with Congress in the first impeachment inquiry sent us to a +7. Since 2020, 19 states have passed voter suppression laws that further threaten our democracy.

Then in October 2020, the FBI announced the arrest of 13 men suspected of orchestrating a domestic terrorist plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. The highlight was the combination of “The Big Lie” that the presidential election was stolen, undermining confidence in our electoral system, and the violent Jan. 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill. Both are made more toxic due to his total adherence to the Trumplican party. We were down to a +5.

So what can we do to strengthen our democracy and prevent a second civil war? Walter makes recommendations, including reforming our corrupt and inefficient government; strengthen the rule of law; giving all citizens access to the vote; improving the quality of government services for the benefit of all; imprison the leader or leaders of terrorist groups to hasten their collapse; regulating the Big Five tech companies and making them pay their fair share of taxes; passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and abolishing the Electoral College so that every vote counts equally.

Although the above reforms take time to implement, here are some immediate steps you can take to strengthen our deteriorating democracy:

■ Mobilize millions to maintain democratic control of the House and Senate.

■Contribute to the most effective national and state grassroots organizations in key states.

■Ask your friends, colleagues and family members to contribute.

■Send postcards, make phone calls and knock on doors in key races.

■ Call to bring civics and civic literacy back to the classroom. The best defense against authoritarianism is educated critical thinkers.

Since we support democracy in Ukraine, we must revive the fight for democracy in the United States before it is too late to save it.

Allen J. Davis, Ed.D., is an educator, racial justice activist, and lifelong democracy advocate, as well as a member of the Racial Justice Rising Coordinating Committee in Dublin, New Hampshire. Tom Weiner, M.Ed., from Northampton, is a retired teacher, author and member of anti-racism group Bridge4Unity.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Our democracy is in danger
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