It is said that when the United States sneezes the rest of the world catches a cold. So, one can imagine the worldwide devastation, if the US is afflicted with a serious illness. The sickness we are referring to is the assault on democracy in the US. According to some analysts, the US democracy is at its death’s door.
What is distressing is that President Joe Biden is helpless as democracy comes under attack from the Republican Party which is adopting wholesale former President Donald Trump’s political depravity as party ideology.
This is evident when, instead of broad-basing democracy, Republican-controlled states pass legislation to impose more restrictions on voting rights. The new laws are marginalizing the minorities and the migrants and making democracy look like elitist. As democracy is plunged into its worst crisis in the US, in a desperate move, 51 Democratic Party members representing the Texas House of Representatives have fled the state to avoid arrest for denying the state legislature the quorum to pass a law that will place fresh restrictions on voting rights – a law if passed will be highly disadvantageous to the Democrats. The new law also seeks to curtail voting access by making mail-in voting more difficult and slashing early voting hours. These are what Donald Trump wanted and the Republicans are now delivering them.
According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the will of the people or the right to vote shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot or by equivalent free voting procedures.
But even in big-time democracies, the will of the people is not universal and remains distorted by politicians.
In 2000, Democratic Party candidate Al Gore lost the presidential election to Republican George W. Bush in a Florida cliffhanger warranting the Supreme Court’s intervention, largely because in Florida thousands of black people had been stripped of their right to vote in what was seen as a calculated move implemented by Bush’s brother and Florida’s then Governor Jeb Bush.
On Tuesday, emphasizing the gravity of the crisis, President Biden delivered a special address in Philadelphia. It came two days after Trump appeared before the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas as part of his campaign for a political comeback. In his bid to revive the hopes of his ardent followers, Trump continued to make the trumped up claim that the last presidential election was stolen from him and defended the January 6 violent insurrection in Capitol Hill as a patriotic effort to rescue America from the Democratic Party’s radical left.
In his speech on Tuesday, Biden said democracy had been put to a test, first by the pandemic, then by a desperate attempt to deny the reality of the results of the election, and then by a violent and deadly insurrection on the Capitol, the citadel of US democracy.
Although Biden did not mention Trump by name, he pointed out that since the November presidential election, some 400 laws have been passed in 17 Republican-controlled states to deny the marginalized people and the minorities their right to vote.
Describing the trend as an attempt to overthrow the Constitution and establish a dictatorship, Biden said: “Hear me clearly. There’s an unfolding assault taking place in America today, an attempt to suppress and subvert the right to vote in fair and free elections, an assault on democracy, an assault on liberty, an assault on who we are as Americans.”
He said the US would face “a new wave of unprecedented voter suppression and raw and sustained election subversion” in next year’s midterm elections.
“We are facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole… The Confederates back then never breached the Capitol as insurrectionists did on Jan. 6. I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed,” he said.
Just before Biden made the speech, the 51 Democratic Party politicians who fled Texas to derail Republican-backed voting restrictions, gathered at the US Capitol to make a last-ditch plea for national level lawmakers to pass a law aimed at voting rights protections.
“More than 50 Democratic members of the Texas House have left Texas to stop Republicans from passing the latest iteration of their voter suppression legislation,” Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic caucus, told reporters outside the US Capitol.
“Our intent is to stay out and kill this bill this session, and use the intervening time... to implore the folks in this building behind us to pass federal voting rights legislation to protect voters in Texas and across the country,” he said.
However, it is doubtful legislation the Democrats are calling for could pass muster in the Senate. In March this year, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill titled ‘For the People Act’ to this effect but last month Republican Senators blocked it by adopting filibuster tactics. Perhaps, they expect that with the new anti-democratic laws, the midterm election will restore the Republicans’ majority in the Senate.
The Republican attitude highlights the deterioration that has set in the party after Trump won the presidency in 2016. For most Republicans, Trump is their uncrowned king who they believe has the charisma to win the White House for them at the 2024 presidential race.
They appear to have no qualms over Trump belonging to the type of unscrupulous politicians who make use of democracy only to become fascist dictators when in power.
For petty political gains, the Republicans would not mind killing democracy. Many influential Republican leaders even went along with Trump when he refused to concede defeat in 2020 and endorsed his claim that the election was a fraud. Their outright sycophancy was an ultimate insult to the Grand Old Party, which now stands stripped of its founding values that saw the abolishment of the slavery and promoted democracy not only in the US but across the world.
If democracy declines in the US, then the country loses whatever is left of its moral high ground to preach or promote democracy around the world. There is little meaning in President Biden’s call this week to the Cuban President to ensure the fundamental rights of the Cuban people when in his own country democracy is under threat.
In any case, Washington’s promotion of democracy around the world is a charade, for many of its political allies are out and out democracy haters or sham democracies. The US-based Freedom House in its latest report said global democracy had been in the decline for the 15th consecutive year: All the more reason why, just as justice, democracy also should at least be seen to be promoted. Otherwise, with China rising as a world power, rulers in democracy-deficient countries will be quick to adopt the one-party example of China and make themselves rulers for life.
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